Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The tale of the Eurail Youthpass

This tale, is in fact, not in the slightest way connected to Eurail youth passes, or any other competing railway pass products.

In fact, the regular reader (yes, all four of you) would be well within your rights to remark that this blog post is connected to anything at all.

The statistics, far from being a miniskirt that covers more than it reveals, is in this case, a brazen admission of truth.

It took this blog 263 days to churn out 49 posts at an almost Henry Ford-esque assembly line rate. The 50th post, took an additional 223 days to get its act clean.

Now even Geoffrey Boycott, and on one of his particularly stodgy days, does not take so long to move from 49 to 50. If this blog were a cricketer, Andy Zaltzman would have at least five blog posts dedicated to its tempestuousness.

And just like Geoffrey Boycott, this blog does not have any legitimate excuse for the long transition to 50 either.

But this tale however, does allude to the fact that on the day that the author publishes this post, it will mark the first day of that portion of his life when he is not eligible for a Eurail youth pass.

It also marks the day he can no longer be legally called up as a conscript to the American army. But not being a US citizen, or never even having been within a 1000 miles of the US, there wasn't too much chance of that happening.

But that is besides the point, if there ever was one.

By the age of 26, Paul McCartney had composed Eleanor Rigby, Michelle, Girl, Blackbird, Hello Goodbye, Penny Lane, Sergeant Pepper, Hey Jude, Yesterday amongst many others.
By the age of 26, Jim Morrison had done pretty much all he would ever do before settling down to a relatively tranquil retirement in the Parisian neighborhood of Philippe Auguste.
By the age of 26, Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar would have scored 7801 ODI runs and 5177 test runs, replete with 21 and 19 centuries respectively. (This is actually correct. Check cricinfo's statsguru if you don't believe me.)
By the age of 26, Mozart had written 31 symphonies; all his famous violin concertos, 10 of his piano concertos, and 15 operas, among several other pieces of music which adorn large parts of my hard disk.

On the other hand, the high point of the author's 26 years centered around a Eurail youth pass, hence the title.

223 days, as you no doubt have been counting off the calendar.

Not much happened in the meantime. On this blog I mean. There was lots otherwise, including that thing they call the 'sub-prime crisis', lots of cricket, lots of Indian victories in particular, and lots of trips to Bangalore for various reasons.

The last point alone, is worthy of several future blog posts.
And hopefully, this time, it should take less than 223 days.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Common man and the unplanned trek... concluded

The story so far.

The story continues.

Spoiler alert : Cuplord actually turns out into the unlikely hero at the end. end of Spoiler alert

So, Cuplord and Common man found themselves at the top of a hill after a trek which left the Cuplord in the same state as the Ruhrland after world war two.

In their first few minutes atop the hill, they learned to their dismay that it was supposed to have been a very bad day for a trek, given the lashing rains which had turned all other trekkers back halfway up the trek (which explained why they hardly ran into any other trekkers).

That put paid to their plans of trekking back downhill the next day (nobody actually told them not to do it, but the fact that everybody just laughed in their face every time they suggested it was enough discouragement). On the other hand, they might just have been laughing at Cuplord's Marathi. (in fact, even if the locals were telling them that it was an excellent day to trek, and Cuplord was just bluffing to Common man to get himself out of another potentially draining trek, we'll never know).

This also tied in very nicely with the fact that they didn't have a place to stay. After walking the whole length of Bhimashankar, which took 42 seconds, they found the bus stand. Common man embarked upon what he thought would be a very simple task, meaning inquiring when the next bus to Mumbai or Karjat would be.

The first 9 people he asked mixed various results. Some denied all knowledge of the existence of a bus stand (odd containing these included the inquiry counter of the bus stand), but most plain stared back into his face without responding. Common man thought he must have died and turned into a ghost, but then he remembered how every time he asked for directions in Mumbai, and all the more in Pune, he was met with the very same blank stare.

Common man and Cuplord briefly conferred on this. The latter had a very plausible theory for the same, and I'd suggest that the discerning reader contact either of Cuplord or Common man to know the same. The so called discerning reader would note that this is the first instance in the story when Cuplord did anything useful.

Anyways, to cut a long story short, they soon learned that the last bus to Mumbai had long since departed, and no one could find where the bus(es) meant for Pune were. An employee at the bus stand helpfully suggested that Common man and Cuplord trek back the way they came, to which the two of them just laughed back the way they had been laughed at just three paragraphs before.

Then they got their first bit of helpful information. Share taxis of some sort plied between Bhimashankar and some place called Mancher (spelled like Manchester without the "ste" but pronounced like the Hindi word for mosquito). Mancher, Common man was assured, was merely an hour away, and a large sprawling metropolis and hub of economic activity, from where they could get direct transport to anywhere in the world.

The two of them were then herded into a World war two era jeep designed for about 7, but carrying about thrice the number. Cuplord was dangling from the back of the jeep, which just about enough space for his little toe, while he clung on for dear life. Common man on the other hand, sat down in relative luxury, in the front seat, sandwiched between at least four other co-passengers and a driver. The driver dangled out of the jeep in much the same way as Cuplord while Common man took his seat. Common man actually could keep his feet down every time the jeep was in an odd gear. (Such luxury, sic). Try this sometime in a jeep as a driver clinging on to the steering wheel navigates through the western Ghats in the monsoons. If not anything, it at least rekindles your love for religion.

After an indeterminate period of time which was certainly longer than an hour, the jeep dropped them off at a junkyard which was used to total old buses. Shortly afterwards, the two of them realized, to much horror, that this actually the much vaunted bus stand people had been raving about. Queries to the effect of "When is the next bus in the general direction of Mumbai ?" were met with the same answer. That it had long since parted. Common man fancied that there wasn't actually any such bus, and an inquiry at any time of day always met with the answer that the last bus had just left.

The arrival of a bus which was clearly on its last legs (or wheels) much excited the gathering which had gathered (sic), who chased after the bus, in a scene which was very much reminiscent of Beatlemania. Common man politely asked a few dozen people, all of whom were jostling for a place in the bus as to where the bus was headed to, and all of them politely stared blankly back at him. In a brilliant bout of innovation, all these buses had their origin marked, rather than their destination. So the conventional method of looking at the board in front of the face simply failed, much like India's middle order in the Sri Lanka test series.

Then the two of them agreed to get a bus to any place which both of them could point on an atlas. But given Cuplord's geography, this meant pretty much nowhere. (Hint: To readers unfamiliar with the Cuplord and his ways, all they need to know is that his knowledge of world geography makes the average 'pointing to Iraq when asked to point at Canada in a world map' American look like Mercator in comparison).

Meanwhile, Cuplord and Common man thought of a different tactic. Mancher being a town around half the size of Mahalakshmi layout , polite Hindi and English queries, or for that matter, impolite Hindi and English queries, were unlikely to reveal Tutankhamen's tomb or any other such treasures. The only alternative was Marathi.

This presented some minor problems. As the guide had already discovered in Part 1, Common man was completely incapable of any conversation in Marathi. He did know two phrases and he wasn't even sure what they meant, and didn't expect that they would be of too much help here. One was pudhey which seemed to be the standard response by bus conductors to questions such as "Does this bus go to Dadar?", "What is the time and can I have my change please?", "Did India win the match ?", "Can you say anything apart from Pudhey ?" Common man presumed, given the general tone in which he heard it spoken, that it must mean "Look, like this is the best impression I can do of Graham Chapman in the Argument clinic sketch. So sod off".

The other Marathi expression Common man knew was Baarah dabyachi dheemi local ahey. Given the reaction it usually sparked, he presumed it meant "A pot of gold has been discovered on platform two. Please rush immediately to claim your share". So, that option was ruled out. Cuplord on the other hand, claimed to have multiple Phds in Marathi, but the fact that the two of them were still standing in the mosquito bus stand, unable to take bus after bus, showed he was being as truthful about his Marathi speaking abilities as he was about his trekking abilities.

Common man now tried out a simplistic, language agnostic method. This method involved saying "Pune" with a question mark painted on his face, the question being directed in the general direction of the travelers already in the bus. To not very considerable astonishment, he got blank stares in response.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. The two gentlemen in question were soaked to the skin, hungry, Marathi-less and bus-less, and surely tethering at the edge of what can surely be construed as the D word. What would Bryan Boitano do ? I sure don't know, but our two gentlemen jumped on board of the next bus, irrespective of its destination. The fact that the bus was far more jam packed than a BMTC bus number 176 at rush hour will be glossed over for now. They discovered, to general merriment, that this bus was headed to Pune, which had among other things, neon lights, Cafe coffee days, and more significantly, a bus stand with buses to Mumbai.

Now Cuplord, for all his failings, had one claim to fame which very few people in the world could claim, especially when you have just experienced two parts of "Common man and the unplanned trek", and at some indeterminate time of the night, when you are hurtling into Pune since that was the only place the state transport service would take you to.... In laws living in Pune.

A short phone call later, it was established that the two tired trekkers would in deed have a home and hot dinner waiting to welcome them in Pune, Common man was almost willing to forgive Cuplord for all his past sins, but then again, not really.

The next few hours will feature very little in this narrative, much like Sam and Frodo's return to the Shire from Mount Doom. But after some unmitigated hospitality which led to our two heroes staying back in Pune for far longer than they had planned to, they finally terminated their peregrinations on Sunday evening back in Mumbai.

The ending might have been somewhat tame, but Cuplord surely learned two things over the trek.
1. Why Common man was called Common man.
2. Why you should never go on a trek with a blogger.

Thats all folks.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Common man and the unplanned trek

Common man was having the time of his life.

Actually that was while he was narrating this blog post. The actual run up to what constitutes the post that follows was quite different. For that, the flashback shall ensue...

Flashback: "And if we can't find a place to crash for the night, at least it will make for a good blog post" remarked Common man nonchalantly as he and Cuplord made their way out of Karjat railway station one rainy Saturday morning. Now Common man wasn't accustomed to making his way out of Karjat railway station, or for that matter, any railway station, on rainy Saturday mornings, but this was no ordinary Saturday morning.

For one, Common man and Cuplord had taken the 5:37 AM local train from Dadar, reaching Karjat in a mere 7 days, or what felt like 7 days. Yes five: thirty seven in words, and 5:37 in figures, that was no typo.

"Why 5:37 local train on a Saturday morning ?" is a question that may strike the discerning reader. When the author will add (as he is just about to add) that it was for a trek to a place neither of them had heard about, during a long weekend, to a place where they hadn't yet found a place to stay in; and the question "Why 5:37 local train on a Saturday morning ?" may strike yet again.

Further, the very same discerning reader may wonder why Cuplord, who was known for his extreme cheapness in never responding to calls and always ditching meet-ups and friends' engagements, was doing initiating a trek, and calling Common man for it.

Common man's extreme popularity was only a small part of the answer. The larger part (or bigger picture, as we MBAs like to say) was that Cuplord was a masochist, and he was punishing himself for all his cheap deeds. And being work-less and wife-less that weekend meant he was free to pursue other extra-curricular activities.

So, Common man and Cuplord made their way into some indeterminate Maharashtrian town/village which was to be the base of their almost vertical ascent to Bhimashankar. Common man was something of a tyro at this trekking business, but Cuplord's reassurances that he had been trekking in the Himalayas right from the days of Mohammed of Ghazni's marauding invasions meant that Common man was worrying less about the trek and more about the aperture setting on his camera as he took photos.

The reality couldn't be further. Two years of Mirinda, an MBA and no exercise meant that Cuplord wasn't even fit to cross Linking Road at peak time, leave alone trek 3000 feet of a steep mountain in monsoon. Common man didn't seem to be afflicted as badly as Cuplord with such fitness problems. Every 20 steps or so, he'd realize that Cuplord had fallen back, and he'd have to wait for the aforementioned person to catch up.

That only gave Common man all the more time to admire the natural beauty and use his photographic prowess to good use. Exhibit A shall serve as a sample of how exactly Common man utilized all those waiting periods.

From then on, to cut a long story short, the two intrepid trekkers enlisted the services of a guide from about halfway up the trek. How they managed to find a guide halfway up an extremely challenging trek is quite a story in itself, but since it involves making fun of Common man rather than Cuplord (as the rest of this story does), it shall conveniently be bowdlerized.

The guide had several peculiarities, one of which was to continuously make conversation with Common man in Marathi, in spite of his repeated denials to any knowledge of the language. In the guide's defense, he merely might have been trying to convey "Watch out, that landslide is headed your way" or "Your fly is open" or something to that effect, but like Einstein's last words, we'll never know.

He did occasionally pause from his Marathi monologue, but that was only to turn around and cast dirty looks in the direction of the Cuplord, who was now dropping so far behind Common man and the Marathi speaking guide that Eliyahu Goldratt was said to be inspired to complete the Goal trilogy, and further enhance the ever increasing study in English literature of bottlenecks.

A mere four and a half hours or so later, the triumvirate descended upon (actually shouldn't it be ascended upon) the town of Bhimashankar in extremely foggy weather. By now, the visibility was so poor, and Cuplord was so exhausted, that the guide probably just had enough of the two trekkers and just left them off at some random point in the forest, saying "this is Bhimashankar", much like the sign which says "This is Anfield" at the stadium of the football club which finishes fourth every season, and yet believes they are favorites to win the title when the next season kicks off.

Anyways, Cuplord and Common man were finally at Bhimashankar. Or what they were told was Bhimashankar. Common man had been awake for over 12 hours that day, and he hadn't even had lunch. Or found a place to crash for the night.

That was just the start of his troubles though.

The rest of the story will be concluded in part 2.

PS: Gotcha suckers! Betcha didn't know when you started reading this that there would be a part 2. To be perfectly honest, even I had no idea.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Common man and the street protests

Common man was having the time of his life. He was actually. For one, it is a less clichéd opening line for a blog post than "It was a dark and stormy night", but cliché nonetheless.

So, he was having the time of his life. Normally, "work" and "time of his life" wouldn't even feature in the same postal code, but unusually here, this "time of his life" was directly linked with his 'work' (sic). Sure, common man didn't have a hot secretary nor did he have a bunch of minions saying "yes master" every time he passed by at the workplace, but a junket cum sinecure in the hallowed environs of central London was a far better substitute.

Common man did everything a good tourist should do in central London. He crossed Abbey Road, then he crossed Abbey Road again, waltzed past the Tower Bridge, polkaed past Big Ben, troikaed past Buckingham Palace, flamencoed past Hyde Park, and then, crossed Abbey Road yet again. The fact that common man couldn't actually dance his way out of Funky Town is only yet another issue.

This post, however, is not about any of the above.

Meanwhile, Common man stared out of the window of the top decker of the red bus he was traveling in. Even allowing for his somewhat poor eyesight, common man chanced upon something he only chances upon too often.

An obstacle in the form of a large public demonstration was hindering his (bus') path forward.

Now Common man had a way with these. From Naxalbari to Rome, from Jakarta to Glasgow, and other such places where his travels took him, common man always ran into these protests/demonstrations. He had no idea how these demonstrations followed him wherever he went, or whether he was the one unconsciously following them in the first place. In fact, it is now acknowledged that the "jester in the sidelines in a cast" was referring to Common Man and not Bob Dylan, as popularly believed.

Either way, the very reason he was christened "Common man" was owing to his remarkable similarities with the eponymous RK Laxman character.

And here it was again. His London trip was punctuated by yet another of those street protests. And there were not one, not two but three protests, all happening at once, in the little street that is Whitehall.

The first protest was on behalf of the Armenians against the Turks, or vice versa, Common man wasn't sure. In fact, neither were the protesters. One was the usual mandatory weekly protest against the mayor. And the last one intriguingly was by the Sikh community, and Common man couldn't quite make out over the din what they were protesting.

Two things stood out in the above scene in Common man's mind. One was a bunch of protesters who were taking some time out of the whole protest thing and sharing a bunch of beers sitting down in the street, in true hippy style. And the incredible thing, going by the placards they carried, was that they were all there for different protests. He couldn't quite imagine whether a bunch of random people had just met up in different protests here, or if a bunch of people came to protest for the heck of it, and all joined different ones.

Either way, Common man imagined that their conversation would be something like this.
A: Awfully sorry to bother you ol' chap, but which protest are you here for ?
B: The Mayor one, mate. And terrible weather.
A: Or'rite. I did the Mayor one last week, so I decided to do the Turk/Armenian one this week.
B: Right ho ol' chap. So are the Turks protesting against the Armenians, or is it the other way round ?
A: I don't know mate. The Turks are busy settin' up Doner Kebap shops to cash in on the opportunity, so I can't be bothered to ask them.
B: Arsenal lost again.

The other striking thing was the signboards being put up all over the place, starting a fortnight before, warning people that there would be some kind of disturbance to traffic at this day between this time and that time, and apologizing for the inconvenience caused and all that. Common man wondered where else in the world would the mayor of a city put up signs that the people of the city were taking out a protest against him, and apologize to the people for the inconvenience they (the people) themselves caused. And the people in turn take an appointment with the mayor to protest against him at that specific time!

Yes, London was truly an amazing place.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

More site metering

Your homework for the day.
Get on google and type...
Pornstars of Goa picture
And hit "I'm feeling lucky".

Yes, go do it.
Trust me, its worth the risk of office IT sending you an automated warning, for the laugh.

I haven't quite figured how this happened but sitemeter can be blamed for uncovering this bit.

Also, special mentions to these seemingly arbit search strings which chance upon this blog
ness security guard 3 dial in (I sure hope you found what you were looking for)
Mumbai airport terminal 1a better than 1b (That's what net surfers are searching for in Brighton, West Sussex nowadays)
alpha lima yankee (Nothing to add, really)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

A day in the life...

You wouldn't think on seeing this innocuous picture just how many pop culture fires this zebra crossing stoked.

Its a rainy day as we speak, much like the day I waited in the lashing rain to get this picture without million Patel tourists on it. Though the drivers there were much kinder than those whose paths I crossed today, even if they have to drive their way past the most crossed zebra crossing in the world. Just thought I'd say.

As I said, its a rainy day

Monday, July 21, 2008

The hunter and the hunted

They call it house hunting. Note, they don't use an innocuous verb like searching or house finding, or something equally mundane, but "house hunting". And believe me its not a coincidence that the verb for finding a house is the same as the most primeval of all occupations (Note: contrary to popular perception, prostitution is NOT the most ancient occupations, except in Amsterdam). And "hunting" has that raw, wild feel to it too. Which is exactly what house hunting is all about.

Anyone who has read Maximum City by Suketu Mehta will know about how the real estate business in Mumbai and the underworld are intrinsically linked. Try house hunting with the feeling that the guy showing you around the house is probably linked to D in lesser degrees of separation than I am to Ratan Tata, and try feeling comfortable about the whole act.

Then there is the bargaining. I am the second worse bargainer in the world after Johny Bravo, I realize. I have to mentally remind myself whether I have to revise the estimate upwards or downwards before opening my trap. (Note: The last two statements aren't really true).

And then there are the prices. Come to think of it, the only other time in my life I did any sort of house hunting was earlier this year for the short stay in London. Why does it have to be that my first two experiences with house hunting had to be with the two most expensive cities (real estate wise) in the world. This is like a number 11 batsman making his test debut on the 5th day of a test in Antigua facing Marshall and Garner. What next I wonder- house hunting in Tokyo and New York? I deserve a home series against Bangladesh to raise my batting average. For now, its just Krakozia's GDP on a little warren in Mahim West I guess.

Only lawyers itself can globe more than MBAs it seems. I am talking, of course, about the company lease format. It is enough to scare any law abiding citizen off. And much more than enough to scare a "non abiding" citizen (or whatever the antonym of abiding). Honestly, I wouldn't give myself a house on lease with that 20 page tome which masquerades as a "company lease agreement".

And oh, did I mention- I did most of my house hunting in this weather.

And oh oh, did I mention that I am still homeless. Little wonder.

PS: Is house hunting this painful in any city ?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Audio guides: A testimonial

I am a big fan of audio guides. Exchange wouldn't have quite been the same without audio guides in museums.

There are so many obvious advantages of audio guides. They explain the context like no guide book ever ca. You choose the pace of your trip, and you choose what you want to see/hear. And above all, all language barriers are broken thanks to that little hand held device. And above above all, the little device in your ear shuts out the very superfluous and multilingual (and often very loud) chatter that most tourists around you seem to love indulging in.

Strangely the only place in India I have seen offer audio guides (The Prince of Wales museum in Mumbai) only lets foreigners rent them, even though they are available in English and Hindi. Audio guides were also available over mobile phone for old streets of Bandra during the Bandra festival last year, but only for Vodafone customers.

But audio guides come with their disadvantages.
Audio guide writers have to tread a fine line between pandering to the average package tourist (the kind who make a beeline to the Mona Lisa in the Musée du Louvre, take Patel shots and then leave immediately) and catering to the hardcore art enthusiasts (the kind who actually understand what 'chiaroscuro' means, and can use it correctly in a sentence). It'd be nearly impossible to find a guide catering to both ends of that spectrum

Anyways, the whole point of this post was to point out two places I recently visited which easily had the best audio guides I have encountered (so far).

One was at the Beatles experience in Liverpool. Now the Beatles experience is not an 'official' Beatles museum by any means, even if it is the world's largest collection of Beatles related memorabilia under a single roof. But its audio guide itself does enough to stake a very genuine claim to being the Beatles experience.

For one, the initial part of the audio guide (covering their childhood and Quarrymen days) is mainly narrated by John Lennon's half sister, Julia. Also featuring on the audio guide is Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Sir George Martin, recordings of Brian Epstein speaking, and a host of other Beatles related personalities. An audio guide with George Martin reminiscing about the Abbey Road sessions while you stare at an exhibit of recording equipment from Abbey Road studios, gives it a kind of legitimacy which other audio guides can never replicate. More than enough to leave Beatles fans drooling.

The other audio guide which merits a mention here is the one at the Roman baths in Bath. The brilliance of this one is that it has three parallel lines of narration (in English itself).

One is your typical serious narrative which dwells on the historic and artistic aspects of the surroundings. Very technical and educational. The second channel, which is narrated by Bill Bryson, in true Brysonesque style, somewhat on the lighter side, focusing on his personal observations rather than the historic significance. Very 'out of syllabus'. The last channel is designed specifically for kids, and weaves a fascinating story with Roman characters, legions etc, instead of just a factual or descriptive guide. Very cool

Given the rate at which Lonely Planet is diversifying into downloadable audio guides, apparently I am not the only one who thinks they are a really cool concept

Monday, July 7, 2008

Theatre of Dreams

Prologue: Admittedly, its been over 10 days since returning from Britannia, but some blog worthy topics still remain to get out of the way. Over to the real post now.

Real post: I had never been inside any sporting venue, not counting the streets of Monaco as a sports venue (yes the very same venue where cops felt the overwhelming need to play a hand in aiding the war on "global terror") till 14th June, 2008. Though I did pay my respects to San Siro, Parc des Princes, Santiago Bernabeu, Olympic Munich among many others from the outside. Just as well, that Old Trafford had to be the one to break the duck.

As always, I shall briefly digress. Three years back, if you (yes, that means you) told me that I would visit both Old Trafford and Strawberry Fields by the tender young age of 25, I'd have thought you'd gone as mad as a sea bass with goiter. Thats why its somewhat overwhelming that I actually visited both within 24 hours of each other. Admittedly, I still haven't gotten over that weekend, which explains this belated post.

So, back to Old Trafford. I had no idea that a stadium visit would actually let you see so much. At best, I was expecting a slap dash visit to the stands and back, but no, it was far more.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, let me elaborate.

You can sit in the stands.
and ogle at the Stretford End.

You are taken to the home team's dressing room. In fact, even to the player's lounge, which is the only part of Old Trafford where Sir Alex is forbidden from entering (and yes, you can go there)

Run down the tunnel...

...into the pitch

and to the trophy room.

Other highlights which aren't represented photographically are
The player's bench (with seated heats)- apparently since Diego Forlan couldn't tolerate the Manchester weather. Given how much time Señor Forlan spent on the bench, I don't particularly blame him.
The Munich tunnel and clock. A whole lot of visuals in various Bangalore quizzes (a lot of which I myself am guilty of unleashing on the quizzing public) over the years have now been added to the "I've seen the original"* category.
The Red Cafe: Which incidentally is run by a bunch of Tams. Lancashire Tams at that, not the Chennai variety. That basically means names like Periasami, Shanemougamanathane but sporting accents more suited to a Collingwood or Sidebottom.
Quite hilarious. **

*: Copyright for that can be claimed by Kodhi.
**: If ever you encounter a guy named Venkatesh saying "Hey Senthil ol' chap, could you please be so kind as to get the fine young gentleman in table 14 a pint of Heineken" in a Cockney accent, try and not find it hilarious.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The magical mystery tour took me away

Just when I have tonnes to blog about, a busy patch (in other words, project winding time) appears. For now, these two photos will have to do. And no, unlike other times, the photographic prowess isn't what I am boasting of this time. Just that finally, the highest altars of both my religions were worshiped at last weekend (go figure). All in the matter of some 24 hours. It might be some seven lifetimes before such ecstasy is experienced again.

Till then, living will have to be (easy) with eyes closed

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

More 'you row' notes

Keeping in line with my quest to catch the Euro 2008 from various pubs across London, the Holland-Italy and Sweden-Greece matches were dutifully followed live. This achieves two purposes.
1) It sounds cooler in retrospect.
2) Since I don't have a TV at home, I don't have any other way to see it.

The Holland-Italy match was so good, it had to be fattening. This time for a change, I was less cheap and I actually ordered something in the pub. And also for a change, this was a highly partisan crowd I was part of. Apparently, orange wigs were outlawed at World Cup 2006 due to the fire hazard. But the way they scream "I am a Holland supporter" is rivaled only by the way being fat, loud, boorish and shorts-clad screams "I am an American tourist". If only my shocking orange Holland football shirt wasn't languishing in some closet in Bangalore, it'd have been put to good use now.

As for England's non-qualification (yes, more on that), the completely lackluster performances by Russia and Croatia have only further fueled the tabloids into a "If this is what we lost to, how pathetic must we be" spree. I can't imagine that lone figure who answers to the name Steve McLaren and is spewing his footballing wisdom in ITV radio will be having the time of his life.

Sadly now, for three consecutive days (Tuesday to today), the better game is the earlier kick-off, and I can't watch.

More as and when required.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Euro MMVIII is here!

The Euros are here. Its the first major football tournament where I am not a student (and consequently could watch every single game without a concern). The last 3 Euros and last 5 World Cups, I always wished that I could actually follow it from Europe (or the scene of the action, as the case may be). Now that the aforementioned case actually seems to have fructified, I find myself in a country whose football team weren't good enough to make it to the Euros. Snicker...

The standard English reaction to the Euros is to simply pretend that England's non-qualification isn't an issue. Given that typically, the British are hardly sentient to the presence of a large landmass called Europe 20 miles away, their reaction is most convenient. Given the page long coverage by the tabloids on "How London stars are doing at the Euros", ("London" stars referring to the likes of Luka Modric, Fredric Ljunberg, Michael Ballack etc) you'd be forgiven for thinking that last night's game was between Tottenham Hotspur (Luka Modric) and Middlesborough (Emmanuel Pogatetz) rather than Croatia and Austria. (Ob la di, ob la da), life goes on, as they say.

But then again, London being London (read multicultural), each of the 16 squads have ample support. Last night being a case in point- Half the pub going delirious every time Podolski or Ballack got the ball, and the other half going berserk each time Boruc saved (which was quite a few times, mind you). Add to that scenes of celebration where arbit Croatian fans were hugging arbit German fans after the second game got over. I'd like to see those same fans on the day of the Germany-Croatia game! Looks like arbit pubs in Liverpool Street and/or Victoria are going to be seeing a lot of me.

So, back to England in the Euros. Or should that be, England not at the Euros. Some jobless (and geeky) football pundits estimate that the financial loss to England due to the non-qualifications is a Billion pounds, presumably in lost advertising revenue, loss of revenue to airline companies, travel agents, pubs etc. On the other hand, I don't know if it estimates other associated losses such as lesser English plastic flags sold etc. And I am pretty sure it doesn't count the financial gains- like not needing to employ billion policemen overtime (Okay, I am being ridiculous).

But one man won't be making any financial losses due to non-qualification since he has just been handed a very lucrative deal to commentate on the radio during Euro 2008. His name is Steve McLaren. Yes, the same guy who is responsible for the one billion loss. I would love to hear half-time discussions bordering on "Ya, all they now need to do now to beat Croatia/Russia is...". Yes, he would know all about beating Croatia or Russia. Sadly, I don't listen to radio. I don't think the rest of England will tune in either.

Finally, Italy begin their much-awaited Euro campaign. Donadoni has very effectively kept the world guessing as to what squad or what formation he will employ. Especially the as yet unanswered question on whether del Piero will start or not, after his excellent Serie A campaign. A hint of irony there. The first time del Piero was dropped from the Azzuri's starting 11 was in Euro '96, when he was supplanted by a midfielder named Roberto Donadoni.

So, over at 19:45 to that excellent pub in Bishopsgate which lets me watch the match without having anything to eat or drink there!

Friday, June 6, 2008


Owing to the runaway critical success of this post, I feel compelled to write a follow up post, or sequel if you may. Basically yet another narrative from London in the dialogue format. Except this one has 2 minor differences to the previous one.

1. I didn't overhear this conversation. In fact, I was 50% of the parties involved in the conversation.
2. This wasn't a one-off conversation. It has been replayed consistently over the weeks in London, and I would expect more of the same as long as I meet Indians here. And this "conversation" is a melange of several such conversations.

The 2 protagonists are
1. TASBABCWLISEWTITWTSPIHWSLIKEAJL: Talkative albeit slightly bored (and boring) conversationalist, whose life is so entrenched with the IT world that she probably introduces herself with something like "I know English and Java languages", or well, just 'X' for short. As you would expect, X is drawn from several real-life (and unnamed) characters. Allow for some artistic license on my part.
2. Me, or 'M' for short.

X: You are Indian?
M: Yeah.
X: Which of TCS/ CTS/ Infy/ Satyam/ Wipro do you work for ?
M: Huh?
X: (Trying different tactic) Where in India from?
M: Bangalore.
X: Haan Bangalore, then which technology? Which domain?
M: (Now understanding what X means) I am not a techie.
X: (with a look remniscent of Eric Cartman's look of disbelief in the episode 'Cartman-land' when he hears the security guard doesn't want to be paid in fun rides at the amusement park.) Means ?
M: I work, but not in IT.
X: Achha, you are here on holiday?
M: No, on work.
X: (thinks deeply) Where do you work?
M: Goodbye administrative services.
X: What do they do ?
M: (Wonders how is going to get out of this one. Especially when he still hasn't quite successfully explained what he does for a living to his family, how is he going to explain it to this person) Well, I do different projects for group companies. Sort of like consulting except that...
X: (Interrupting) Oh consultancy, so TCS?
M: Yes. I mean not exactly. Look, I am here on a 3 month project which...
X: (Interrupting again) Haan, project na. So which technology, which domain ?
M: No, it isn't an IT project.
X: Huh? Then?
M: More like managerial.
X: (Very confused) So what managerial work do you do?
M: (Intentionally sounding vague) There's some marketing involved, business development.
X: But if you are sent onsite, you have to be working for an IT company, no?
M: Not necessarily, I could have been doing a project for Tetley or Corus too.
X: Tetley? what technology, what domain are they in?
M: (Irritated) No, Tetley is not an IT company. Not all companies are IT companies you know.
X: (Very confused) Means ?
M: (Suddenly seems to find the view outside captivating)
X: You said consulting. Who are you working for here?
M: Names company.
X: A-ha. I knew you were an IT guy. So which technology? Which domain?
M: (Gets back to reading his London tabloid/ playing snake on his mobile/ Staring at the ceiling).

Talk of racial stereotyping. We Indians have successfully racially stereotypes ourselves.

Someone remind me why I left my first employer in 2005.

PS: The title "IT's..." is very similar to the first ever blog post "It's...". See this for more on Monty Python's longest running gag. Of course, the clever word play is my own

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Alpha Tango Uniform Lima Yankee Alpha

This edition of Phd comics is the story of my life, really.

After years of having my name spelled Aathulya (that's how my voters card reads), Atulyah (that's the Indonesian version),
Athulya (That's the Karnataka version. At least 30% of my quiz certificates are spelled this way),
Athula (occasionally Karnataka version),
Atul (HT version)
Ayatulla (I am making this one up, actually)
Adulya (Tam-land special),
Atulaya (I do have some certificates spelled this way),
Atula (No comments)
Atülya (Oh, I wish, but no, I am making this one up too),
Atoolya (Yes, this is real, and is the preferred spelling in Western France),
Atylua (Right ho, this was down south in London town),
I can totally empathize with how Tajel feels.

Results improved significantly when I started giving out my visiting card anyone asked me my name. And I believe its not a bad idea for business cards in the future to include a pronunciation guide too.

Oh, and for the record, its A-tul-yuh, not A-tul-yaaah

And yes, Phd comics rocks

Friday, May 30, 2008

Site metered

What is common to (not an exhaustive list: The implied humor in this statement will be clear when you see the third item in this list)

1. Lekha Washington IPL cheerleader,
2. Lekha Washington cleavage,
3. Udups IIMB,
4. Gujarati Seven habits of highly effective people,
5. Manchester Unido, and
(last but not the least) 6. Atulya Bharadwaj

Very little, one may be tempted to say.

But no, these are some of the recent Google searches which resulted in people chancing upon this blog. The reason I know these useless snippets of knowledge is that I recently added sitemeter to the blog, and its mildly kick-inducing.

So my response to
1 & 2. Naughty, naughty. Sorry to disappoint you, I don't presume you found what you were looking for, but there are kids here. Shoo, go away.
3. Maybe Udups of IIMB needs to get his own blog, google searches for the aforementioned person for some reason seem to be coming to this humble blog. And this is not an exhaustive list.
4. I have no idea how this happened, and I must apologize on behalf of Google for this web searching peccadillo, though I claim no responsibility for their actions. But "kem cho, maja ma?" to you and "Mane gujarati nathi avadthi".
5. To the lads from Coimbra, Viga, La Coruña and Rabat who found this blog through the above search, "Yo soy "fan" de Manchester Unido, mas perdone, yo no hablo Portuguese".
6. And just what were you thinking? Googling for "Atulya Bharadwaj", eh? You have way too much free time surfing the net. Well, I am famous, it seems.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Mumbai- part 42, and modern art

This post is a tribute to a truly great piece of modern art. Specifically I believe this modern art piece comes under the neo-Calvinist, neo-Daliesque, post-modernist sub-genre of art. Its also probably the largest piece of modern art in the world. Possibly also the largest artwork in the world.

This wondrous artwork I am referring to, of course is Mumbai airport terminal 1A.

Let me explain.

I never was a fan of modern art. Still am not. In fact, I thoroughly despise any form of modern art, and I look suspiciously upon any artwork post 1600 AD. The only 2 genre-specific modern art museums in the world I have been to are and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid and Tate Modern in London. In the former, I got ticked off by the security guard for attempting to sit on a sofa which I thought was kept for the benefit of the tired and gawking touristic public. It turns out the sofa itself was the centerpiece of the art display. In the latter, I was too scared to use the loos. Who knows, maybe those were the "works of art" on display.

As always I digress. So what do a loo in London, M F Hussain and a sofa in Madrid have in common. Actually, nothing. So let me come back to my point. Terminal 1A in Mumbai airport. Now one thing the discerning reader here would know of is the various types of Mumbaiyyas. Now usually, anyone who falls in category five or above in the hierarchy actually believes (among other things), that Mumbai is the cleanest, safest, most orderly city in the world with excellent infrastructure, excellent weather and with the most beautiful beaches, most helpful people and most athletic monkeys in the world. Ok, maybe exaggerated a bit on the last one, but you get the drift. The "amongst other things" in the aforementioned sentence includes (amongst other things) a belief that CSIA (not to be confused with CSKA Moscow) has merits over all other airports in the world.. and including some in other worlds *

Now, like most stage 7 beliefs, that is a completely erroneous one. Even if you only count the just inaugurated terminal 1B, it is still nothing compared to Hyderabad airport (not having seen BIAL yet, let me not comment on that). Terminal 1A on the other hand, is only narrowly edged out by Dadar station as being the worst inter-city transport hub in Mumbai.

Let me explain. When I go to an airport, I expect to see check-in counters, runways, restaurants and above all, Kingfisher airlines air hostesses. And some airplanes too The Mumbai terminal 1A differs slightly in this respect, in that most of the airport is made up of scaffolding, welders and falling cement. The last time I was there, I erroneously thought I wasn't at an airport, but was at a construction site (apparently here, they both mean the same), I apologized to the several masons upon whose space I seem to have invaded. I was on the other hand, ushered to the baggage X-ray which ominously stood out in midst of the debris.

Just how long have I been away from this city I wondered, that such calamity had befallen upon this city and I had not even realized. Three weeks was the answer. I looked about for an explanation. I found one in a board marked "Sorry for the inconvenience". My thoughts were interrupted by a large truck-trolley carrying large construction grade iron bars. Just as I wondered "How the hell do they get these inside an airport" did I see the giant construction crane, the kind which invariably plays a part in the climax of Schwarzaneggar or Die Hard movies too, fitting snugly inside the airport. Now if they could fit that inside an airport, God knows, maybe they'll try fit in an airplane next.

I made my way past the bags of cement, tripping past the iron rods in a motion that was markedly similar to Diego Maradona, Mexico 1986. Except I didn't have Peter Shilton to beat, and I wasn't Diego Maradona. I sighted a construction outpost, the kind used to make "Baby's Day Out" funny in the second half. I got there and asked the construction workers there (who for some strange reason were all wearing Indian Airlines uniforms), "Where is the check in counter?". I was solemnly told that I was actually at the check-in counter.

After being told that my flight was four hours late, that I couldn't check in right now, couldn't eat (since construction sites don't have restaurants, d-uh), couldn't leave the airport, couldn't sit down (since there wasn't any sitting place), I pushed my luck and asked if there was a loo in the vicinity. I was told to go till the end of the wall, and then find the loo beyond the scaffolding under the construction crane in a place where cement may be falling from the roof with welding sparks flying all around. (The only thing missing was a sign saying "Beware of the tiger"**). I tried to follow her advice. Except that in the spot where I was told to find a wall, there was merely a building frame and lots of construction material. After narrowly averting death from all the falling iron rods, I reached a place which vaguely resembled a garbage dump. There were 2 of them in fact, one which had "ladies" written outside it, and the other with "gents" written outside it.

A philistine might have dismissed the entire experience, cursed Mumbai airport, and probably blogged about it. Not me. I instantly realized how this was actually a brilliant piece of modern art masquerading as an airport. It surely was more artistic than Yoko Ono's apple in the middle of the room. Now then again, in the 2 modern art museums, I did have difficulty differentiating the exhibits from the other stuff, so maybe here I was off the mark.

But surely this had to be a modern art masterpiece. I mean, nothing else explains the sheer brilliance of the chiaroscuro, facade, sepia tones, and other artistic words which don't mean anything sensible in this context. Suggesting that the Mumbai airport was like a bad airport was like suggesting that the Bangalore Royal Challengers were like Deccan Chargers. I silently wondered at the creativity of the museum curator who chose to convert the entire airport into a modern art museum. Future generations will revere this masterpiece. No wonder this city's inhabitants think that this airport befits the city it serves.

I believe they should charge admission fees to enter this museum. In fact, I think they already do. Its called 'fuel surcharge' or something.

Sigh. Hyderabad and Bangalore aren't the only cities which needed a proper airport

* Credits to Muggesh for that one
** Douglas Adams. D-uh

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Yet another dose of imagery

I'd rate this as one of the best photos I have taken in recent times. (Recent times meaning since March- before which I had a fine photographic run).

As is perfectly obvious, its in black and white. Which makes the south bank look even more grimy and intimidating than it is. I'd imagine that if Dickens' works came with illustrations, this one picture wouldn't be all that out of place there. London's (frequent) gray, wet, rainy days provide ample opportunities for good black and white photos, and I (and the S3IS) have duly risen to the occasion.

The vantage point from where the photograph has been taken is the very top of St. Paul's cathedral (530 steps up). The view is of the south bank of London with the (hugely controversial) Millennium bridge occupying most of the foreground. The large power plant like structure is Tate Modern museum, and not unsurprisingly, was a power plant once.

Technical information (for those who can understand it)
Tv 1/500, f8, ISO 200, Cloudy white balance. 1/500 intentionally used to give the unnaturally dark feel. Whereabouts of 1/200 would have done just fine. f8 is the largest DOF my camera offers. Given the low light, my camera's metering was insisting on f3.5 otherwise. ISO 200 is my preferred ISO setting regardless of time of day.

Hopefully, more coming your way soon.

PS: And oh, as is always the case, no digital modifications or cropping whatsoever

Friday, May 9, 2008

The Jaguar guy

Yep, that's what I am now. The Jaguar guy. Any conversation with a stranger here (especially Brit), when it veers towards what I am doing in London, and any mention of Tata invariably becomes "oh you work for the Jaguar Land Rover company". Of course, I am more than glad to acquiesce. Explaining what I do for a living is a lot harder otherwise.

Examples of people who have made me the "Jaguar guy" include the immigration person who stamped my passport in Heathrow airport, a BBC reporter who was living in the same place in London, a tourist guide in Loch Ness, among others. Strangely, no mention is made of Corus. No one even seems to have heard of it (at least its acquisition).

So, the Jaguar guy it is then. It might just be the most effective $ 2.3 billion advertising spend ever.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Home side ?

After following the English Premier League for some 13 years now, it appears that I finally have a real "home" team. Now if home team is defined as situated closest geographically, my home team is (grimaces) Chelsea.

Based on office location, the "home" English side is definitely Chelsea, Stamford Bridge being barely 2 KM away. But based on residential location, it could be either of Chelsea or Queens Park Rangers. Google maps has been inconclusive in determining which of QPR and Chelsea are my "home team". If the discussion is restricted to Premiership sides, then undoubtedly, Chelsea is still the "home side", even from residence point of view.

Which brings me to what I was trying to say- Chelsea being my new found "home team" has only heightened my dislike of Chelsea further. Nothing against the locality (I'd love to live there actually, but more like a heightened dislike of the football club).

But oh yes, there is a limit to the number of times you can open your daily newspaper (tabloid, rather) and see Avram Grump's face staring back at you. Also, in spite of being one of the pseudest areas in London, a constant whine in the papers is how expensive the fans are going to find it to travel to Moscow. Makes you wonder where all those billions (the owners as well as the fans') go.

Come Sunday afternoon, I'd love to be smirking outside Stamford Bridge.

PS: A lot of pubs in London ban football colors being worn for obvious reasons. Just as well I propose. If results on Sunday go as hoped for (also as expected), I wouldn't make my way out of any Chelsea pub alive.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The annual Haggis hunt

Culinary and Scottish are not usually words usually uttered in the same breath. In fact, they are probably not even uttered in the same lifetime, from what one usually hears of Scottish cuisine. The usual excuse offered is "After all that Scotch, it barely matters what you eat".
(Hint: Scottish cuisine is usually considered amongst the least palatable in the world, in case you were wondering what I was going on about).

For one, there's haggis. Not recommended for the faint hearted. I mean, even reading the page, leave alone actually eating it. Yours truly had different ideas. In fact, pretty much the first thing I did upon descending in Edinburgh was to try out the aforementioned dish. I must say it tastes far better than its description. So much so that I just had to have it again before leaving.

Read the description at your own risk. But I must insist again that it tastes far better than it sounds.

On a less gross note, there is Elephant House. And no, it doesn't serve elephants. In fact, it serves baked potatoes, bagels and good ol' Scottish ale (which is what the almost empty glass is).

But its greater claim to fame (than serving baked potatoes) is the fact that this is the cafe JK Rowling first got to work on her now somewhat famous 7 part series (duh). Quite predictably, the place is awash with American tourists and their cameras. Let that not take away attention from the fact that this is probably the nicest eating joint I have encountered in Great Britain so far.

PS: The title of the post is not completely far removed from its contents. In fact, it is a regular prank played on unsuspecting American tourists (probably the kind who flock to Elephant House with their cameras)

Overheard at a...

This post in its entirety is a replay of a dialogue I overheard on a bus journey last night from Edinburgh to London, and has been reproduced to the best of my memory (which is bloody good anyways).

Fact as they say is funnier than fiction, and with a real life story like this, who needs to make up stories to create entertaining blog posts.

The two characters in question are:
YESLKFC: Young enthusiastic Scottish lad, keen for conversation. Actually lets just call him S.
IHTCWCSTMEIPHEAITGLMIILBTSDEHESOLA: Indian HT character who can't speak too much English, I presume he is an IT guy like most Indians in London, but that still doesn't explain his English skills (or lack of). Actually let's just call him I.

S: Aye, you fr'm India, aye?
I: Yes yes, Indian.
S: Alw'ys want'd t' go t' India. 'ow long it takes f'r a floight from Britain t' India?
I: Yes, yes, Indian, Indian, from India.
S: Nay, I me'nt, f'r a floight fr'm Brit'n to India, 'ow many 'ours it takes?
I: Oh flight you are meaning, Seven averse I think for a direct flight.
S: Se'en 'ours you mean ?
I: Yes, seven averse.
S: Th't's it ? I thought it takes fi'teen 'ours to Hong Kong, 'ow 's India only se'en 'ours away ?
I: (Thinks) maybe it is being because of the time difference between India and Hong Kong that flight to Hong Kong is being take longer time.
S: (Bewildered) Th't's 'ow the time works, aye?
I: Yes, seven averse for direct flight.
S: (Confused) Toime diff'r'nce between Brit'n n' Hong Kong is se'en 'ours, what is the toime diff'r'nce between Brit'n n' India?
I: I told you, seven averse for direct flight.
S: 'ts the same ?? Se'en 'ours ?
I: Seven averse, direct flight.
S: Th'n why 's Hong Kong fifte'n 'ours?
I: I am not knowing, maybe it is being daylight saving time ? But seven averse for direct flight.

S: (bewildered): Ori'te, forget that, tell me 'ow much you paid for the ticket fr'm Lond'n t' Eydinbra ?
I: To Edinburgg?
S: Aye, I mean Edinbura.
I: Twelve pounds it is being for me ticket.
S: Th't 's it ? F'r a ret'rn tick't ?
I: Yes, twelve pounds to return, but I had to come here first to return, no ?
S: I me'nt a ret'rn ticket, aye.
I: Yes, I am being return to London, no bhai ?
S: So twelve pounds on' way, twenty four return tick't, roight ?
I: No, twelve pounds to come, twelve pounds to return. Twenty four for total.
S: Th't 's what I said !
I: You are confusing me.
S: What toime did you book the tick'ts ?
I: The time is being 10:45, bus is 15 minutes late.
S: No, I meant when you book'd the tick'ts ?
I: Tomorrow morning at 7:30 it reach London.
S: See, I book 2 weeks ago. I pay 21. When you book to pay 12 ?
I: Seven averse, direct flight.

I wonder why S chose to spend the rest of the journey listening to his iPod with no further part to play in any conversation.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

London calling

London called already actually.

Called a week back actually.

And Monkee has taken to London like the Scarabaeinae takes to dung.

And while the past one week has been spent indulging on the usual stuff one indulges in London- such as acting very touristy in Whitehall & Piccadily, crossing Abbey Road, acting very touristy in Westminster & the Tower Bridge, London pubs, fish and chips, crossing Abbey Road, talking about the weather non-stop, and oh-did I mention, crossing Abbey Road, the one unexpected thing that I have taken to is London tabloids.

For one, they are free. For the other, they are available everywhere, anytime, whether you like them or not, and thrust in your hands/face/feet when you least expect it. And oh, did I mention, they are free.

For more, the quality of journalism, while not exactly Pulitzer level, is surely better than I expected. Well, it is surely better than The Times of India, for instance. Actually it is unfair to call TOI a tabloid in a belittling way since the tabloids are actually substantially better. Well, there is a mammoth sports section, an equally mammoth weather section (London is in England, remember), lots of local news, and at least an attempt at putting business and other stuff. (Again, that's more than I can say for TOI). In fact, the same football articles which appear in the tabloids are also the ones you'd read in espnstar or soccernet, which I'd follow anyways.

And yes, did I mention, they're free. Who in Legoland is going to spend GBP 0.5 to 1.5 on a newspaper? Not me for one, at London prices.

Till next time, Right ho, tic toc and dreadful weather

Friday, April 25, 2008

Random IPL thoughts

Some character called Lekha Washington was doing a "Mandira Bedi", cricket commentary wise, except that she proved even more idiotic than the aforementioned. In the game of the famous power cut, she walks up to Asad Rauf at the boundary edge (during the blasted power cut) and asks him "who do you think is going to win?". Her momentous gaffe covered up the fact that she even got his name wrong. Seriously, as if Mandira Bedi wasn't enough. Where do they get these characters from.

As is well known, the BCCI is undertaking the biggest witch hint since Salem, WA, circa 16th century, against the ICL. All players, officials, administrators, umpires, even sponsors and broadcasters from the ICL are "banned" from "main stream" cricket by the BCCI. But amusingly. that didn't stop 2 Russian cheerleaders from the ICL from being hired to "cheer" at the IPL. Wonder how that slipped under the BCCI's nose!

Two concerns I had before the IPL (relating to its success) was a) would fans really relate to a "home" side where they had to cheer, maybe Symonds against Bhajji, or cheer against Tendulkar for instance. This fear seems to have been put aside comfortably now, with crowds more than getting behind their home sides, perhaps to a far greater extent than anyone thought possible. When Sehwag scored his quick fire 50 in Hyderabad, he actually had to exhort the crowd to give him some applause!

The other concern was whethe rany away support could be drummed up at all, the way football fans travel with their side. That concern largely remains unsolved. In games in Bangalore and Mumbai, the 2 cities are cosmopolitan enough for enough people to turn up and cheer for the away side too. But I expect the crowds in Mohali and Jaipur to be very partisan, bordering on boring.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Anyone for quizzing?

Bill Bryson in his book "Notes from a small island" makes a comparison on the education system in UK with that in the US. Since, he uses quizzers as an example to make his point, I particularly remember this anecdote.

Anyways, the example he quotes is this- when the University challenge winners of UK and USA faced off each other in a "University challenge grand final", the UK team beat the USA team by some 17,000 to 3 margin. He adds that if you look at where the USA winners are now, some 10 years on, he claims they'd probably be the highest paid bankers on Wall Street, but the UK winners on the other hand, are more likely to be doing a Phd on "the evolution of cello music in Southern Silesia in the late 18th century" sharing an apartment with 17 others, or some such thing. (Bill Bryson and I both exaggerate like hell, but you get the general idea).

The point he was making, of course, was that while the UK education system was arguably making its students more erudite, the US education system was more practical.

I couldn't help thinking about where we (Indian quizzers) lie on the same scale. Our education system is definitely closer to the UK system than to the US system (after we did borrow heavily from the UK education system when we started off English medium education in India).

But as such, are we (Indian quizzers) closer to the southern Silesia Phd types, or the Wall street i-banker types. Scary thought. Actually looking back on the quizzers I've known over the years, I think more quizzers I know fit into the latter category than the former. Or am I just arrogantly assuming ?

Comments, (especially from quizzers) are highly welcome.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Remember when you were young

Well, admittedly there are worse ways to spend your birthday than to catch an early morning flight from Mumbai, and then flying to (yes, you guessed right) Chennai!

Now I am no stranger to celebrating birthdays in Chennai. I have done it (all of) once before. That was merely a decade ago when I turned 15. I was to head off outside India for the first time in my life later that day, and owing to Bangalore's international airport (the current one, not the one which must not be named, and also it seems, the one which will not be built) basically not existing, the aforementioned flight was taken from Chennai.

Anyways, back to April 8, 2008. 25 is a strange feeling. It imposes itself on you in a way only a round number like 25 can. Plus it has that added smirk of being a quarter century (which only serves to make you feel older). And yet it doesn't give you the legal rights to do anything you can't already do (except I think running for the Rajya Sabha. Phooey). It doesn't give the legal rights to own a flame thrower, or issue jihads, or do the other cool things a lot of us would like to do. But yet, like a nagging back pain, it has an odd ring to it which you just can't ignore.

It is that age when promising under-21 players who failed to deliver are all but written off as failures. It is the age when a young player who was 24 isn't called a young player anymore. And excluding Jens Lehmann, it is that age above which almost no player exists in the Arsenal FC squad. Which means if I am suddenly signed on by Arsenal, I'd be the second oldest player in the squad (I don't know which is more shameful, the Arsenal signing, or being second oldest!).

Also, I am told, 25 is the median age of India. As if being a 'Jack of all trades' always isn't enough, here is yet another place I go back to being average. Damn.

And, back to April 8, 2008 yet again. Kodhi and K played their part in livening the day up. Very strongly, at that. One stuffed monkey named Bananas made an appearance on this day, courtesy the aforementioned K. Incidentally, someone in a hurry believes that the stuffed monkey should named MK (pronounced M'kay like Mr. Mackie does) and not "Bananas". The jury is still out on that one, but in the meanwhile my niece acquired the very stuffed monkey after an extremely hostile takeover. Credits are in order to Madman who thought up the original idea.

And yes, in case you missed it, I turned 25. Remember when you were young ?
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