Friday, July 28, 2006

And quiet flows the river

It took some genuine compulsion from my cousin Manu to pull the lazy me for a swim in Periyar. The water seemed so untainted. The Aluva manalpuram (sand banks) and the Shiva temple which lie a stones throw away were almost deserted, quite unlike what it is during Shivarathri. In the dawn, the manalpuram would have many people who come to do the final rites for a deceased relative, by breaking and immersing the mankudam (sandpot) with chithabhasmam (ashes) into the river. I could see the stones through the sparkle clear water near the kadavu of the manalpuram, and it all seemed so alluring. I walked through those steps and was soon immersed in head deep water. There were some boundaries marked with boulder pillars, beyond which the waters are supposed to be dangerous. People who knew swimming were venturing near those columns and the amateurs were sticking nearer to the steps. I started floating and swimming around, sometimes throwing the plastic balls back to the kids who were playing near the steps. It’s been a real long time since we got a chance to enjoy a quiet bath in the river, with the fresh evening breeze negating the otherwise humid weather. I was quite surprised when a young kid hardly 12 years old, dived into the water and started swimming beyond the stone pillars. He kept on swimming, and to the amazement of all the people in the kadavu (shore), easily managed to carry on and cross the river, which was around 400 meters wide, through that brawny current.

As night started to prowl in from the horizon and shadows set in, the crowd started dispersing, leaving only a handful of people in the river. Sinister clouds were gathering around from the west, and the menace of shower loomed around in the horizon – the monsoon in Kerala was predicted to be earlier this year. The reflections of the gloomy sky darkened the clear water that was flowing around me. I must have floated around for a while, facing the dark skies above watching the clouds move by swiftly in the gushy wind and abruptly, the torrents from heaven started pouring in tons. The river that was flowing like a beautiful country lass started to scuttle profusely like a model on a pageant. I watched the lights inside a train starting to move in the railway bridge at a distance, through the hazy weather. I could hear the rhythmic rattle echoing through the subtle surface of the river, and noticed that the train looked like a stretched snake moving rapidly to catch its prey. As I fell in love with this vicious flow of the river, as I was energetically swimming against that surge almost like a challenge, as I started to dissolve in that looming obscurity and silence, as the chilly gust started to freeze my mind into a single photo frame, I felt myself gripping my toes on a piece of sand pot which would have carried the ashes of a deceased body (chithabhasmam). In the shock, I started to move away, but I was too late. A hand grabbed me from the darkness of the water below. As I tried to scamper my way out, I saw the smile in the cold boyish face of my friend who had drowned in that river 12 years back. I instantly recognized him with panic, I felt the weight of his hand on my shoulder just like he used to do in school, I sensed the world shrinking, and my mind was dazed in that thunder. When I broke free and swam frantically for the steps, I noticed through the darkness and heavy rain that the distant yellow lights from the train were disappearing and the rattling sound was fading out. Panting heavily as I stood on the soggy sands of the manalpuram, I noticed the yellow boards on those boundary pillars with poems written on them. Through the downpour, I read those chilling Malayalam lines. ‘Little do you know about thrill and enjoyment! Little do you know when you take pleasure by going beyond boundaries. Little do you know how the serene tranquility can turn into brutal vigor. Little do you know about the tears that have flown into this river. Little do you know what you lose, unless you suffer. Little do you know the pain and void that death creates. We know it more than you. We are the souls that sank into this river in a small pot. We have seen it all’

I was poignant in that depressing silence. I walked back with Manu to my car as the heavy rain evolved to a light drizzle. It was a bit late into the night, but the lamps in the Shiva temple were still burning hazily in the gust. As I drove through the ‘Marthanda Varma Bridge’, I glanced down at the manalpuram - The leaves of the banyan tree in the temple which were lashing against the fierce gushing wind was flagging around peacefully, the wild flow of the river had turned into a calm walk and I realized that the unruffled beauty of that maiden named Periyar was luring me again. The traffic signal ahead indicated green. I kept going, I could not turn back. And underneath the bridge, even now, quiet flows the river.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A Combat named 'Badla'

It’s not a cakewalk. I never expected it to be. I sense I had a terrible accident. My head was whirling, and I stood facing the wall, with repugnance to myself. But there was no one else to blame. I need to face the anguish and pain myself. Why else should I try to play a pull when the ball is so short, quick and directed at my face? I missed the ball completely and it battered me right on the sweet spot in the wedge of my nose. There I was, batting on 29, on the verge of a triple century to reach the highest ever score in our Playground, but hit the 7th time precisely on my face by a short quicker one from Guru. I needed to focus. I needed to take those moments off my memory, and concentrate on the next ball. Guru has already declared that it would be his last ball. After this Dhanush would start off his whizzers, that shoot off like a bullet from good length on leg stump and whizz past the off stump. It will be difficult for me to adjust quickly to that, and there are chances that I miss out on my first triple century. Guru is ready with the ball looking ominous from his hands. I forget my pain, I try to focus. I try to see only the green patch of tennis ball and the movement of fingers holding the ball. I see that slinging yorker, that Guru often gets me out with, wriggle out of his hands and loom towards me like a speeding bullet. I see the green circle that’s approaching me and I bring down the bat to my legs. I hit my toe on the way to meet the ball, but yes – my bat met the ball on yorking length, and it bounced off the pitch to the wall – I hit the first triple century. While jumping around from the pain on my toes, I slowly and proudly raised my bat at my opponents, the fiercest enemies when in The Playground – Guru and Dhanush. And shouted at them… Badlaaahhhh

This was a scene at midnight, couple of weeks back in our house. There have been lots of queries raised to myself and Dhanush, on what exactly is this ‘Badla’ that features in our blog often. Hence, we decided that we would handle ‘Badla’ in the blogosphere together.

Let me issue the warnings first.
Those who are not aware of cricket might find the post a bit absurd.
Those who are aware of cricket will find the post totally crazy.
And for us, the world consists of only these two kinds of people :).

Basic intent of this post is to popularize this variant of cricket named ‘Badla’, and to get some money stinking big-shot to buy our ground-breaking scheme so that we can earn millions of dollars as patent privileges. (Ahhh – A slight compromise– millions of ‘Rupees’ is also ok. No more negotiations please!)

History of the game

Well – It all started when Guru moved in with me and Aravind at our rented house in Bangalore around Jan 2005. It took some sincere compulsions and lot of big time ‘therivilis’ to make him shift with us from a dingy PG, but since we all closely knew each other for around 9 years he was quite apprehensive about the madness that’s going to follow. Anyway to cut the long story bermuda (aka short) Guru moved in with us. The first weekend itself, we declared the bigger bedroom in our house as ‘The Playground’. No one would sleep there, no furniture, bags etc would be allowed to be kept there. The biggest room in the house would be rendered for only one purpose – ‘The Playground’. We went around and bought a small size ‘MRF’ bat from roadside at a fair cost of 22000 Rs, with a tennis ball made with original gold feathers which we decided would be used only inside the house, so that we can keep the painted walls neat (Neat – gulp! – You should see it now!)

The Rules

There were no well-defined rules in the beginning. We started off with the usual indoor rule of direct hit on any walls being out, in addition to bowled and catch. Over-arm bowling was allowed, and that made batting even more difficult with the pace, bounce and movement that can be brought by that variation. Any shot hitting the walls after pitching the ground is rendered as a run. On due passage of time, the average winning score was found to be around 2-3 runs, with anything greater than 5 runs being a huge total. Scoring 10 runs has been declared as a century, and the batsman would raise the bat to the huge applause of the crowd watching the match. (If crowd is not there, bowler will applaud the batsman – mostly with swearings). Also, there is no LBW or hit wicket to ‘favor’ the batsman. There were some other rules like – If you wear specs, keep a spare ready since the ones that you are wearing can be broken at any time, If your blood group is rare, then please arrange for a bottle of extra blood before coming to the game etc etc.

The challenges

It won’t do any good if you are a fine cricketer on the cricket field. The concept of Badla is totally diverse. The challenges are very intense; chances of injuries are very likely, saving the proud face while returning is an unattainable solace. Bowling bouncers that hit right on the nose bridge is usually a source of inspiration for the bowler, almost everyone bowls bouncers to consciously injure the batsman and hence break the morale of the player. One lapse of concentration and you will either get an edge or have one banged on your nose pretty strong. The pace of the deliveries combined with the mix of spin/swing makes it thorny for even good players to survive. And another big challenge is for the close in fielders (again – the room is so small that everyone is close-in :)), to make sure that they don’t get hit in the face by the edgy shots. We have 2 pairs of broken specs, 3-4 instances of swollen eyes, blood oozing from the mouth etc as deterrents to the game. But still we play on – We enjoy the challenge - after all, we are real fighters!

The name of the game

How did the name ‘Badla’ evolve? I needed to think quite a bit into history to remember the rationale, and a smile braces me when I get the memories about that day. Guru was hell bent upon on winning the game, after a disastrous six months of 'Badla' – he used call himself by superhero names (Spiderman, for instance) for winning the tournaments, but nothing was working out. He saw a series name in ESPN, and declared that from that day onwards it’s the revenge time for him. He named the game for the day as ‘Badla’. After bowling every ball he turned himself back to the wall and shouted in a ‘Kroor Singh’ish way ‘Badlaaaaahhhhhhhhh’. Somehow those moments were too full of hilarity and wit which eventually made the name ‘Badla’ jammed to this game. It’s still going on every night, with me, Guru and Dhanush skirmishing it out with all our might, to earn the all vital distinction of becoming a champion. We still thrive for it and we pay hard with our time, our sweat and our blood!

The opening and closing ceremonies

The opening ritual of every match is marked with all of us shouting together ‘Badlaaahhh’ and throwing off our shirts to start off the game topless ;-). This is usually accompanied by the famous dialogues from Guru to the non-players at home (Now - PP and Aravind) ‘If you want to see Abhi and Dhanu with a smiling face – see it now. When they come back from the game, they would by crying with embarrassment of defeat and humiliation’. The closing ceremony of Badla is usually marked when someone slips, falls down on the ceramic tile floor and loses couple of teeth, after the floor gets completely wet with sweat. This is followed by a ‘Tang Refresher’ session when we prepare couple of big bottles of Tang that we devour in a flash while the one who has lost his teeth would be searching for the lost glory. Most of the times, even after the refresher session, we observe our eyes meeting again indicating that its time and everyone nods their heads in approval, and we walk back to ‘The Playground’. We are ready….And the cycle continues. (Couple of us have lost all of our teeth…We are growing them back by drinking Kamilari. And Eureka - its working!)

You can find more details about Badla in my dear friend Dhanush’s blog here. All the gorgeous caricatures and stunning sketches for this post were drawn by Guru and his friend Teju. Our sincere thanks to both of them!

Badla is not just a game for us. We cherish each and every moment that we spend for it and I am sure that it will adore our memories for times to come. Of course, it does not come easy. It needs you to have the zeal for waking from sleep at 2 am for the sake of the game. It mandates you to have a cold heart, coz you are going to have quite a bloodshed there. It’s a passion. It takes some grit and lots of mental strength to participate. No wonder ‘Indian Miscellaneous Games Association’ certified the game as ‘Adults Only’ because of offensive language and excessive use of violence. For facing this music, you are all welcome anytime to our abode!
Come, join the mighty combat!

Text Copyrighted © by Pophabhi & Dhanush ®
Images Copyrighted © by Guru & Teju ®

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Picture Tag

I was tagged by Silverine, long time back. As usual I am awfully late, but I did complete the tag. :)

1. Most Desired Celebrity

Julie Delpy

Comment: The character, Celine, that she played in the movies Before Sunrise and its sequel Before Sunset made me adore the incandescent expressions, reflective charisma and the uncomplicated beauty of this wonderful actress. I don't know whether I liked the character Celine more than the actress herself, but the way she has portrayed the role was so captivating that the subtle touches of her natural, intelligent acting gets you arrested. Julie is just amazing!

2. Want to do this someday

Cycling past the Sunflower fields of Burgandy

Comment: Its been a dream in my mind. To cycle past the sunflower and lavender fields in Burgandy which extends to limits unknown, To just stand by them and watch them make a magnificient beautiful world of colors for me, To just whizz across those yellow petals in an evening with the setting sun illuminating the twilight skies with flames of yellow. Wow! I guess I need to carry a very good camera to capture those moments. Nice dreams. But what dreams can't come true?

3. Want to visit this place

Golden sands of Bharathapuzha

Comment: To idle out. To simply lie down on those sands where heritage and culture grazed. To hear the songs of mamankam. To smile at that tender breeze that kisses the neck deep water. To just sleep in that cold moonlight rendering the psyche to hypnotesis. To relax. To float. Those sands can do it all for you.

4. Random Favorite

Barkha Dutt
The most popular, daring, eye-catching reporter I have ever seen. One of the rare breed journalists who put their lives into risk to bring in the nations most momentous minutes right into our home - Be it the mindblowing coverage showing the sacrifices and valor of our soldiers during Kargil war when bullets and shells were spraying all around her, Be it the monster cyclone that shook up the heart of Orissa or the ruins of Gujarat, when she stood amongst the debris of the very broken souls of these states, Be it the enormity of the tragedy that was brought about in Tsunami - This brave lady has destroyed all the boundaries of traditional media coverages. That new emotional and personal element she has brought into news has not only negated the time acclaimed ruthlessness of journalism, but has also brought about a new found emotional and personal pathway between media and the viewers.

5. Tag Origin

Comment: My apologies for not 'pic'ing the origin of the post from Silverine. Please see her tag here.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Theory of 'Well Balanced Life' (WBL)

I still remember those days during the project that I managed 9 months back. The project used to sap up so much of my time, that I used to reach back at my abode at Bangalore only by 1 am in night, that too when work was ‘less’ and application was in production. It usually occured to me that I never see or talk with my gang at home, since they would be deep in sleep for the duration I am at home. The one who reached our home earliest was Mr. W, who had just joined one of the famous firms around Bangalore, and didn’t have too much of work to extend his working hours to night. Others at our home had enough work to hold them back till around 10 pm.

I remember - it was on a Wednesday, when all of us had come home by 9 pm (an occassion that demanded celebration - NASA reported that this occurs once in 2.65*e598 million years -which is approximately equal to the probability of driving through hosur road without getting caught in a traffic block) that Mr. W taught us the theory of ‘Well Balanced Life’. It seems one of his GMs had come from US, and he had given a talk to the employees in India about striking a balance between work and life. This was precisely the most confusing thing that intrigued me, since I moved to the ‘less’ work period which made me sit for 18 hours at office and I was still recovering from the 20-21 hours that I used to spent during the ‘actual execution’ of the project. I found it really difficult to even think about my existence, about my family, about my life, during this period. It was like I was ‘in a hole’ for a respectable span of time. I used to look jealously at my roomies all the time, especially Mr. W. That day was a similar day when Mr. W started giving this theory of ‘Well Balanced Life’, which he called fondly as WBL. He was telling that we need to fix our priorities, utilize the time effectively, get some free time so that our mind would be liberated for the apt amount of rest that it needs, endure in giving the body enough relaxation by sleeping 7 hours etc. Mr. W had his usual style of attacking us, especially me, telling ‘ I need a passport size photo of yours since I don’t know when I would see you next. The usual retaliations and arguments did not happen, because for once he was making a strong point – he was having a well balanced life. We were all convinced about it. He was managing things effectively. He was implementing the principle of WBL. He was practising what he preached. He was having a life, he was enjoying it and most importantly he was able to rub salt into our sad misery. :)

He told us – ‘The key is to have a Well Balanced Life, like me. Practice WBL, guys. Otherwise you will keep suffering!.’

Was'nt he spot on?

In a totally unrelated incident, Mr. W was moved into a new project the very next day. And since then, we saw him only for brief spans of time, that too during weekends – He always comes so late that we would have slept by then, and he leaves the home before we even get up. Mr. W was renamed as Mr. WBL, and we all make it a point to unleash the hell for him by holding inspiring talks about ‘striking a balance in life’, whenever we see him. No need to mention that Mr. W had a ‘Well Silenced Life’ at our home, till he moved into his next project.

So much for WBL – or ‘Well Balanced Life’. WBL stands as a cliche now, whenever we are into a difficult project. :)

Monday, July 03, 2006

Tag of four

Dhanush has stamped his foot on me with this tag - I don't have an escape and hence I am finally taking it.

4 jobs I’ve had:

- Developer/Marketing for our small venture right after Engineering.
- Near 5 years with Infy
- Shift worker in Achan’s chemical plant
- Car Driver (But no salary :( )

4 films I could watch again and again:

- The Shawshank Redemption
- Before Sunrise/Before Sunset
- Thoovanathumbikal
- Jakob the Liar

4 places I’ve lived in:

- Kalamassery, Cochin – Home sweet Home
- Cherai – All vacations and most weekends at my native place
- Auburn Hills, Michigan for those 20 cold months at customer site
- Bangalore

4 TV series I like to watch:

- Just for Gags in Pogo
- Whose line is it anyway in Star World
- Raagotsavam in Kairali
- The old ones – Crystal Maze & Wonder Years in Star Plus

4 places that I’ve been on vacation to:

- Goa (The great Goa Poa trip with the Boyz - Kichan & Seena, Dhanush, PP, Guru, Jyothi, Aravind!)

- Florida (With Auburn Hills gang - Sreeraj, Ganesh & Preethi, Santhosh, Prashanth, Mani and Dhanush who joined at Orlando)

- Wayanad (Our biking trip – 800 kms in 36 hours! - with PP, Aravind, Guru and Visakh)

- Michigan upper peninsula (With Mohan chettan and Pavan)

4 websites I visit everyday:

- Blogsites of my blog-friends
- Cricinfo, Prem Panickers blog in Rediff
- Wikipedia
- Gmail

4+4+4 books I’d love to read again and again:

- Janitakam by M.Sukumaran
- Samanathaalam by Radhakrishnan
- Any Basheer book
- Aithihyamaala by Kottarathil Sankunni
- Verukal by Malayatoor
- Bobanum Moliyum (I confess)
- Oru Deshathinte Kadha, Sanchaara saahityam by SK Pottakkad
- Screenplay of Moonampakkam, Thoovanathumbikal by Padmarajan
- Some Camus books – I haven’t half understood them yet!
- Rita Hayworth & Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King
- Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
- Calvin Hobbes by Bill Watterson

4 favorite dishes:

- Maangatholi (Dried mango with lots of chilli powder, salt)
- Puttu, Njaalipoovan pazham and sugar
- Kappa Meencurry
- Dosa and Mulaku-chammanthi that Amma makes!

4 places where I’d like to be right now:

- Home
- The green Chrysler Grounds, Auburn Hills where we played Detroit Cricket League
- Those golden sands in the banks of Bharathapuzha, Thirunavaaya
- Driving a cycle through Central Europe

4 people I’m gonna tag:

- Anyone interested can take it!