Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Cricketing Gentlemen

Cricket is not only a game of the cliched 'glorious uncertainties' but also a game of glorious irrationality. I know of few other games where you have rules of how a batsman can be out and, yet, some of those rules ought not to be brought into action because of something called 'gentlemanly conduct'. It has been the norm to assume that if, as per the rule, you have the right to claim a batsman's wicket, claiming the wicket under such circumstances should automatically be assumed to be gentlemanly. Not so in Cricket!

Trying to derive a logic for why such conduct should be ungentlemanly can drive you mad unless you are so steeped in cricket tradition that your logical faculties are permanently in abeyance when it comes to cricket. Take the case of a Rahul Dravid getting run out because he has failed to ground his bat even though the bat is well beyond the crease. The fielding side can claim his wicket without any qualms about ungentlemanly conduct and the only opprobrium that shall be heaped will be on Dravid for not having grounded his bat knowing full well that he can be run out if he fails to do so.

On the other hand, if the runner is half-way down the pitch before the ball is bowled and the bowler runs him out, he is out as per the rules. But how ungentlemanly of the bowling side to run him out under such circumstances!! The rule may claim that the runner is out but the fielding side should act like gentlemen, warn the runner and only then run him out. Why don't the rules say that such should be the case? Should the batsman not know that he can be run out if he does not keep his bat grounded till the ball is delivered? Well, no gentleman would ask such questions!! Thus, the case of Dravid, even when it was a genuine mistake, is clearly Dravid's fault but the case of the runner, even if he intended to cheat by deliberately backing up too far, is a case of ungentlemanly conduct by the fielding side!! No non-cricketer can be expected to understand the mores of cricketers!

More surprisingly, this happens in Australia, where sledging has been raised to a fine art. Thus, calling your opponents names is more gentlemanly conduct than running out the runner as per the laid out rules of cricket. I haven't yet seen the cricketing rule book on sledging. About the only thing I know is that 'maa ki' is acceptable but 'monkey' is not!

Strange are the ways of cricketing gentlemen! Mere mortals cannot hope to understand them!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Of journalistic 'perfection'

I have always had this blind spot about people not bothering to aim for perfection in what they do. The 'chalta hai' attitude is not only the bane of our society but also the hallmark of a man who does not respect himself. It is even less excusable in journalists, who are supposed to hold a mirror up to Society's imperfections.

Language is the main tool of journalism and, when a journalist shows himself as being inadequate in the usage of language, it seems to me that he does not hold his own job in high esteem. The most common error that people make in using English is when they use 'Many a times' and 'One of my friend' instead of 'Many a time' and 'One of my friends'! When journalists start using it the erroneous way, it seems to me that the English that I have been taught is all wrong...till I think of the logic that you dont use 'a' in front of a plural word and you can only have one out of many!

What took that cake for me was Arnab Goswami's performance when he compered the 'Calcutta Hour debate'. The debate was about whether the fact that Team Anna's goals were laudable justified the 'arm-twisting' of the Parliament. Goswami ends the debate by addressing this query to the audience - 'Does the means justify the end?'. Just to ensure that you did not think of it as a slip of the tongue, he repeated the query thrice. I have heard of the phrase 'Does the end justify the means?' but this was a new one on me. Seemed the sort of query asked of a person running over a drunk and claiming it happened because he was a law-abiding person, who could not stop his car in a 'No Parking' zone and, thus, chose to drive over the drunk!! Since the 'means' of driving on was law-abiding the 'end' of a dead drunk was justified!!

Rajdeep Sardesai went one better. When the Trinamul Congress did an about turn on support to the Lok Pal Bill, he kept saying that 'The Trinamul Congress has done a 360 degree turn'!! Even if his knowledge of English was insufficient to the task, his knowledge of Geometry should have told him that a 360 degree turn would leave you facing exactly the same way as before you did the turn and what you needed was a 180 degree turn. He probably thought that the more the degrees he added, the more heinous the act!!

As for basic home work on what they are reporting and attention to the news they were covering all channels failed abysmally on that day when the Lok Pal Bill was being voted on in Parliament. When Clause I of the Bill to give Constitutional status to the Lok Pal was passed, every channel declared victory for Rahul Gandhi, only to coolly retract it later when they found that it was merely a preliminary to the real Bill. Arnab Goswami and his panel of experts seemed to have scant idea that it required a two-thirds majority of those present and voting as well as fifty percent of the total strength of the Lok Sabha to pass a Constitutional amendment bill. When Sushma Swaraj pointed out that the Bill had not got fifty percent of the total strength of the Parliament, Goswami mis-interpreted it as meaning that less than fifty percent of the house was present and voting though the board was clearly showing total votes in excess of 400. His panel spent the next fifteen minutes castigating the floor management of the UPA government.

Seems to me that all you need to be a TV anchor or an expert panelist is the unmitigated gall to sit and pontificate gravely even with egg all over your face!!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Ads - The best of programs on TV?

Ads are a never-ending source of entertainment. Even when I cannot make any sense of a few of them, they do engage my mind like a crossword puzzle that I never do manage to solve.

Ads for beauty aids for women are endlessly fascinating. If a woman is prone to irresistible impulses to pull trucks out of mud-holes with the help of her hair, there is a product to enable her to do so. If, however, a woman eschews beauty aids out of a deep sense of worthlessness, there is a company that encourages her to do so by telling her that she is worth it!

Products for men cannot be far behind, can they? What I will never understand is that, when a chap tells his cohorts that a shaving gel is actually cheap on a per shave basis, it only encourages them to queue up in front of his room to borrow a drop rather than queuing up at the mall for buying it. Only best when free, is that the message?

The same product goes one better with the mom worrying about whether her son is carrying enough shaving gel to get him through his days at college. Besides throwing an interesting sidelight on modern mothering (Mine used to worry about whether I was carrying enough home-made food supplements!), it makes you wonder what sort of god-forsaken place the son is studying in that he has to stock up on shaving gel! Or is the message about how difficult it is to get the product?

I have, also, never understood the view of India of ad-makers. In the past, there was this ad for a mobile service provider that had the punch line 'Keep it Simple, Silly' in the Hindi version. In Tamil that was translated to 'Idhu simpledaane'! Either the ad-makers thought that 'Keep it Simple, Silly' was Hindi and, so, had to be translated to Tamil or, perhaps, it was assumed that the Hindi audience was better versed in English than the Tamil audience. Only they can enlighten us about what went on in their 'creative' minds!

Whatever! Ads are fun! More fun than most programs on the idiot box!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Stress and Achievement

Hari, a software engineer turned organic farmer, was saying that a mango tree yields fruits when stressed. Deprive it of water for a few days or expose it to heat and it feels the need to yield fruits. If it is in completely satisfactory conditions it will just be happy to vegetate!
How true of people as well! A perfectly content person feels no need to produce anything. It is discontent with one's personality, one's possessions, one's social relationships or creative angst that causes a person to want to achieve something. A person who is content with who he is feels no need to change anything in his condition and, when there is no need to change anything, there is no need to achieve anything!
All stress arises from discontent. It is one of the ironies of life that all humans purport to strive for a stress-free and content life but if everyone, indeed, achieves that ideal, Society will stagnate, wither away and die!
Stress may be a prerequisite for achievement but a lack of achievement is not necessarily proof of contentment in the concerned person. Laziness and fear of failure have been the cause of far more under-achievers than contentment. What, then, can be said about the author who is content in his laziness!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Brahmagiri Trek

My previous trek to Brahmagiri was in the rains and the moisture not only soaked you to the skin but brought out every leech in the state – or so it appeared. Slipping and slithering up as well as down the Brahmagiri peak is an indelible memory which could only be overshadowed by the impression left on me of my encounters with leeches. Coming back down to Irpu falls with a few blood-laden leeches squelching under my toes (Yes! Inside my shoes) is not one of my favorite memories. Upon reaching the Irpu falls, I sat down upon a convenient bench – surrounded by about fifteen sightseers – folded up my tracks, picked my first leech and looked up to see where to toss it away, only to find those fifteen sightseers had suddenly vanished as though they had dematerialized! I did attract a crowd of others, who were looking – from a safe distance - avidly at my legs, which were bleeding as though they were badly mangled! The only time my legs achieved the sort of attention that is received by the item girls of today!

This time the climate was dry and, thus, no leeches were expected. The problem, however, was that the last time I had ever walked any distance – leave alone trekking – was in April on the trek to Dodi Tal. On top of it, I had seriously injured my foot in November and the injury has left behind a niggle on my left foot which could get aggravated on the uneven terrain of a trek. Being out of shape on a trek is nothing new to me but, hitherto, I had beenthe newbie trekker and nothing much was expected of me. This time, unfortunately, I had given the impression that I was a veteran and huffing and puffing on the trek was not going to burnish that image.

Huff and puff I did within fifteen minutes of the start of the trek, which started from the base of the Irpu falls. For the first half-an-hour I was re-examining the reasons why I ever took up trekking. Then we entered the shade of the trees and what with the coolness and the soothing music of bird-song, I was back in my element. It had been so long since I had been away from the city that the first feel of the forest was a balm to the soul.

Midway through the trek there was a lovely stream and the entire group plunged into it with gusto. After a refreshing bath we proceeded onwards (self huffing and puffing as usual) for a further hour and reached the Narimale Rest house. The last time, it took us a further hour to actually enter the forest rest-house and stretch our feet since we had to de-leech ourselves and then draw rangoli all around the rest-house with salt to, hopefully, prevent leeches from entering it. Kamesh and company set out to make lunch while we collected water, firewood and help cut vegetables. A hot cooked meal after a trek like this was like ambrosia. After the meal we sat around and chatted till about nightfall and, slowly, drifted off to sleep one by one.

The next day we set off to climb the Brahmagiri peak. The initial part of the trek was largely like a walk in the park till we hit the base of the peak. Climbing that peak was a strain since the path was largely made of loose sand and, thus, added to the difficulty of the ascent. We preferred walking through the grass by the side, though that is not as easy as it sounds since the footing is very uneven and you cannot know whether you were going to hit a hollow under the grass or not. (Please do not think of an inch of shaved lawn grass, when I say grass!) We hit the peak to a misty welcome and, thus, there was not much view to be had.

The descent, if anything, was even tougher since you had the added goal of not wanting to reach the bottom far faster than you wanted and the terrain was doing its best to ensure that you did do so, preferably head-first! Luckily there were no mishaps and we reached the Narimale Rest-house as intact as a body full of sore muscles could be considered to be. After a hot lunch of noodles and lemon rice, we were on our way down to Irpu falls and the end of the trek.

I know I keep repeating myself on this count but most of the fun of trekking is in the camaraderie. This time I was not sure because the group was largely composed of first-time trekkers, whose ideas of a holiday would likely have been molded based on tours to hill stations and the like. I couldn’t have wished for a better lot of companions, however. To put your body through unaccustomed exercise and, then, to land up at the rest-house only in order to do more work around the camp should have tested anyone’s patience. Not only were they uncomplaining but they were also actually having fun while doing the chores. Badri was volunteering his services for all odd jobs; Hari and Dinesh helped lug the water; Aditya, Vignesh, Shekhar and Chandru were probably the fire-wood detail and Niranjan was volunteering everyone else’s services! (Oh! He did chop the potatoes perfectly, as he keeps insisting!). You do get to know your fellow-man better when you go on a trek!

Drinking when you are thirsty, eating when you are hungry, bathing when you are sweaty and sleeping when you are tired were the norm of life. These, however, have become relatively rare for city folk and the pleasure you get from these simple things is indescribable. Much like you have to shop around for organic food, which was once the norm, you have to go on a trek to enjoy what the poor endure!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The tip-of-the-tongue syndrome

Yesterday I found myself groping for the name of a person in the middle of a conversation. Considering that I had visited the blog of that person not more than three days back, the reluctance that the name showed in crossing the tip of the tongue was nothing short of amazing.

Memory lapses of this sort appear to have become more frequent with me of late. The problem, thus far, is that what should have been a passing mention converts itself into a sort of twenty questions and, when the name does pop up eventually, I find myself looking around for Amitabh Bachchan to hand me over the signed cheque for ten million bucks! In the meantime the original issue that I sought to communicate gets irretrievably lost.

I am no stranger to using the phrase, “It is on the tip of my tongue but…”. I have done it all through school whenever called upon by my optimistic teachers to answer their questions. Of course, truth was always particularly elastic with me in those days. When I said that the answer was on the tip of my tongue, it could only have been true if it had jumped straight from the text-book to my tongue and not because it had acquired even temporary lodgings in what passes for my brain.

Alas, these days it is more a question of actually losing touch with what is in my memory. The day is not far off when I shall put out my hand for an introductory handshake and say, “My name is on the tip of my tongue, but..”