Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Whose war are we fighting?

“If there was a heaven on earth...” - Mughal Emperor Jahngir

Today, the same heaven on earth is in a condition, which will put even hell to shame. A partition based on religion, accession by one side, help from the other side, which translated to another accession, three wars, number of UN resolutions, a yet to be held plebiscite, thousands killed in proxy and direct wars...

History (collected from various web sites)

Kashmir was one of many princely states in India and Maharaja Hari Singh was the ruler. Under the Partition Plan in 1947, the states were free to join either India or Pakistan. Hari Singh announced his plan of leaving India and forming an independent dominion on June 3rd, 1947. J & K Government announced its decision to enter "Stand Still" Agreement with both India and Pakistan. Even after signing the agreement, Pakistan cut of supplies of food, petrol and other essentials to J & K, and put pressure on J & K to accede to Pakistan. The new Prime Minister, Mr. Justice Meher Chand Mahajan, on 15th October 1947, complained to the British Prime Minister that Pakistan broke Stand Still Agreement and stopped supplies and stopped railway service from Sialkot to Jammu, and requested him to advise Pakistan to deal fairly with J & K and stop raids on the border. Governor General Jinnah was also approached for the same.

On 22nd October, all out invasion of J & K started, along Jehlam Valley road through N. W. Frontier province, the raiders being tribesmen led by regular Pak officers. All Muslim forces in Muzafarabad deserted and joined the aggressors as advanced guard. On 24th Oct, the raiders captured the Mahura powerhouse, supplying electricity to Shrinagar. Shrinagar was immersed in darkness. Raiders declared they would capture Shrinagar by 26th October 1947. Government of J&K approached Government of India for military help on 24th October. In his request for help, Mahajan agreed for Indian accession. The Indian Cabinet rewarded this offer with the decision to send army. V.P.Menon went to Jammu and flew back with Instrument of Accession signed by the Maharaja. After a long discussion in Defense Committee, it was decided to accept the Accession subject to proviso that "a plebiscite will be held in the State when the law and order situation allowed."

The action sequence through which Kashmir was joined to India is described in ‘Freedom At Midnight’ thus: Thousands of Pathan warriors from the North-West Frontier, bordering Afghanistan, rushed into Kashmir, vowing to seize it for Pakistan. Although they were a rabble, they might have succeeded. They were close to Srinagar, the capital, when they were delayed by their lust for loot and women. They wasted one night in pillaging towns and raping girls and nuns, which was just enough for the Indian Air force to set their foot in the Kashmir soil and thus prevent a Pakistan occupation.

In early hours of 27th October, more than one hundred planes - civilian as well as RIAF - carried the soldiers with requirements. Jinnah got furious and ordered General Gracy, the acting Commander in Chief of Pak Army to send Pak troops. But the General refused saying he required orders from Field Marshal Auchinleck, who flew next day to Lahore and explained to Jinnah that in the event of war breaking out, the British Officers in Pak Army would be withdrawn. Indian Military operations were lead by the Mahar Battalions under Major General Kalwant Singh. Their stay was for 18 months. Their work was highly appreciated. They stopped the aggression and repealed the enemy with great valor. It was exclaimed that if they were allowed to fight fully, there would have been no POK.

On 1st November 1947, Governor General Lord Mountbatten flew to Lahore, and suggested to Jinnah that the plebiscite should be under UN, but Jinnah pressed for it to be under joint control of Governor-Generals of both India and Pak. On 4th November, Prime Minister of Pakistan, Liyakat Ali Khan announced the accession to India to be a Fraud. India went to the United Nations, for a resolution. India said that Pakistan had attacked a neutral State and that State had now become part of India. Therefore, Pakistan should withdraw its soldiers from the State. The United Nations agreed with the Indian demand and asked Pakistan to withdraw its forces from Jammu & Kashmir. It also told India to ask the people of Jammu & Kashmir whether they wanted to be part of India or part of Pakistan. This was because some people in the State wanted to join Pakistan while others wanted to stay with India. India agreed to ask the people what they wanted through a referendum or plebiscite. Pakistan did not agree and refused to vacate the areas of Jammu & Kashmir it had forcibly grabbed. Because of this a plebiscite could not be held.

Pakistan argues that the Maharaja was forced by India to sign over Kashmir to them while India maintains that this was not the case. Pakistan also argues that the people of Kashmir (Kashmiris) were never given a chance to decide their future as the Maharaja never consulted with them. Since Muslims make up the majority of the population, Pakistan claims that Kashmir should be a part of Pakistan. The United Nations passed three resolutions calling for a plebiscite to be held but India ignored such calls. Many believe that India refuses to hold a plebiscite for fear that the majority of Kashmiris would vote to join Pakistan. Since then, India and Pakistan have gone to war thrice over Kashmir, the first in 1947-48, next in 1965 and the recent Kargil War. Over the years, sporadic clashes have taken place between the two sides.

Following the first war, a cease-fire was declared and a Line of Control (LOC) was drawn separating the two sides. The LOC left two thirds of Kashmir under Indian control and the remaining one-third under Pakistani control. The Indian-controlled part of Kashmir is called Jammu and Kashmir. The Pakistani-controlled sector is called Azad or Free Kashmir.

Current Affairs

So who is right and who is wrong? Whose rightful claim is Kashmir? Ours or theirs? Who are they? Weren’t we all part of a country which is merely a geographical expression, which is no more a single country than the Equator’, sometime back? The head portion of Indian maps which you and me used to painstakingly draw in our geography classes, with those twin hat like projections, are no longer part of the land within Indian LOC. Are the issues between India and Pakistan bigger than what can be solved by bilateral talks?

Nobody wants a solution. The Indian political top-shots and the Pakistan military top-shots want a presentable cause for all their problems. Onion price rise in Mettuppalayam is attributed to the heavy shelling in Kargil point 4550 which causes an increase in the ‘year to date military expenditure’. Each and every kid of Lahore or Peshawar is aware, thanks to the newspapers and TV channels, that the bomb blast occurred in the nearby street is masterminded by RAW. And then there are foot soldiers on both sides getting sacrificed at the alter of our pseudo national pride. What do we gain by this incessant war? Why cant we just draw a line wherever we stand right now and call it the end of the day, or conduct an opinion poll and then move on with life? The cover page of an issue of ‘The Week’ some years back had a big question mark at the end of a sentence.

Peace or a piece of land?

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Great Money Vanishing Trick at the Land of 3 ‘F’s

“Da, what abt going goa? Monday and Tuesday are holidays, right?” It was Sabari at the other end of the line, asking me these questions at around 3.30 in the afternoon on Friday, 10th October 2003. That was all the discussion and planning we had to fix our Goa trip. I checked who else was coming and was told that only Salim was available. The rest of the gang was either working through the weekend or had already left for their own respective hometowns. I was at our Seepz office and he was calling me from a travel agent’s place at Vashi. I had as usual come to office and didn’t even have an extra pair of undergarments with me for the trip. But that can not be considered as a good reason to postpone a trip to Goa. I committed and asked him to pack some extra T-Shirts and shorts for me. :_)

All set. Volvo to Goa starts from Vashi at 6.00 PM and I am a good 45 minutes away (during normal traffic) from the place. It was Ganesh Utsav time, and anticipating a heavy traffic and blocks, I left my office at 4.30 PM, giving myself double the time needed, took a BEST bus, and started my (then unknown) long journey from Seepz to Vashi. I don’t remember how many Ganesh processions I saw (or rather participated in) that day. The only thing I remember now is I stopped counting when it reached three digit figures. My bus proceeded so slow that I seriously contemplated the idea of walking all the distance to Vashi :_(. Sabari was calling me every 5 minutes and was in turn updated about the current location, which changed very rarely. Finally, somehow, I managed to reach Vashi at 5.58. Straight to a mall, bought three jockeys and a towel, and I was all set to start my trip.

The journey was uneventful... We reached Panchim on Saturday morning. As soon as we got down from the bus, an Omni came to a screeching halt barely a foot away from us. Having seen this in a number of movies, we waited (with bated breath) for the door to slide open and terrorists to jump out with outstretched AK 47s... Nothing of that sort happened... A tourist guide got out and approached us with a broad smile, promising to find us a hotel room for 50 Rs. Relieved; we agreed and got into the cab. Usual bargains at the hotel. At last, we settled for a room with three beds and a TV set. We had to pay double the rent because of the TV, but the sad fact is we never switched it on even once.

The next four days went in beach hoping, digging into delicious seafood, babe watching and fun in general. We started with a visit to Dona Paula. Have to admit that I was pretty impressed with the legend of the lady coming to that beach in the evenings. The list of conquered beaches grew fast- Baga, Vagator, Benaulim, Colva, Anjuna, Miramar, Candolim, Calangute etc etc... We climbed on top of all possible forts. Aquada deserves a special mention. Every fort and beach we went, we were told that all those movies, which have at least a distant shot of a sea, were completely shot there. Anyways, it was nice fun posing at the spot where Urmila supposedly sat for Rangeela. :_). I don’t know if you people have seen one particular advertisement of a lubricant which portrays 4 marine pegs and a woman. We saw some similar marine pegs at one place, and took a snap of us caressing those pegs ;_D.

All was going fine until we reached Calangute. Salim, who is the die-hard nature lover of our group, had started his nonstop commentary, “What a beach maaan.... look at those waves....that bird...wow...woow”. Problem with him is he will go on ‘wow’-ing on practically everything he sees around including a muddy pond or even a crow. All mellow and romantic (sadly no company, even then) we descended the long steps leading to Calangute beach. It was then that we saw a gathering where people were betting on cards. 3 cards. 2 blacks and 1 red. Thoroughly shuffled and placed upside down. If u keep ur money on top of the red card, u get double the money back, else u lose all.

As bad luck would have it, we were interested in that bloody game. Stood watching that for sometime and I could see a smile growing on Sabari’s lips. He told us “Aliya, I am fast enough to see where the red goes, I am gonna bet”, with that typical lopsided laugh. We didn’t say anything. In the next round, he took out a 100 Rs Indian $ note and placed it on a card, which he diagnosed to be red. BOOOM... the card turns out to be black. He lost his first 100. We should have stopped with that highly rewarding first round of cards. No, he (or we, at least we should have dragged him away) didn’t stop. The club-owner (aka cheater) offered him a ‘double’, whatever that bloody term means. He said, “Keep 500, u will get 2000 if u win”. Sabari becomes double alert, takes out a 500 Rs note, observes the club-owners fingers very carefully and keeps it in the next round. Wonder of wonders!!! Black again and that money also disappears. We the fools didn’t stop with that also (should have run away from that place at least then). Now comes the ultimate challenge. As if being sympathetic with our lose, the club-owner showed us the card from the left end which turns out to be black. He lifts the rightmost card also, which is also black. And then he says, “Now you know which is what, if you keep 2000, you will get 5000 back” We the morons were damn tempted, we carried out a high level strategic discussion, pooled in money, and placed the money on the remaining card, extremely happy about our unexpected fortune change. The guy casually flicks the card, and lo and behold, that’s a BLAK again. :_( Those buggers had changed the card while we were conducting our high-level discussion. This was a simple way of losing 2.5 grands in less than 2.5 minutes.

We were dejected for the next fifteen minutes. Then I said, “Da, this is a lesson for you. Remember there is nothing called a free meal”. His reply was quick “No, on the contrary, this proves that there IS something called a free meal”. Salim and I were perplexed. Sabari continued “Yea... for HIM...” pointing at that buffoon who fooled us. Anyways, we decided to forget abt the incident. More beaches, more fish, and more babes (read only mode)... :_). That evening we went for that unforgettable Santa Monica cruise. Salim had to return the next day morning as he had some project work. It was then that we rented out a YAMAHA ENTICER and started exploring Goa on that. Man, it was absolutely heavenly. Beaches and bike ride for 2 days.

We decided to go back to Calangute on the bike, as we heard the beach had a very good restaurant. This time we entered the beach thru another road, avoiding the card-game-cheater altogether. After lunch, we had this bright idea of riding through the beach. I had this doubt “Da, its illegal, will there be any problems?” Sabari was at his assuring best, “No man, this is Goa, rules are liberal, no problem here”. We had to ride through a stony terrain to reach the beach. We drove through the beach to our hearts content – circles, spirals, towards sun, away from sun, chasing waves... We took some snaps also. Once we were done, we tried to get the bike out of the beach. It was then that we noticed a police officer who was watching the entire great-goa-bike-show. He was very polite and just asked us to accompany him to the Police Station. Regular scenes at the police station - we came out of the Station after paying 500 Rs for riding on the beach. Thus, Calangute turned out to be a nightmare for SabriMan and me. Next time I go Goa, I am sure I will stay away from that area. :_)

Now about the title. During one of our beach trips, the travel guide asked this question. “Goa is famous as the land of 3 Fs... could you guess?” There were answers like “Female, Female and more Female” ;_) But the right answer turned out to be

  1. Fish
  2. Fenny
  3. and the last one is Football...(surprising, uh? Not when you think of Salgaocar, Dempo, Churchill Brothers and Vasco)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Blood on my face!

The sound of an alarm going off is something I hate to listen to. It is placed right next to ‘talking to an HR manager’ in my hate list. Sometime back I found a way to avoid listening to an alarm, by simply not setting the alarm. Recently I have gone one step further. I threw my alarm out of the window and never bothered to buy a new one. Thus these days I wake up on my own. The routine after waking up has become very much robotic these days... Things I do are pre defined like the steps of an algorithm.

I wake up, go straight to the front door doing a sleep-walk, pick up the newspaper. When I say newspaper, I mean ‘The Hindu’. I consider it to be the only one which can be called a news paper. I pick up the news paper and head straight to the toilet. Having an infotainment intake while doing a biological dump is absolutely necessary for me. (In case the newspaper guy forgets to put the paper, I look for a book or magazine.) The sheet that is taken in is decided based on the day of the year and the things happening worldwide. If there was an Indian cricket match or balls were send across a lawn tennis court on the previous day, I take the sports page(s) in. If on the other hand, the news paper is filled with trash like Palestine-Chechnya issues and Manmohan Singh vouching for Natwar Singh’s chastity (or whatever), I prefer to take the supplement Metro Plus in. A strip of Calvin and Hobbes is any day preferred.

After a lot of cost benefits analysis conducted over a number of days, bath has been assigned a slot immediately following the above described ‘action’. One advantage of having a toilet bathroom combination is that you save one opening and closing of doors. The next in line in my above mentioned algorithm is brushing my teeth. Then comes the most difficult task of of the morning, ie deciding whether or not to shave. It’s a pain to shave everyday, and if I can convince myself that my stubbles give me a ruf-n-tuf look, I happily skip shaving for the day. I miss that lady who used to force me to come with clean cheeks by reminding me almost daily that ‘gentlemen shave’ .

Today morning, I finished all the tasks up to shaving as usual. I started the complex to-shave-or-not-to-shave debate with myself. It was then that I remembered that I have an appraisal meeting today, and decided in favor of the act of shaving. My Mach3 in action. When I was doing some masterful strokes across my jaw line, I started thinking about accidental cuts during shaving. Usually you get a cut when you are in a hurry, when you are shaving before an important meeting or before a date with your dream girl, and you end up going to the great occasion with a band-aid plastered across your face. It was ages since I had my last cut, as these days, I don’t get tensed no matter what the situation is, and on top of that I was not in a hurry as I had all the time in the world at my disposal. My thoughts reached thus far, and the next instant I see blood on my face :_) Dunno how it happened, but I managed to cut my lower lip. The wound was not deep, but since Mach3 is damn sharp, bleeding doesn’t stop easily. I looked in the mirror and saw a red dot enlarging on my lower lip, like the one Carrie Anne Moss had on hers in Memento ;_).

It was then that another thought flashed in my mind. A number of Bollywood scenes in which 'a hero cuts his fingers and the heroine carefully sucks the blood with all the tenderness in the world' came rushing to my mind. I missed having a dear darling who would have done that exact same thing with my lips ;_). Kudos to Chetan Bhagat who wrote somewhere - men become romantic in the most unexpected situations and for the weirdest of reasons. :_D. There I was, with a Mach3 in my arm, a cut and a red blood spot on my lower lip, and looking for my sweet heart who would wipe it away in a romantic manner.

“buddy you are a young man...

you got blood on ya face

you big disgrace...”

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Don’s 20

Its tagging season and jithU tagged me...

I am... – my space-time and some junk coordinates

3. I am a software engineer by profession, and unlike most software professionals, I love my job.

9. I am from the ‘gods own country’ of the nation of ‘snake charmers, maharajas, elephant rides and tiger hunts’. I speak the wonderful tongue-twisting tongue popularly known as Mallu.

4. I am an atheist as far as my religion and beliefs (or the lack of them) go.

18. I am a pure non-vegetarian.

I believe... – my guiding principles or the lack of them

1. I believe in the simple principle ‘do unto others as they have done unto you”, and this forms the basis of my interaction with others. Thus, my relationship with a person starts with the assignment of 0 points to him/her, no matter how good or how bad are the stories I have heard about him/her. With each interaction, I add or subtract points, and at any point of time, my interaction with that person depends on his balance point. And, no, I don’t carry around a notepad to note down the points, it happens automatically. The only exception to the above rule is for the ladies, who get a +10 points head start in the beginning ;_)

2. I believe there are no ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs’, no ‘absolute-goodness’ and ‘to-be-dreaded-evil’.

19. I believe in the power of human mind, and I am sure I, or anybody else, will be able to do anything, yes just about anything, if the need/urge is strong enough.

5. I believe in ‘do what you wanna do, be what you wanna be’. So sometimes, I don’t do things which I don’t feel like doing.

I love... – rational motives for my existence

7. I love to spend time with my family. My dad’s fam (cousins and uncles) is like a close friend gang with teasing, gossiping, rumors and laughter doing rounds all the time. My cousin got married last week. After the function, the gilrs’ family came to drop her at my cousin’ place. When the relatives were getting ready to leave, we (uncles, cousins) approached the girl with questions like “Arent u gonna cry...? ur parents...all these years... they r going back... u no crying?” That poor thing started crying very soon. That was when my dad chipped in by asking my cousin to join in if he feels like doing so...

10. I love to be with my friends, to party, go for trips and have a merry jolly time. I manage to do this most of the time.

12. I love to drive automobiles. I am absolutely crazy about driving. An offer to allow me to drive an automobile is the easiest way to lure me into anything.

16. I love playing badminton and football - The sports I used to play as a kid and a teenager and the ones I enjoy the most.

I hate... – Turnoffs

17. I hate it when my colleagues are unprofessional in professional business.

8. I hate to be kept waiting when somebody is late for an appointment. I appreciate punctuality a lot.

11. I hate to stand in Qs. I try to pay everything through my ICICI infinity account or my credit cards :_)

20. I hate hard rock, heavy metal, for no particular reason.


13. My spelling is atrocious. A full page without M$ Word and WordWeb is next to impossible. (The first atrocious I tried here had two‘t’s in it) :_)

6. I think I am open-minded. I try to treat relationships with discretion and respect. I also try to be logical and rational as far as possible. (All these as long as my temper is under my control)

14. The reason why I took computers for engineering was that I had taken electronics for my PUC and was fed up with it. :_)

15. “Burning the bridges behind you...” has always happened in my life.... always....

<!--If any of my E-Company maites feel like taking this forward, please do so...-->

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Mumbai Meri Jaan

Nethravathi Express reached Lokmanya Tilak Terminals at 4:07 PM on Saturday Jul 6th 2002. One of Indian Air Lines flights (from Trivandrum) also touched down at Mumbai Domestic Airport in the same afternoon. Together they ferried 14 young, energetic technocrats from CET to the dream metro of young India, Mumbai, for their first job. Yes... 14 of us- chosen ones - joined Patni Computer Systems Mumbai on 8th Jul 2002. 2 girls and 12 guys. 5 from Com-Scies, 5 from Teli, 2 from Electricals, 1 each from Mech and M.Tech. Looking back, it was like a hand picked team, each one with some eccentricity or the other, each one capable of being the subject of a dedicated book, each coming up with the craziest of ideas. I guess I was the only one who was/is levelheaded and normal. (One advantage of writing your own blog is you get to write what you want to write :_D)

When you go out of your home state, the first concern you have in mind is about the language barrier. But we were blessed with a deluge of multi-lingual experts in our gang. One of them who claims long years at Kendriya Vidyalaya and thus proficiency in our national language was bowled out in the very first innings. Half of our group went to have a look at our future office on the Sunday, a day before our joining date. After lingering around the gate for quite some time, they were confronted by a security guard who asked them what they were up to. My friend’s reply was “Hum KAL yehaam aanewale DHE”. What he meant was “We are supposed to be here TOMORROW”. But he couldn’t get his tense right. The security rightly took ‘KAL’ with ‘DHE’ to mean ‘yesterday’ and was very concerned “What happened? You couldn’t turn up yesterday?”. My friend started sweating “Aanewaale dha dhe dhi ho hai”. It was just awesome. Chacks and me were rolling on the floor for two days on hearing abt this incident. One advantage of the entire episode is that after that none of us had to bear with our heros’ Hindi stunts. :_)

Our gangs’ language related escapades did not end there. Another friend of mine who claims to be a multilingual expert is famous for the following dialogues. He was bargaining at a TV shop, “Mumbai ke saare-ke-saara dookaandhaar muche discount detha hai... aap kyom nahi detha?” Man, this entire sentence in one breath, without any modulation, no tone or pitch change. Like a dead man speaking. The ‘dookaandhaar’ and all of us were literally rolling on the floor once this sentence was over. The same hero who wowed he would use Hindi and only Hindi from then on, went to a sweet shop. Since he did not know the names of the sweets, he told the shopkeeper, pointing at sweets, “Muche YE chaahiye... muche VO chaahiye...” The shopkeeper turned to us with the question “How old is he? Talks like a child” :_). Luckily, we survived those 2 years because we had the true blue Hindi speaker Snith with us.

After language, the next (?) most important thing is food. Most of us were affected with dysentery or some other food related stuff from the day one. I have a military trained stomach, seasoned by 6 long years of hostel life and was not much affected. Most of the others were on a staple diet of anti-dysentery tablets, which were baptised as ‘cork’. It used to act as a cork, plugging your you-know-what. I still can’t forget that pathetic face and envious look my musician roomie wore when he saw a dog doing it with so much ease on the roadside, which he couldn’t do in days. And an incomplete comment also “Even that dog...!!!”.

Patni gave us acco in a flat. 4 ppl in a 2-bed-room house. 3 houses on a floor. Thus all 12 of us ended up on the same floor of a building. I do not know what helped that building survive close to 2 months of collective madness of 12 let-loose insane souls. The things we did there were absolutely crazy. Somebody had this bright idea of amending to the nutrient intake of our daily diet with a glass of milk just before sleep. Someone else added a spoon of Complan to the milk idea. Thus three bottles (Complan, Boost and sth else), one for each house was bought. Each house had an electric heater. So post supper, all those heaters were busy boiling milk for the tired-from-the-hard-days-work technocrats. None of us knew when to stop boiling. And two of the milk vessels over boiled and overflowed. We stopped the third one in between; I doubt it was boiled completely. Anyways, we mixed whatever was left in the other two over-flown-over-boiled vessels with this under-boiled vessel’s content, and shared the resulting mixture equally, after dumping spoons full of each of the vitamin-protein-carbohydrate-rich dusts we bought. It was lucky for me that my flat-mates agreed that the idea was not that good considering all pros and cons, and we decided to stop the experiment. JithU and Sabari decided to go ahead with the routine in their flat. The routine was like...they used to buy milk every day, keep that for boiling, and then come over to our flat for general chat. Invariably the milk would over-boil and overflow. I don’t remember a single day when they could successfully drink the contents the way they wanted it. After sometime this ritual of offering milk as worship to some pagan goddesses was stopped, even though Sabari had found out that the resulting smoke and horrible smell acted as a mosquito repellant.

Ok now the next basic need of life – clothing. There used to be a mini-bus to pick us up during our training days, which left from our place at 8.15 AM. It was damn tuff for all of us to manage to get into that bus, given the fact that half of us got up on or after 8:07 AM. After a few days, somebody found out that there was an employee bus, which passed through our place at 8.45 AM. Most of us started getting up at 8.32 AM and running behind the employee bus. I still remember Chacks once entering the employee bus, with his shirt open, unbuttoned, and flying, one shoe worn, the other shoe in his left hand, socks and belt in his mouth and the training file in his right hand. It might have been an embarrassing experience for the employees (, definitely not for us) :_)

So once the basic needs are satisfied, what comes next is social life. We, the 12 CETians were seen as the hooligans of our training batch. :_) Ogling, whistling and commenting at girls... having a blast in the trainee bus, singing songs at the top of our voice.... having a jolly nice time in the training sessions. We managed to go scot-free as we were always the toppers of the batch. One CETian or the other was sure to top each test. So the staff took our monkey-tricks in the right spirit. We collected money amongst us and distributed chocolates to the entire training batch to celebrate Onam, which came during our training days. Our loud songs in the training buses were famous among most of the female population of the training batch. I guess we were unprofessional to the core, escaped mostly because we were treated as kids-straight-from-college.

We used to have ‘fierce’ arguments in the nights. About religion, atheism, communism, capitalism, gundaism and what not. You name any ism, and chances are that we must have already discussed abt that. Discussions were extended to well past mid-night, often ending with one over excited participant threatening to cease the existence of another equally excited participant from the opposite fort. When we were not debating, we were playing the all too famous card games 56 or 28. With 6 crooked individuals spending more brains and energy in finding out ways to cheat the opponent than to win the game legally. Most often teams were maintained as they were, which lead to each team having secret codes to communicate among one another. Like a single cough for a Jack, two successive coughs for a Jack and a nine of the same sign, scratch your left ankle for Spade and so on and so forth. I think it was JithU who openly abused his teammate once when they lost a game, about not following the secret code language correctly :_).

After our training days, we shifted our base camp to Lakshminarayan Complex. Thanks to Chacks’s influential uncle, we got a posh flat in a good locality. The helpful uncle was even ready to arrange for his housemaid to come over to our place and look after our stuff too. But that arrangement kind of backfired on us. Since it was not easy to throw out bottles, we had piled up bottles from our training period in our old house. It was like a dozen of beer bottles and some 3 or 4 Romenov or Smirnoff bottles. When we shifted house, Sabari had this crazy idea of taking these bottles along to keep them as a memento, and thankfully he kept that in our house. So far so good. The appointed housemaid comes to clean our house on the second day of our arrival. She enters the kitchen. Lo and behold, there is a nice collection of liquor bottles. We realized her true powers as the BBC of the complex when aunties of the complex started giving us those ‘looks’ before evening. Cant really blame her also, just the second day of a new house and what you find is over a dozen bottles. Matters turned worse when Chacks's uncle offered him a peg when he visited them the next time. :_)

Stories of our housemaid doesn’t end there, and the most embarrassing episode had me at the receiving end. Once before going home, Snith bought a ladies’ hair clip as a present for his sis. He went home and came back, safely taking the clip round the trip and forgetting to gift it. Could have ended there if he hadn’t taken it out of his bag and casually thrown it over his bed. We move to another room when our maid comes in to clean the room. After 2 min, maid comes to us with a naughty smile and the clip held high... She enacts the usual Hindi movie shy scenes and asks aloud “Ye kyaa hai”.... Nobody answers... At last me “Ye kiska hai...?” What I meant was “Whose is this? How did it reach here??”, But she took it to mean, 'out of the many girls who come here, whose is this...' She went back with a loud shy laughter. Thanks to her, I got more looks from our society women. :_(

All most every weekend we used to go to Marine Drive.... just to lie down there at the Queens neck-lace, have a couple of ice-creams from the Naturals out-let, walk all the way from Air-India building to the chowpatty. Sometimes hire a taxi to go to the hanging gardens. Walk through the colaba area, through those medieval architecture buildings... watch movies in Ragal, Sterling, Metro. Go to gate-way-of-India. Browse through the rows and rows of books, which were displayed on the footpath. Go to Bombay restaurant or Plaza Restaurant for supper. Snacks from McD. Visit Planet-M just opposite to the CST station. It used to be SO SO great....

If not Marine Drive, then it used to be Juhu, Bandra Band stand, Powai Hiranandani for bowling or carting, different places of Vashi or the R-Mall at Mulund. I guess the shopping mall Center 1 was more familiar than our own houses. The good thing about Bombay is that there is some place to go everyday of the year. The crowd is so nice and hospitable. Missing those good and not so old days, we spent at the best metro of India.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Keepers of our Goals

Have you ever wondered who plays at the most dangerous position in a game of football? If that was not wonder enough for you to wonder about, then try this one - as per the rulebook, who enjoys the most privileged position with special rights and protections? Same answer to both of the questions. That of the goalkeepers’. Yes. He is the only one who can handle the ball with his hand. He does not have to run around the field and can confine himself to the area around the goalpost or at most, the area called as D. Anybody who charges him when he has the ball in his arms will be send off the field immediately. What more can you ask for? What more special privileges you need?

Probably the glossy picture a school football team coach might try to paint to get a goalkeeper for his team. Is it true, then? Yes, absolutely. Each one of those claims is correct. However, in an actual match, the picture no longer remains glossy. Each of his other teammates is just one out of 10. Even if one of them goofs up, there will be somebody else to make up for it. When everyone else fails, it ultimately comes to the goalie. And in the unfortunate event of the goalie failing, it doesn’t go anywhere else, it goes straight to the post, and that’s a GOALLLLL!!!... yea... its as simple as that. None of the events in the avalanche of mistakes made by his comrades will be taken into account when a goalie is accused of that inevitable GOAL... Nobody will blame the left wing defender who could have done a sliding tackle and taken the ball away from the advancing forward. Nobody will blame that stopper back who could have headed away the lob the left wing forward gave to the center forward. But all of ‘em will be up in arms against the goalie who couldn’t clear that simplest of balls (, when in fact the goalie has already done a full length dive to his left, managing only to reach a foot too short of the passing ball).

When a forward misses a chance to score, its just another “OHHHH!!!...” nothing more...nothing less.... “That was a good attempt from him... but sadly he couldn’t convert it... bad luck” No big words, no cries for his blood. A forward gets some twenty chances in each game, and if he manages to convert two or at least one of them into a goal, he is praised like a god-send-messenger. Nobody even remembers about the 18 wasted opportunities. In contrast, the goalkeeper is tested a good hundred times in each game. Even if he manages to save ninety-nine of them and goofs-up on a single one, he is prone to be crucified. The same principle applies in an ironic way; nobody remembers those 99 saved ones.

So that makes the life of a goalie pretty unfair and a tough one. He is assumed to do well 'each time'. Expectations are sky-high and mistakes are fatal. No room for error. Tensed life. After hearing all these things, you may ask, why bother at all? Because of one factor. You will be ready to bear with all that I’ve mentioned above if you just experience once, what I am gonna say now. The advantage a goalkeeper gains in case of a penalty shoot-out. That’s when the victim becomes the hero; hunted one becomes the hunter; roles reverse; equations change. A penalty is the ultimate in scoring opportunities. These kicks are awarded for fouls that occur inside the penalty box or when the scores are tie-ed at the end of the stipulated time. These are one-on-one kicks between any one player on the team and the opposing goalie. The ball is placed on the penalty spot, which is 12 yards from the front of the goal, and a player gets a chance to kick it in while the goalie tries to stop it. So its accepted that the chances of the goalie stopping a penalty is minimal. That is when the poor fellow finds his moment of glory. He has nothing to loose, but a goal to save. If he fails, nobody blames him; if he does not, he is the savior. So, when you are pitted as an underdog, without much chance of winning, probabilistically deprived, whatever you do turns out to be in your favor. The goalie starts controlling the entire stadium like a music conductor conducting a concert, with his rhythmic hand movements. Player who takes the penalty kick only gets the attention of the front row left most violinist. Load is shifted to the shoulders of the player who takes the kick now. There were plenty of ‘em who went down when faced with this changed set of equations. Baggio, Bekham and many more....

That was about the great league... Now, something personal. During practice sessions, I love to stand in as the goalkeeper. You will be guarding the goal, and all the players of your team will be lined up in an arc outside the D. All of them shoot the ball at you from that close range. Man, the pleasure when you can beat them all... there is nothing quite like it.... You can see the ball leaving the foot of your teammate, going up in the air, tracing a parabolic arc, moving softly in air, and finally coming roaring at the post. By that time, you analyze the speed, curve and direction of the ball and adjust your steps, open up your arms, and punch the ball away. I particularly like two types of blocks. If the ball is coming below your shoulder level, then you can position your hands so that they form an outstretched prayer pose, where you hold your palms together as if you are in prayer, the only difference being, your palms are as far away from your body as is possible. You use the underside of your palms to block the ball. The elegance is unmatched. :_) Second type of block comes in handy when the ball goes high and away from you. You are at one corner of the post and the opponent has aimed the ball at the far end. You run back, chasing the ball, then reach in time, jump as high as you can, stretching completely, finally gently glide the ball out of the far corner of the post, and fall down in a near horizontal plane. Again, magical.... :_)

So next time you catch the game on TV, don’t forget to watch out for that smile of confidence on the goalie’s face during a penalty shootout.Just a bit of statistics: Usually the goalkeeper of any college team has the most number of lady fans, (should I add, after the center forward of course ? ;_)) :_D