Friday, October 13

Blue Condition

What happens when an 8 year old moves from a small house with tile floors to an enormous one with wall-to-wall carpeting? He develops acute dust allergies. So much so that he cannot remember NOT having a cold for more than 4 years.

God! those horrible days. A cavalcade of wheezing, a nose that arbitrarily leaked or blocked itself, agonizing steaming sessions and of course, the greasy fucking shit that is Vicks Vaporub. All these torments combined to wreck my nose completely. A deviated septum thanks to the incessant, beseeching blowing into the basin. An absolutely confused hormonal reaction to the steaming and vaporub periodically leaving my skin so oily, the U.S still considers invading. Not to mention a lifelong loathing for Vicks. And, an addiction to handkerchiefs.

Consider the handkerchief. I'd never used one before we moved to the UAE. After we did though, I could not go anywhere without one. A simple, 10x10 square cloth made of cotton that I folded and tucked into the pocket of trousers or shorts. I'd always thought of them as something gallant gents offered to their comely companions when in a spot of bother (the ladies, not the dudes). It made absolutely no sense to blow my nose enthusiastically into the handkerchief and put it back into my pocket. It still doesn't. Yet, this simple sartorial element has become my constant companion. And, disgusting or not, I have to admit it was handy as hell. After all, who has the wherewithal to carry around a million tissues (which, given the state of my cold, I most certainly would have needed) and dispose of them like a shower of diseased confetti?

I'll say this without shame - I can't leave home without the comforting bulk of a handkerchief in my pocket. I feel naked without one. To the point where, if I have forgotten my handkerchief and cannot actually return home, my day is completely off-kilter.   

Anyway, what's this all about? Bombay is one city where carrying handkerchiefs should be required by law. Especially on trains where a variety of gents masticate enthusiastically on greasy victuals and then, egads, coolly grasp the handrails, the same handrails that another guy whose guttural, Black Lung-like coughing/sneezing, unimpeded by anything but his goddamn hands, just held on to a minute ago. I could go on, but I'd like to keep my readership. So, suffice to say, there's a jolly pathogen party happening all around us, all the time and our simplest line of defense, the humble handkerchief, could easily alleviate the horrors if only every man, woman and child were ordered to carry one. Honestly, what stops people from just tucking one into their bags, pockets or what-have-you, I do not know, especially when the very same turd-buckets will whip out not one but two phones and proceed to conduct their business, oblivious to the world while occasionally spraying their immediate neighbours with a gentle yet generous shower of fine snot.

I mean, if nothing else, the handkerchief is a handy tool to dust a seat, wipe water (or worse) off a surface, dry hands, tie a tourniquet (try that with tissue, morons), use as a quick umbrella or sunhat, and so on. Handkerchiefs make the world a better place. It's time people wrapped their heads around that.

Song for the moment: Both Sides Now - Joni Mitchell

Friday, September 15

Village People

This isn't a "tech" post, even though it's inspired by my learning curve with Linux.

Ubuntu was a good way to start in the Linux world. A user-friendly distro, it is easy to install & use and honestly requires a monumental level of idiocy to fuck up. There are great help forums for any tricky troubles you may encounter and I have only 2 real gripes with Ubuntu. One, that Canonical does want to track an insane amount of what you do and two, that newer editions of the OS keep popping up almost every 6 months.

Now, the first issue is one that anyone who isn't living under a rock is bound to face and, to be fair, you can disable all (I hope) of the tracking using the Activity Log Manager. But, the second is a bit annoying because some software just don't get updated unless you upgrade the OS. For example, Firefox was stuck on Version 44 on Ubuntu 14.04, which meant that I couldn't watch DRM content (Prime, Netflix, etc.) unless I got my hands on Version 48 and up. Which my OS just would not let me do, basically forcing me to do a complete reinstall of the latest OS (because I dual-boot). It's not difficult but it is painful. So, I felt like it was time to move on.

I know - you're probably thinking "Why does he complicate his life this way? Why doesn't he just get a nice, new Windows OS and focus on other things?" Well, for starters, I like the philosophy of Linux. There's something wonderful in knowing there are people who create a whole OS just because they can and then share it with the world. Not for money but because they can. And, just how beautiful some of these creations are! Just look for videos on Elementary OS, Solus or Deepin and, if you aren't impressed by the sophistication of design and the thoughtfulness of the offerings, I think it's a bit sad. I also like the idea of learning about this stuff, tinkering (in an admittedly amateurish way) and taking the effort to solve problems instead of being spoon-fed everything in life like sheep.

Which is why it also puzzles me when I see fruitcakes on Linux forums venting about how so-n-so software doesn't work just right and how finding the solution is frustrating. People, you're getting a whole world for free and you're cribbing because the sunset isn't pretty enough for you?

Anyway, due to a slight glitch in installing Manjaro (my own fault), I went with the latest version of Linux Mint. It's a nice step sideways from Canonical, but not earth-shatteringly different from Ubuntu. Which, finally brings me to the meat of this post (phew!). There's a piece of software on Mint called Hexchat that is basically a real-time forum to discuss things and get answers about the OS. I tried it out for the first time last night, not to chat or ask questions but simply as I was curious. The interface is stark and you can see people signing in and out of the forum. One person may have had a dodgy keyboard because a long line of 'a' suddenly appeared on screen. Another inquired about what was going on in the caring lingo of our times, i.e. "wtf". And, the reply was "Fuck you".

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but did that exchange not go south rather quickly? A person is having trouble typing, another expresses surprise in an off-hand way and the response is to lash out with invective.

It really made me miss ICQ. The flower-power of my generation. In the early days of our internet experiences (also known as 1998), ICQ was one of the most popular chat applications out there. The very first time I signed in, I randomly met someone from Australia I think. We chatted for about 10 minutes before the sibling noticed what I was doing and happily informed the pater, who was more nervous about the big, bad world of the net than a rat on meth. Result - internet ban for 3 months.

Eventually, the internet and ICQ became a regular feature of my life. So much so that I'd come home from school, sign in and find my classmates there, ready to keep chatting about random crap. It was there that I first learned the acronym PAW (any guesses?) which signaled that we'd have to be careful about what we were typing. It was also a new way to beat the jolly 8pm social curfew. Sign in at 10pm and a crap-ton of people were already there. Friends, crushes, interesting strangers from across the world... for us, ICQ opened virtual doors at a time when our parents still did not trust us with the house keys. Remember it? Grey box, white chat window, blinking list of people on the right, that weird, two-tone squawk of a new chat ping and the glow of the computer screen illuminating your room late into the night?

Call me an old fogey but man, it was cool! In my limited experience with ICQ, people seemed reasonably polite and at least, not outright rude. Was it because the internet was a new world and we were tentative explorers? I can't say. All I know is that it felt a lot less jaded and cynical than it does right now, a feeling that's accentuated when I browse other platforms and forums. Of course, this feeling is stupid. But, it seemed better and you'll have to argue damned hard to convince me otherwise. Especially when I see what's on offer nowadays.

Song for the moment: Reckoning Song - Asaf Avidan

Wednesday, August 30

Night Boat

I usually don't write honest pieces. They're true to facts but I tend to lather my emotions and thoughts with a heavy dose of attempted humour or misdirection. This post deserves some raw emotional honesty, though.

Yesterday, 29th August, a Tuesday (or should I say, another Tuesday) was about me making choices. It was raining quite heavily when I left for office, sheeted down the windows of the train throughout the 1-hour journey to Churchgate and kept going with renewed intensity by the time I made it to the entrance, looking verily like something that had drowned in a gutter and lain there a while before being discovered by a cat and dragged in. I made the choice to go to work as I suspected my boss would be there and not because I wanted to go.

I was right about my boss but that cardiac fizz of being right flattened out rather rapidly once I realised, around 11:30 am, that no one else from my team of 20 had bothered to make a similar effort. And, some of these guys live 5 minutes away. So, having arranged my bedraggled socks, shoes and bag to dry out, I sat and stared out the window. Ahh, that view... from my desk, I have one of the finest vistas in Bombay, with the Trident rising up on one side, the finger of Malabar Hill on the other and an extremely generous portion of the Arabian Sea up front, thrown in as a bonus. On a normal day, it's one of the most heart-swelling sights there is, especially when a line of boats bob away towards the setting sun.

Yesterday, it was as if Nature had taken a bucket of grey paint and splashed it across the glass. I could see nothing but the clouds drifting in, the rain smattering relentlessly into the window and the wind howling occasionally for good measure. I watched that scene for 3 hours before working up the courage to tell my boss that I was heading home. By then, the internet was agog with news of it being a 'bad one' and plenty of helpful pictures of flooded areas all over our filthy metrop. Images that were alarming and depressing in equal measure. I chose to mooch around for a while, had lunch and then left.

Churchgate was a sea of uncertain faces milling around, since trains stood silently on all four platforms but none looked ready to leave. The departure boards, normally flashing fluorescent figures like Helen's costumes on LSD, now stayed dark. It was ominous but I sensed resignation rather than panic. Just then, it was announced that the train on Platform 3 was a fast train to Virar and would leave in 10 minutes.

Now, here's where sense and conditioning came into play. Live in Bombay long enough and you tend to develop a reluctance to get on any train going to Virar. At the least, you'll hesitate, think twice and then, perhaps if it is the afternoon snooze time zone, board the train. With all these rationalisations running through my head, I chose to stand there and watch that train leave before turning around and returning to the office, since it did not look likely that any other train would depart.

I went back to the office at 2:30 pm and pootled around aimlessly, the drumming of the rain becoming background noise after a while. I honestly couldn't tell you what I did... read some articles, checked out some information handles on Twitter, listened to some music and... And, that's what I vaguely recall. It was like being in suspended animation, my brain deciding to spare itself for later hysteria.

By 4, most people had cleared out and headed home by road... because they could. I could have too. But, I chose to not spend crazy money attempting to get home through what I imagined would be flooded roads and insane traffic jams. I would outlast the storm and wait for the trains. Around 7 pm, I acknowledged that maybe the train service wouldn't resume for a long time. A few colleagues, also from my neck of the woods, were milling around too and it gave me false courage. Strength in fake numbers, as it were. We promised to try and leave together by road at 10 pm.

Until then, I hadn't thought about sustenance. However, realising it'd be a long night, I reluctantly ventured out. I say 'reluctantly' because getting my jeans wet for a third time in the day was highly unappealing. It's rather like walking around in cardboard trousers. But, hunger can't be ignored forever so I strolled through the neighbourhood, only to discover that the stock fast-food options had run out of supplies ages ago or were so backed up that they would run out by the time I placed an order. What I do remember with absolute clarity is a guard standing at attention in the rain outside the parking bay of a building. There was not a car in sight, so his devotion to the post was poetic, heroic and probably silly. However, his 1000-yard stare was enough to suggest that asking him why he was still around was a bad idea.

A colleague (living a stone's throw away) sent a text message inviting me to his place, where a warm meal and a bed was on offer. Call it a reluctance to impose, a growing unease around people and their families, indications of dementia or downright pigheaded stupidity. On a day of dumb choices, not taking him up on that offer must rank somewhere near the peak. I politely declined, keeping my message vague enough to leave me some self-respect were I to change my mind.

By 11 pm, said neighbourhood colleagues had given up the ghost and casually announced they'd kip down at work. Disappointed but unsurprised, I kept the feeble flame of hope alight. At midnight, word got around that a train for Virar had left, so I packed my bag and walked back to the station, better prepared to return than actually reach home. Once again, people were roaming around the place, but it was more a pond of them than a sea. I got a taste of deja vu - a train arrived on Platform 3 and the tannoy announced that it would be a slow train for Virar, leaving in 10 minutes.

I spent 5 of those minutes standing outside the compartment, staring, watching it fill up. Just like that lonely parking guard. Convincing myself this was the cherry missing on my rainy-day sundae. Eventually, I boarded the train, so full of misgivings, a part of me (clearly the intelligent, pragmatic one) would have happily waited at the station for another option or heck, gone back to the office! But the other part of me wanted an adventure. So, I wedged myself somewhere in between a few gents, made my apologies in advance and prayed my ribs were strong enough to resist the inevitable crush of countless, desperate bodies pouring into the bogie, beseeching and pushing their way in, simply to go home.

You know, I've lived in Bombay for 9 years and it's not like we don't get a bout of heavy rain that affects the city, every monsoon. Yesterday though, brought back memories of 2005. I was fortunate to only read about that one, take in stories of sky turning into sea, think about those swept away into drains, the ones drowned in their cars and the many who braved the torrent to walk, like zombie homing pigeons on suicide missions. At some point on that train last night, I remember thinking the only thing to change since then is how much more pragmatic citizens have become, choosing to stay back at work during the worst of it, rather than take any stupid decisions. That's all... 12 years... and all we have to show for it is pragmatism, along with a few more working pumping stations. If that does not tell you how docile the Indian or Bombay middle-class is, nothing will. Revolutions have been flagged off on fewer cord-woods of frustration.

The corporation running the city is headed up by politicians, so I have no respect for them and won't expect better from those democratically elected gang of third rate criminals. But I saluted the Western Railway, particularly the unknown motorman who drove the train last night. Somewhere after Bombay Central, the train slowed down to walking speed and people in my bogie began to grumble. Until the street light illuminated the water. An awful silence swept through the crowd as everyone realised what was going on... the train was cleaving through 4-5 feet of black water, the tracks completely invisible, the journey probably based on guesswork and faith in the wheels staying on the rails. It is a snapshot of time that will stay with me.

That passage between Bombay Central and Mahim was an Experience. I felt dreadful. I felt fear. I was alive. I distinctly remember one passage of time that may not have been more than 3 minutes but felt much, much longer. On the Western Line, there are a few points where the voltage differs. At these places, the power goes off, the lights go out and the fans stop working. Normally, the train's momentum ensures that this powerlessness is momentary. But, when the train is inching forward at the proverbial snail's pace, it gets rather hairy. When this took place outside Elphinstone Road Station, looking at he water splashing a few inches below the foot-board, I wondered what'd happen if the power didn't return at that moment.

And so, the train made its way to my station, a normal ride of 40 - 50 minutes that took over 2 hours last night. I'd been awake for more than 18 hours. I'd gotten soaked and semi-dry 3 times. I'd been pushed, pulled, pummelled and trapped like a rat. By the time I stepped onto the platform, I was Craving.

I craved a lungful of green smoke, to breathe it in deeply enough to fill every inch of space, to let it out in a slow jet and feel my feet melt. I craved raw whisky; sweet, sour and sharp and to feel it burn its way down. I craved an embrace, so I could cry hysterically in my exhaustion. I craved lips to caress with my own, skin I'd taste with my tongue, dark crevices whose muskiness I'd bury myself in and a body I'd worship the way I know best.

I had forgotten what an intense cocktail of desire that could be... forgotten what it was to be human.

I settled for the whisky.

Song for the moment: So gaya yeh jahan - Tezaab OST (Someone on the train was humming it)

Monday, August 14

I still care for you

I cannot recall offhand the last time I wrote about football. But here goes nothing.

Like most anyone, I went through the "passionate fan" phase, donating an enormous amount of wishful prayers up & above to ensure that Manchester United won. The gods, being the smart cookies they undoubtedly are, seem to have spent their time answering prayers of the kind of people who peddle chaos on a daily basis, which is one way of understanding the state of the world today.

But man, was I into the whole EPL scene! Looking back, it seems rather droll that I cared so much, or at all. But, yes, it hurt when MU lost, particularly to Arsenal, Leeds or Liverpool (back then, there weren't too many other teams to worry about). I certainly felt a kick in the teeth when Chelsea won those 2 titles under JM. Watching the team get dismantled so casually in 2 Champions League finals made me sad though the pendulum swung the other way when Owen scored that spine-tingling last minute goal against MC. But, truth be told, I'd stopped caring too much long before Aguero's last minute goal gave MC the title.

Why did that happen? Well, real life takes over, for one. You move cities and countries, prioritise people you know over people who will never know you exist, start working, struggle with how different this phase of life is, and so on and so forth. We grow up and old and our sporting heroes grow old with us. Then, one day, they fade away, leaving us behind with a sackful of memories and the choice of whether to re-enthuse ourselves with yet another generation of athletes. More often than not, we don't.

I also feel like caring about a football team on another continent needs one to be slightly batty. And, after a point in life, one always finds plenty of other things to be batty about. So, it only makes sense to follow teams from a distance, appreciating the wins and not chucking toys out of the pram during defeats. Besides, it's been easy to not bother too much about MU for a while now.

After SAF's retirement and the wasteland of 3 seasons, last year was going nowhere until the Europa League win and Champions League return. Honestly, the team finished 24-freakin-points! behind the leaders. But JM is ruthless and relentless in some ways and has 'spent' the summer putting a good squad together. Losing to Madrid may have been the best thing to happen, not so much for the players, but certainly for the average fan. A reality check is useful particularly thanks to this new, endless footballing brouhaha. I say 'new' because it wasn't like this 10 years ago. When a season was over, things quietened down for 2-3 months, gave people a chance to focus on other areas and got them refreshed and recharged by August. That was a healthy deal.

Now, all one sees on a daily basis, is content. The footballer's uncle's gardener makes an innocuous statement and the media happily devotes 3 days of fraudulent and downright meaningless think pieces to it. It reeks of desperation and does the game no favours. Everything is a rumour or a misquote. The whole carnival of madness may be putting food on the table for countless alleged sports journalists but only serves to turn older fans away even faster.

Anyway, losing to Madrid before the season began helped stave off doom and crisis articles till at least September, I reckon. Though, on the strength of MU's first EPL game, it just could be an interesting season. There are quite a few exciting and attacking options in the team, supported by a bevy of stolid, no-nonsense chaps. If the team can avoid losing their heads over the deluge of hysterical reactions that follow every result, maybe 2017-18 will be a genuinely good season.

Sadly, there are a couple of nutters at the workplace who are serious MU fans. The type who are liable to text at 2:30 am about a potential signing, a win, a loss, an ingrowing toenail, yada, yada, yada. So, while I'm not expending my energies caring about football, I do spend quite a bit of time pretending to. Such it goes.

Song for the moment: Barfly - Ray LaMontagne 

Saturday, August 12

Cracks in the Pavement

When John Denver's voice hits the 'T' of "Take me home...", it's a force of nature coming to life. The melancholic and wistful lilt in that line supported by the lyrics of the song give it some serious flavour.

Why am I blathering on about Denver and country roads? Because I am home again. And while that may no longer bring about even so much as an eyebrow squiggle from you, the thought of being physically present in Pune makes me kind of happy. Seeing as how this world is rolling downhill steadily, I'll take that kind of happiness any day, thank you very much.

I've been making customary trips home since 2009. While the distance between Bombay and Pune is minuscule enough to not warrant much emotional hullabaloo, even I have to admit that the effort needed to get from point to point is increasingly exhausting. It's not as much a function of age as it is one of population. The number of people making the up-down journey on normal Sat-Suns alone is staggering.  So, what happens when it's not normal?

The 3-day weekends, festivals or the end of the year are perfectly horrid times. Never-ending queues, be it at the bus station or amidst the vehicles somewhere between Chembur and the endless horizon, rankle the soul. It's got to a point where I can't wait to get out of the city but it kills me a bit to get on the bus too. The prospect of spending almost 5 hours tolerating the body odour, loud phone conversations and sly seat encroachment of the smarmy, corpulent neighbour is as appealing to me as reading it was to you.

No, trains are not a good fit for me because work timings are uncertain. If anything, MSRTC Shivneri is one of the small blessings in my life because of how reliable the service is, though pricey as heck.

The weariness, sore back, numb feet, dry throat and general irritability fueled my thoughts as I stomped home at 2 am this morning. Of course, I was jolly delighted about the 2 gents who were also walking along my way as they looked like the kind of people whom street dogs would prefer to attack. Elders and betters first, I always say.

And yet, I will never understand how all of that just melts away the moment I step into the silent, slumbering house. I let out a significant sigh of relief, change into comfortable sleepwear, raid the fridge, make the bed and it's finally a good night. There will be real filter coffee waiting in the morning, the chirping of birds entwined with the plants in my window and that wonderful light that's peculiar to Pune in the rains.

Be it ever so painful to reach, there's no place like home I guess.

Song for the moment: Ordinary World - Duran Duran

Monday, July 3

Let her go

Have you noticed how we throw things out a lot more than before? Of course, city-dwellers like us have more, now that disposable incomes are the norm. Does it also allow us to dispose of things so easily? I was the object of much mirth/ridicule at work today because I wanted to get a golf umbrella repaired. One colleague wondered if it was worth the effort, another asked why I did not just buy a different one while others chuckled when they realised neither of these thoughts had occurred to me. I trudged off, wondering if they were right. What exactly was driving me to take the trouble?

I think back to to the 80s and living in my Thatha's (grandpa) house. Today's 'use-and-throw' culture would have shocked him to the core. The man was the epitome of prudence. Since we weren't exactly floating in doubloons, the family followed suit. Thatha wore the same watch for over 50 years. A small umbrella, bought by my mother with her first salary, was well on its way to becoming an heirloom, having seen and survived more than 25 monsoons. There's a clothes cane (you know, to hoist clothes onto a rope strung close to the ceiling in the verandah) which is older than me. I reckon it's in better shape than I am. And don't even get me started on how long those of us who internalised Thatha's spirit of frugality make our clothes last! That's a family disease.  

Anyhow, in Mumbai, a regular umbrella is as effective as an actual fig leaf. So, some years ago I paid up the subscription towards procuring a big piece that meant business. Undoubtedly it was slightly cumbersome to haul around but the protection offered made it worthwhile. Except at airports. In the jolly times we live in, suspicion is more common than sense and umbrellas of this size can no longer pass off as carry-on baggage. Since it does not fit in the check-in bag, it has to be declared separately and gets to travel as a solo piece of luggage. On a return flight from Madras last year, Go Air ensured that one umbrella reached Mumbai in two pieces. That's customer service for you right there.

I should have thrown it out. I mean, there are only so many things that can be salvaged. The canvas, certain anchoring hooks maybe. But the spinal column is asking for too much, right? Wrong, as it turns out. The thing about Mumbai's ridiculous population is that someone, somewhere still seems to be getting stuff refurbished. Cobblers moonlight as umbrella repairers and make a killing at this time of year. But no one was willing or able to mend one this size. Except a dude chilling out in a temporary, ramshackle, tarpaulin-roofed shop on D.N Road, wouldn't you know. 

What I adore about it... and by 'it' I mean the setup, the work, the transaction... is the utter casualness. There are no airs billowing around it, no attempt to project the repair of an umbrella as a cutesy, artisanal, "let's Instagram the shit out of this quaintness" style abomination that the urban world seems to be steeped in. It's absolutely no-nonsense. The man who repaired my umbrella was as phlegmatic as they come. His experienced eye gave it a once-over and he quietly named a price. The sliver of me that is still 80s middle-class did feebly raise an eyebrow but was quelled immediately by my present-day-pragmatic avatar. He rapidly took the umbrella apart, replaced the column, stitched it up and unfurled it a few times. I paid, awash in wonder and appreciation, confident that Thatha would have beamed in approval.

Don't get me wrong. Even I know some things cannot or should not be patched up. Others outlive their usefulness and can safely make their way out of my life. And maybe some therapy would help me get rid of old clothes instead of thinking of ways to turn them into scrap dishcloths. Hoarding is bad. But I am (surely not a minority) perfectly willing to take a bit of trouble if it will result in less nonchalant dumping. It means a perfectly good umbrella is now resting against a desk, ready to face the rains. 

Pity a battered heart isn't as easily mended.

Song for the moment: Do I wanna know? - Arctic Monkeys

Wednesday, June 21

Last of my kind

(This post hasn't come out as well as I wanted. But I'm still pissed off, so.)
Why do we have heroes? What is it about someone that triggers a decision to nail our colours to their mast? I don't have a neat answer so what you read from here on is both an explanation and an exploration. In a post-modern world driven by counter-points, certainty is a luxury.

I missed the boat when it came to India's ODI cricket madness. We moved abroad in the late 80s. When I left, my friends and I wanted to be Kapil, Kris or Sunil. When I returned, god was getting comfortable on his heavenly couch and all was right with a world I did not recognise. I had missed Sachin's opening batsman debut against New Zealand, the hullabaloo of the Hero Cup and other notable moments. So, I was interested in cricket, not any particular sportsman. Not even during the '96 World Cup. When India muffed it against Sri Lanka, I hurt for the team, not for a player.

Then came Dravid. And, personally, with him came Kumble. I had found my idols. And the inkwell of my idolatry is endless.

Why them? Why not Tendulkar? Here's the thing. Realise that Sachin is in a rarefied pantheon that cannot be touched. Even if the sun did not shine, no wings would allow any man to touch him. At the most, Sachin triggers a sense of awe. Sachin is salvation. He gave us hope but it would be foolish to hope to be him.

The stories of Dravid and Kumble are human ones. They stand for something simple - work hard, be sincere and stay disciplined. And be ready for the chips to fall in one's favour. Of course this 'simple' is very difficult to emulate. You look at their lives, their examples and understand that two choices exist. Either be defeated by the sheer power of what they stand for OR aspire to what they stand for. Because any human can. You cannot be Dravid but work at your batting long enough and you can hone your technique to a point where you bat like him. You cannot be Kumble but you can forge your inner fire into a bowling technique that will get you wickets.

Dravid and Kumble have gifted people something far more valuable than their feats. Their gift is the QED that talent, fortified by relentless passion, focus, patience and performance can win you a moment in the sun. How long that moment lasts depends on external factors too. But you can become an irresistible force and wait for the immovable object to blink first.

That's what they became you know... Dravid the Immovable fucking Object and Kumble the Irresistible fucking Force.

Think I'm exaggerating? Watch old clips of them batting or bowling. Watch the waltz of physics which, if there were any magic in this world, would scorch the turf as the ball kissed and caressed its way to the ropes. Watch the ball spit, dart and venomously arrow in on middle-and-leg and either york the poor fool in the way or thud into his pads.

Wipe the drool off your face. It's not dignified.

Then look into their eyes. Trace the outline of their set jaws. And take comfort in the fact that Dravid and Kumble played for India in your lifetime. They were great sportsmen. But they were and are inherently Decent men. In India, in the world, you can't put a price on something like that. If controversy is currency, Dravid and Kumble would be paupers. When they retired, I took it personally. When Kumble was forced to give up his NCA post over some wishywashy bullshit, I took it personally. When that m*****f****r Guha cast sneaky aspersions on Dravid's character over a conflict of interest, I took it personally. When the conflict between Kumble and Captain prima donna came to light, I took it personally. So, yea, Kumble being made to quit... you bet it's personal.

Dravid and Kumble's decency angers me. Their stoic dignity and modesty angers me. Their unwillingness to play games as well as they played the game angers me. Sachin was a god on the cricket ground. Dravid and Kumble are gods off it. And it's too much to bear.   

Cricketers of my generation would say they'd do their best. And we believed them. Today, an Indian cricketer says he'll get things done and we believe him. But first, he'll take a selfie. Pah! 

Song for the moment: Cuts like a knife - Bryan Adams

Do read the Puneri's take on this shit-show.