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