Tuesday, August 28

Running against the wind...

The Super Sub

Do you know what it feels like to sit with your face in your hands, completely depressed and wretched for 93 minutes ? I do.

Do you know the feeling of an indescribable joy begin somewhere in your toes and burst into your brain after the aforementioned 93 minutes ? I know that too.

I woke up this morning to find out that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has retired from football. To not see him on the pitch any more in the familiar Manchester United no. 20 shirt leaves me with a hollow feeling somewhere inside. How soon before the Welsh wizard and the Ginger ninja are gone as well ?

And how in the name of all that is decent is the Indian team going to replace Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly, Laxman and Kumble when they retire ? Granted, the Australians went through something similar, but they were the Australians.

Generations are defined by their sporting heroes. We spend countless hours reliving those incredible moments, remembering exactly where we were and what we were doing as they were being etched forever in history and memory. Tendulkar at Sharjah, Dravid at Headingly, Ganguly at Adelaide, Laxman at Calcutta, Kumble at Delhi, Giggs at Aston Villa, Solskjaer at the Nou Camp, Cantona anywhere.... we are humbled and grateful simultaneously.

And the sobriquets - the smiling assassin, the baby-faced assassin, the wall, the master-blaster... who will relate to them, recognise them and smile wistfully, except for us ?

Ole... Thank you for the memories.

Sunday, August 19

The boy stood on the burning deck...

I've often been told that I'm unique... and more in the spirit of a spat-cum-hissed epithet rather than a compliment. In one regard though, I'm fairly confident that I am of the majority - I loathe exams. Completely and absolutely.

(So, why am I doing another Master's degree at present ? Because I am a glutton for punishment)

Within a few weeks, I had contrived to fit in with the rest of the public in my Anthro class, basically because they were the friendliest bunch I'd ever met. But, a sense of bonhomie was not going to help me in the mid-semester exams that were approaching with the clinical purpose one of those carnivores one sees so often on Animal Planet. I was approaching the mid-sems with a sense of trepidation and decided that there had to be some truth in the old adage about misery loving company and all that. So, I brought up the subject of the papers with Gaurav. You know how it is... people egging each other on with an absolutely transparent and blatantly false sense of bravado. Anyway, I may have opined something along the lines of studying for the papers not being a problem since we had to give 1 a day. We were walking toward the canteen as this conversation took place and I expected something similarly reassuring from him. Without breaking a step, Gaurav turns toward me and gives me a look usually reserved for the village idiot - a mixture of pity and kindness. Then, in his usual blunt fashion (which I admire as a rule, but not at that precise moment) he tells me that we have 2 papers a day. Calmly and coolly, like he's reciting one of Confucius' maxims.

It's amazing how many thoughts can go thought one's mind in the space of 3 seconds. "Arrrgh" I think was the first one followed by "Oh! F**k " and similar choice blasphemies. Simultaneously, I had this wild urge to both assault Gaurav and throw myself in front of a passing car and ending it all then and there. In one of those tones popularly described as a 'strained whisper', I half-questioned, half-accused him of lying. The bugger, still passing himself off a paragon of truth, assured me that he was not. A couple of weeks later, staring at the 1st of my two papers for the day, I was convinced of it.

Samosa pav and tea was lunch that week. Its perfect in that it satiates your hunger without satisfaction, leaving you wide awake and edgy. At the same time, it arrives and is demolished within the space of 10 minutes, leaving you with about 50 minutes to study for the next paper. By Wednesday's set, I'd reached the low point. I knew my marks would be competing only with the Titanic for the prize of 'greatest disaster in recorded history'. Thursday, I couldn't care less. Friday, I was glad it was all over.

I walked out of the class after the last paper and volubly thanked the heavens that I'd never have to go though that experience again. On cue, Gaurav gently breaks it to me that the finals also followed the same pattern, with one notable difference - for the finals, we had the whole syllabus.

At that juncture, I may have become slightly hysterical... I don't exactly recall. The next thing I remember is staring at a cup of tea in the canteen.

Just staring....

Next: I find religion

Tuesday, August 14

'twas one of those times...

A few sporting shockers have occurred over the last 2 days. For one, Manchester United, one of the many blights of my existence, managed to draw their first game at home against some not-so-scary opposition. So what do the fans get for having seen the spending of over $40 million over the summer ? A chap with a broken foot sidelined for 2 months. This would be fine if the chap in question was say... Wes Brown, no offence to him. Unfortunately, its Wayne Rooney. Enough said.

Number two on the list is the fact that Roger Federer has lost a final... to a guy who admittedly beat Nadal and Roddick on his way. But the reason Federer is Federer is precisely because he's not some clay court specialist or a 24 year old has-been... which makes the whole affair as surreal as Roger's regular game. All I can think of is that some poor sods have been cheated out of a sure bet.

Number three, and admittedly my favourite is the news that India has pulled off a test series win, not against the usual suspects but against England. IN England. Now detractors (and there always are detractors) will say that England were missing Flintoff, Hoggard and well...okay... Harmison also. There's only 2 things to be said to whoever brings up that point:
  1. tough luck
  2. generous to a fault as usual & no doubt anxious to validate their victory, India decided that the English bowlers on show needed some wickets to show for their efforts. So that pretty much evens the whole thing out.
As the previous post would indicate, I have my heroes in the Indian team. But one also ought to feel happy for Tendulkar, Dravid and Ganguly who are on their last tour of England.
Better late than never I suppose....

Wednesday, August 8

Numbskull

Apparently, suffering indescribable torments before being admitted to the dept. wasn't good enough. Either that or somebody conveniently assumed I was a masochist.

Still reeling from the fact that I was to face 10 papers for the mid term exams in a month's time (I was already a month behind, remember ?) I shakily made my way for my first class which happened to be in the lab; Anth - 110: Biological Anthropology (Practical I). It may not sound like much, but in my condition that was probably the best place to begin. For one thing, I didn't really have to speak to any one (not that that stopped a few, mind you). For another, and I'm not being morbid, there were skulls all over the place. I quietly took my place in a suitable corner.

A big chap with a tentatively curious yet friendly expression on his face stepped up and introduced himself as Gaurav. We chatted for a bit before in walked a lean, unshaven, dishevelled looking fellow in spectacles who from first appearances, seemed to have spilt half his lunch on his t-shirt. Now, over the years I've had people introduce themselves to me in a variety of ways, some polite and some not so. This fellow obviously believed that the accepted ways were for the birds because... and you have to picture this... he steps up, looks at me, looks at Gaurav, points at me and waves his hand in that classical way to ask who I was. I wasn't amused at all, but that was how I first met Shreyas. Talk about contrasts.

There were others there seated in the lab already, but I was interrupted from looking around by the arrival of the professor.

The class was all about the detailed study of the human skeletal system and my partner for the class (well, he was a person at some point in the last century anyway) was skull 16, who I named George. The Harrison of the same first name had recently passed away and I had been listening to 'Here comes the sun...', so. In the same vein, the chap with the prominent hip bones dangling in the glass case became Elvis the pelvis. Not exactly hilarious, I know but at the time, I needed all the distraction I could get. Why ? Let me explain... a guy who has just been put through the emotional wringer and a touch apprehensive to boot, does not need the professor to begin by, and I quote "Norma Verticalis. Make sure you all can see the Saggital suture, the lambda, the bregma, the parietal bones, the occipital bone... "

I lost him after the 'make sure you all can see...' and for all I knew, he could have been speaking a foreign language. Day 1 went by rather quickly after that and I went home thinking that there was a lot of catching up to do. By the end of the week, I began to wonder whether I was even in the right race, forget catching up... the feeling 'all at sea' seemed apt enough. My classmates were nice but the stuff I was learning, or for accuracy's sake, staring stupidly at, was going way over my head. Remember, anthro was a totally new subject for me. One does not coolly jump from schizophrenia to debating the emic versus etic perspective.

I was reeling... and after the Hominid Evolution class, beginning to panic... and wondering whether I had made the right decision. I needed a sign to tell me that everything was fine, that it would all work out, that there was hope.

On Friday afternoon, in the last class Shreyas leans over and in an offhand way asks "Did you know Rhesus are Old - World monkeys ?"

Black gloom descended.


Next: Of frying pans and fires