Monday, September 24, 2007

Googlies: India beak Pak, win the Twenty20 World Cup

The odds were against us. The holy trinity of Dravid, Ganguly and Tendulkar were missing. Sehwag, Harbhajan and Pathan were making their comeback into the team. The Indian team came without anyone expecting them to get even to the semi-final. The end result is: Pathan has found his rhythm and is Man of the Match in the final. Rohit Sharma backs himself a day after he is dropped from the One day team, scores a Man of Match award, a fifty, a glorious run-out and follows it with great cameo today. RP Singh is the bowler of the tournament for me. With Umar Gul, he shares the honors of impeccable pace bowling, and Mr Australian Clark must be cursing Yuvraj for spoiling their party. Broad, who was hit for six sixes, which made Yuvraj richer by one crore rupees, must be wondering how broad is Yuvi's bat? Dhoni was so calm and composed before, during and after the match, that the win seems just a beginning in his career as captain. And what a beginning!

Misbah fought well. Misbah faught hard. He stood up like Klusenar thoughtout the series, and his end was Klusenar-like. Twice in two weeks, he came agonizingly close to hitting his home team to victory against arch rivals India. Twice he floundered at the crucial juncture. And yet, all praise be to the man who managed to take his team so close each time. Winning is important, we all know that, but being this competitive matters more. He fought in the same vein a Porus fought when he lost to Sikander few thousand years ago. The battlefield has changed, the fighters haven't. In effect it is the spirit of battle, where fortunes wax and wane with every move, that was exhibited so grandly in the fied today, and Misbah deserves every accolade Indian and Pakistani team can award him.

Joginder Singh bowled much better than he did in the last few matches. After all the criticism he has faced for his medium pace, it is kind of divine justice that he bowled the last over against Australia as well as Pakistan, and won both matches for us. In both matches, he bowled in the overs that could have taken the game away from us, and in both the matches he held his nerve, and got wickets and dot balls, that none other than his captain or he himself could have banked on. Sreesanth redeemed himself in semi-final, and put up a good show again. The wicket flying after being hit for two sixes by Tanvir in that over must have been sweet moment for him. He came back to bowl a maiden after getting hit for 21 in his first over today. The ability to hit back is a crucial factor that contributed to his and team's success in the tournament. Harbhajan had an awesome last over in Australian chase, and today Misbah made him look ordinary in an over of three sixes that almost changed momentum in Pakistan's favor. Yet the bottomline is that the Turbantor contributed at the crucial junctures of the tournament and justified his return to the team with some clever bowling.

I was surprised to see YK Pathan open, for I think he bats lower down the order for his team. Yet the biggest and maybe sweetest surprise of the day was the way Gautam Gambhir scored freely while Dhoni and Yuvraj struggled. The struggle was understandable for both: Yuvraj is slow starter against spinners, and Dhoni was faced with guile and strategy of both Umar Gul and whole Pakistan think tank. Indian fielding, bowling and batting all rocked in this tournament and deservedly they lifted the trophy. Gambhir was second highest scorer of the tournament, and well, I was criticizing his play in last blog, and all I can do now is, hail him:)

The celebrations that ensue from this will hail the team and selectors as phenomenal. What was truly phenomenal was team playing as a unit. Also remarkable was their ability to stay in contention irrespective of who they faced, how many wickets had fallen, what was required run rate. What makes a champion champion is the ability to survive the weak moments, the falls and the failures, the calamities and catastrophes. The way India bounced back everytime the opposition floored them with a heavy punch is the reason why the games were so thrilling and so satisfying.

While we celebrate the young guns, it is opportune moment to thank the holy trinity " Rahul-Saurav-Sachin" and Jumbo God "Kumble" who have been the shining and guiding light of Indian cricket for last two decades. They did everything right, won more test matches abroad than any team before them, even reached a World Cup final, and will retire without having reached the pinnacle which they deserved as much as anyone. Ganguly should be remembered for keeping faith in young guns in face of pressure, and Dhoni is his great successor in that realm. The buildup for such a victory and more to come has been going on for years. It was always a matter of when, and not if, and I guess, we always weighed our superstars with so much expectation, that they waivered at the last lap. Yet for years they have given us hope, joy and tears, and lets thank them as well.

Victories stick in memories longer when they come with a struggle and style seen in this tournament. The battles were never one-sided. The winner was undecided till the last over. Isn't it interesting that Joginder Sharma had Misbah caught by Sreesanth to end the tournament? Three unlikely heroes of the series! When Malik thanked Muslims all over the world for praying for Pakistani team, he must have forgotten India has a greater number of praying Muslim, both within the country and in friendly countries. Isn't it ironic that Shahrukh Khan of "Chak de", a movie about hockey feted the team, though Lagaan hero Aamir was no where to be seen? Let alone the iconic Iqbal star or director. This victory does nothing to the dismal state of Indian sports in other realms, and maybe will bring more money and attention to cricket. I hope some of that, somehow, can be (even if by a scam) shifted to other sports and sportsmen.

Lets celebrate now. Lets celebrate the spirit shown by the Indian fighters in this tournament. They fought back at point and gully. They fought at long on and mid-off. They fought with bats that moved like swords, scything ball after ball, out of the boundaries. The hit out beyond the boundaries we expected them to have. They hurled bowls like spears, bang on target. They hurled them fast, quick, on target. They pounced on flying rockets like soldiers ready to eat bullets, if that was required of them. When they faltered, they learned quickly from their errors. They worked together, each shifting the burden to himself, each making his own tid-bit contribution right. They worked hard and won, and for now deserve their applause.

For years we will remember how a bunch of young ones lifted a trophy of greatness and how a billion smiled and celebrated on this very day. Heres to the victory and to the moment! Hurrah!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Translation: Your own nation: yeh jo desh hai tera

This is your nation, own nation -
This is a tie that cannot be broken.

How will you forget the perfume of this earth?
You might go anywhere, you will return to this earth.
In the new paths, in muffled sighs,
To your lost heart, someone will say:
This is your nation, own nation -
This is a tie that cannot be broken.

You life questions thee,
You have acquired it all, yet what ails thee,
Though you have all the pleasures with you
Yet your own home is far away from you
Why don't you return, o madman
To a place where someone calls you his own
Calls out to you, invites you back that nation
This is your nation, own nation -
This is a tie that cannot be broken.

This is the moment, which hides in it
A lost century, whole life story,
Don't ask in the way, WHY?
You've reached a fork in the way
You are the one to figure which one to follow
You are the one who will decide
In which way shall proceed this nation:
This is your nation, own nation -
This is a tie that cannot be broken.
(Ye jo des hai tera, swades hai tera, tujhe hai pukaara…
Ye woh bandhan hai jo kabhi toot nahin sakta) -2

Complete lyrics:
Lyrics by Javed Akhtar, music by AR Rehman (AR Rahman), from the film Swades;
You can the watch the video of the song on youtube; one of the working link is:

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Googlies: Aussie bashing & Prelude to India-Pak finale

The semi-final is won, and this sets up a grand finale: the dream final of India and Pakistan! Given how India has never lost to Pakistan in a World Cup encounter, and how close Pakistan came to winning last week, leases the final a suspense and excitement which will make the wait for Monday intense.

A long, long time ago, Australia stopped losing key matches. They just lost the ability to lose. It was a surprise every time they were taken down. In 2001, when Laxman rekha halted their gallop to victory, he immediately became a household name. When Tendulkar hit Australia out of contention in Sharjah, he gained their respect, Bradman's honors and Warne's nightmares. The Ashes victory of England, with Flintoff's all round performance, and the greatest batting displays by a batsmen in history of cricket - Brian Lara's glory days - are exceptions or aberrations to long and thumping winning streaks of the Australian team.

The current generation of Indian players was born and brought up in a world where the script was always the same. The Aussies looked bigger, batted more ferociously, bowled with more intensity, and not only made their triumphs look easy, but they annihilated the oppositions in semi-finals and finals of tournaments. Australia did likewise when they played Sri Lanka in their previous match. If William sisters seem like horses playing tennis against dolls, Australians are typically like rhinoceros put to compete with zebras or deer. Their leading scriptwriters McGrath and Warne are retired now. Ponting was missing, the Waughs have receded to distant memory, and Gilchrist and Hayden are aging. Yet the guys who have replaced players who came before them have been as devastative. Hussey has been breathtaking, Lee has bowled faster and better in every passing game, Clarke has stamped his class, and Clark was immaculate this series. To beat Australia is as sweet as it goes. We did them fair and square.

I have a love and hate relationship with Australia. I admire their strength and I hate their arrogance. I admire their arrogance when I think of it as a strategy of psychological warfare. I hated the tactics of Waugh and admired his ability to stay at them to get his team victory. I loved it when Ganguly made Waugh wait at the toss. I read the saga of West Indies stealing a victory by scoring over 400 fourth innings runs every time I need inspiration. I love it the most because, in spite of their assault, confidence and position of strength, Australians lost the game. This was the game where Lara kept the strike to himself, taking a single at the end of almost every over, and batted with the tail, right to the last man, to reach a most unlikely victory.

The high points of this match: Sreesanth kept his cool. His tongue lashed, but his bowling did better. The dude is a good actor, and whoever lost money on Jadeja and Kambli should try him for the role of "looks can kill" type extra. Pathan seems to have benefited from haircut. Sehwag should sit out of the final: his back needs rest, and Kartik is required in the team to keep the intensity going. Dhoni is calm and composed as a captain. He lets people play their own games, and maybe the sense of responsibility that comes with it, make players give their best. Unlike Dravid, his batting hasn't suffered under the wight of captaincy. Harbhajan dancing on the boundary rope is a sight we can see more frequently. Next time, we will send Mandira Bedi or Roshni Chopra to give him company.

Uthappa and Rohit Sharma, I urge you to stay in the team for another decade. RP Singh and Joginder Sharma have their youth to their favor, and its remarkable that both come from UP and Haryana, two states that produce world class bowlers only rarely. Kapil paaji was great exception, and Haryana's greatest hit. They say Joginder Sharma is quite like him as an all rounder, and I hope he proves "them" right. Gambhir played alright, but like Sehwag, I doubt if he will remain valuable for long in light of the talent waiting in ranks. He flashes too much, and wants to ride on luck everytime he goes out to bat. Lastly lets celebrate the crown Prince, just like we have done again and again in last few weeks.

Yuvraj returned after a one match absence to hit ten big boundaries. His fours were near sixes. When I was growing up, my father always laughed aloud at the hardest hit sixes and would call them "अठठे " (athathe) or "eights". I don't know if he watched Yuvraj bat. If he did, I am sure he was cheering अठठे (athathe) at those big hits. The master demolition act, 140 runs in last 11 overs, after just 48 in first 9 was as unexpected as it was exhilarating. I hope Yuvraj, Uthappa and Rohit Sharma will give us a finale where they reach out for the moon. In my books, I have already noted them as magnificent, and that omens well for the next World Cup.

Somehow Australia always appears so invincible, that even to the last over, the hope of Indian victory seemed to be an optimist's hyperbole. The way Indian inning galloped in last ten overs while batting was similarly emulated when bowlers came to party in last ten overs of Australian innings. I mentioned scriptwriters earlier, and greatest script writing duo of Bollywood, Salim-Javed, penned this as a comment on Amitabh's character in Deewar, Yash Chopra:
"लंबी रेस का घोड़ा शुरू में धीरे धीरे भागता है, पर जब भागना शुरू करता है, सबको पीछे छोड़ देता है" ("Lambi race ka ghoda shuru mein dheere dheere bhaagta hai, par jab bhaagna shuru karta hai, sabko peeche chod deta hai") The horse cut out for marathons, trots slowly at first, but when it starts to gallop, it leaves everyone behind. Such was the performance of Indian team today, that Saleem-Javed could have lined up a series of inspirational dialogues from it.

Pakistan won against New Zealand quite easily. In my last blog, I hinted that winning requires something more than skill. Pakistan always has volumes of jazba (ज़स्बा Passion), and chutzpah to spring surprise and reprise performances that either rise to grandeur or flail in ordinariness (either rock or suck). New Zealand, like South Africa, lacks the exceptional desire that pushes you into a big victory. After the murder of their coach in One Day World Cup and the way Inzy and Yusuf have been handled by their countrymen, Pakistan knew that their blood is at stake.

Ghalib once said, "रगों में दौड़ने फिरने के हम नहीं कायल, जो आँख ही से न टपका वो लहू क्या है?" (ragon mein daudte phirne ke hum nahin kayal, jo aankh hi se na tapka wo lahu kya hai?) "We don't value what just runs in veins/ That is no blood, which doesn't stream from the eyes."

For the players of both India and Pakistan, the final will be a call for giving their most nerve wrecking, perhaps the most important performance of their lifetime. Even though I would love to see India win it, I really just want them to throw everything into the game as they have done so far. Hoping for a grand finale,
and raising a toast to India,
your brother in arms,

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Googlies: Semi-India in semi-finals

New rockstars emerge when established ones have a sore throat, and back-up singers take the front stage. The crown prince of the game played yesterday, Yuvraj, was injured, and India were three down with just 33 on board. Messages screamed "the great Indian collapse " has arrived. Rohit Sharma and Dhoni stuck to the task. A friend queried: "Do you know anything of this dude? Is he related to you, Sharma?" "I don't know if he is related to me," I said, "but I know he was one of the best batsmen in our Under 19 team, and is an awesome fielder." Shikhar Dhawan, and Ambati Rayudu were great as teenagers too, but they have vanished from our calculations.

Dinesh Kartik, Pathan, Yuvraj have carried on with their initial promise. Rohit Sharma is dropped from the team for next tour, and that must have been on his mind. To come out and play in the way he did, and get Man of the match award a day after selection board kicks you out of ODI team for no reason, no fault of yours, requires a maturity and drive that will take this bloke really far. To top it off, the agility he showed while fielding, and how quickly he picked and threw the ball right at stumps to effect the run out was outright brilliant.

For me the best part of Indian victories in the tournament has been the fact that India is winning by virtue of a team effort. In nineties, the tests won by India in India were scripts written with Kumble in the lead. In Sharjah, when India got better of Australia, Tendulkar shone so brilliantly that Warne complained of nightmares during rest of his career. In the world cup in South Africa last time, Dravid was in tremendous form. Indian team always has a star performer, and that one personal brilliance is usually able to get us somewhere. But we know from the West Indies cricket, Lara might singlehandedly win matches even against teams like Australia, but without a reasonable team to support him, he is powerless. A semi-India, for what will you call an Indian team with the presence of Tendulkar, Ganguly, Yuvraj, Dravid and Laxman, played today. They batted well, bowled well, fielded well, and won.

Indian bowling, especially RP Singh's performance was immaculate today. They did bowl the widest wides possible, and had more extras to offer than extras as dancers in a Govinda song. Pathan was quite accurate, Harbhajan, in spite of the first over that cost us 17 runs, was bowling to a plan. Kartik had a good day as fielder. He caught the bowl that was racing away faster than eye can blink. Sreesanth behaved like Santh. The best moment for me was when he got Boucher out with an inside edge. Kartik seemed to have dived without catching anything, and Sreesanth thought the bowl had raced to the boundary. So Sreesanth looked visibly frustrated. Meanwhile, the inside edge had directed the ball to the stumps. No one was celebrating, so mortals like me and commentator imagined it to be a no ball. It rapidly went from disappointment to celebration when batsman was seen walking out. Victory seemed a set affair then. The momentum by then was so great that India kicked South Africa out of the tournament.

There is something about South Africa which makes their case poignant. In every tournament, they seem to fail at the crucial stage. Their team always has promise and yet they flounder. They did exceptionally well to win the greatest one day highest run chase drama with Australia. But they have failed to flourish in World Cups. It always reminds me of the students who would do their homework regularly, perform consistently and score highly in all class tests and quizzes, and then fail to make their mark in the final exam or in entrance exams. Their parents will imagine foul play, Pandits would blame astronomical influences (not even astrological, so big is the catastrophe), and the students hardly ever figure what went wrong. Sometimes the weight of expectation was so great (as is case with Indian team) that it cripples them. Some flourish in spite of everything.

The heart of the matter is this: a hero is a hero not because of how he performs everyday, not because he is the tallest or smartest or strongest or fastest among the crowd, but just because he knows how to give his best performance when needed. Competitions require more than just skill. The intent is important, skill is important, but I guess what is the key at the end of the day, is what is at stake, and if what is at stake is big, a buffalo can drive a lion away. Raise the stake folks. When a loss will hurt you harder, when losing is not an option, you will end up giving it your most intense effort, and if you have the skill and the will, victory will be yours. Even the big one!

Janki and Mansoor (Chapter 4)


I have become a little forgetful of late. But I do remember the fist visit of Suryakant Tripathi. I joked to Mr. Agrawal that this Suryakant is as a-poetic as they come. To be a namesake of one of the greatest Hindi poets and be the policeman that he is or maybe he was, requires the Gods with a sense of humor. But how many English speaking graduates in India know Suryakant Tripathi "Nirala", the guy who wrote "Pushp ki abhilasha"? (A flower's desire) Trouble with Indian English is that a-poetic seems acceptable and meaningful, while "Nirala", for even the most educated kind, will not ring a bell.

The prosaic Suryakant Tripathi came marched into the house chewing a paan (betel-leaf). Half of his words were uttered with a red spit drifting in air. We must have moved into this GK-1 posh apartment only a few months before that day. I was both proud of our expensive furniture and protective of it. I still care about cleanliness, and Tripathi, I believe, is every housewife's enemy. So many housewives curse the paan chewers all the time, that our collective curse has reincarnated as mouth cancer. But Tripathi is a greasy monkey; nothing ails him. Not even his own conscience!

Mr. Agrawal had informed me Tripathi was a policeman and could be useful. Mr. Agrawal had this habit of coming into the kitchen rubbing his palms before him, and telling me who "was useful" and who "was trouble". Tripathi was useful, Mansoor bhaisahib were trouble. Back then, Mr. Agrawal's classification had simple meanings for me. "Useful" in making more money, and hence open for a bargain. "Trouble" in getting an out-of-turn job done, but efficient and honest otherwise. The classification allowed me to know who I could respect and who was just a crook and was a paid-guest. Tripathi was invited to Satyanarayan Pooja for he was "useful". The stated reason was that he was a Brahmin. Mansoor bhaisahib were trouble, so the stated reason for his not being invited was "Brahmin's will object to his presence during the ceremony." We had to organize these things: Pooja to pamper the "useful" Brahmins, Agrawal sabha (conference) to keep "useful" businessmen and business class employees "well-fed". We hosted dinners at restaurants for the meat-eaters, for we are pure vegetarians. We held birthday celebrations of our children to give substantial return gifts to children of the officers who were friends with us. Every festival and ceremony required purchase of presents and gifts.

Mr. Agrawal knew every child's name, every wife's birthday, remembered every penny he paid to anyone and weighed every earning his pennies brought him. Even before cellphones existed, he could track down any government official, any contractor, any salesman in the city. He knew the daily schedules of all people he needed. He never missed an appointment, and he had no blueberry or computer to keep records and set reminders. I am not sure if he would have cared for them, and maybe, if he hadn't died then, I wouldn't have cared about these toys either. He had a knack for remembering useful information. He had patience beyond his years. He was a man of no rush, except in his urge to get rich. But there too, he knew to wait.

When we got married, he bargained with my father for dowry, in a way that appealed to my father. He told my father, "I will marry her. I will sell a few of my fields in Kapurthala, and move to Delhi. Give me five years, and I will then start a business. I am a Junior Engineer in Punjab Housing Board right now, and I am gathering capital. I sold three acres for getting the job, and I have recovered them already. In five years, if I become capable of buying a decent house in Delhi, I will call you. I will call you, for I will use my money for the house to invest in business, and I will tell you the amount I used. You will have five years after that to pay your daughter that amount so that she can buy that house."

My father had to marry three daughters, and portioned decent dowry for all of us. My one sister was married already and the other was only two years younger than me. Father worried sometimes that by the time he would get to the third, his capital would run out. So when Mr. Agrawal came up with this "pay years later and match what I earn" option, my father was relieved. His land investments would get him three to four times return over the principal in that time. He slapped Mr. Agrawal on his back, and said, "Very good. You will make it big in life."

Our marriage took place with a simple ceremony, for Mr. Agrawal wanted to save every penny and in any case, he was a man without family. His father had created wealth in terms of few acres of farmland and a huge haveli. The haveli was a seven bedroom house bought at half the actual price from a local zamindar, who was involved in a murder case and wanted ready cash for his bail. My father-in-law had died when Mr. Agrawal was only seventeen, and since then Mr. Agrawal had lived like a regular orphan. Except for Dhonduram and Savitri, an old couple, his family servants for decades, he had no one to call his own. Partition had killed most of his ancestral ties. Death of the father taught him about the evanescence of other relationships. Knowing how he fought his way up the ladder, and being his shadow at every step, I know it was a well-earned wealth he left for us.

Maybe it is easy for me to say this now, twenty years after his death. For it sure wasn't all that easy to prove the wealth as "well-earned" after his death. To make the matters worse, he made Mansoor bhaisahib heir to all the property in Delhi. Everything except the house, that my father paid for, was left in his name! Kapurthala property was Mr. Agrawal's father's legacy and that he left solely to us. Then Mansoor bhaisahib were murdered as well. I can't begin to tell you what battles I had to fight. A widow is anybody's cow for taking, they say and I learned what it amounted to in last twenty years.

It is an old woman's tale, for I must admit I am old and I tend to mumble things here and there. But you must not mind that. At my age, we tend to become forgetful, and our stories meander to whatever references we need. Try to remember how your grandmother narrated her stories. Our stories are like the threads of a conical cap we make for kids; as much yarn goes into the frills and tail, as into the structure. Did I lose the thread again? It is important to have a design in mind and to keep a count of rows already knit, I know; else the cap is too big for the head, and useless even as a wall hanging. See I don't know how I got to knitting from the narrative about how Tripathi was introduced to our household.

I don't know if you have had a similar experience. When I was growing up, there was this street dog, who would show up at dinner time, and knock at our door asking for his share of daily bread. After its gentle tap announced its arrival, it would sit at the door, and wait till one of us finished our dinner and went out with roti (bread) or leftovers for it. The regular habit made it somewhat of a pet. Everytime I'd go to the door, I would be struck by the childlike, petulant look in its eyes. Its eyes like babies, and tail dancing in a submissive delight! From the first visit, Tripathi appealed to me like that dog. His habit made him return to our house, his needs made him look silly. But like a puffed up chicken, he always walked with a jump in his stride. In spite of what he was paid, he wanted his every job to look as if he has done us a favor. Perhaps the street dog that we fed as children also knew that it was doing us a favor. Isn't it common knowledge that feeding a street dog regularly, wards off the effect of Shani? Shani, the fiercest influence among all planets, can be kept away by feeding a dog! Maybe the dog knew it too, and thought it was doing us a favor.

It is easy for me to draw parallels between Tripathi and the dog now. Back then, except for the paan stains he left everywhere, I thought he was "useful", and so when I used to "entertain" him, I would have a genuine welcome smile on my face. Mr. Agrawal had this whole vocabulary of his own, so "entertain" meant, serving chai-naashta (tea & snacks) and following it with a lunch or dinner. If Mr. Agrawal was busy, I would need to make some commonplace conversation, and if it is someone like Tripathi, the conversation occurs naturally. That man laughs too much. When he eats, he can stomach fifteen chappatis at one go. When he drinks, a liter of whiskey and a half a kg chilli chicken gets in, without a burp. Only effect is some red blotches appear on his face, and his laugh gets louder. It is hard to believe that between his first visit and Mr. Agrawal's death, he must have visited our house hundreds of times in two years. In twenty years since then, he has come maybe five-six times. He even sold the flat he owned in our building. I knew he was a regular rascal, but I always imagined him as a faithful one. But I was so wrong. Tripathi wasn't the "pet" street dog of my childhood. He was a bigger beast. Twenty years back, that had surprised me.

(To be continued...)

Other chapters found here

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Googlies: Yuvraj is the crown Prince

What balls,
what chakke!

chakke or sixes when said in Hindi has a ring to it, that English can never hope to muster. "Yuvraj ne England ke chakke chudaa a diye": translates to "Yuvraj hit England to sixes which is severe" but in Hindi it is louder, and bigger accomplishment. Six in six balls. A hundred percent is always hard to achieve. In last series Dimitri hit Yuvraj for five sixes, a hard enough accomplishment, but our dude Yuvraj went all the way. A fifty in twelve balls is hard to beat. Isn't it awesome that the man whose name means Prince is our vice captain now? Its nuts that we both studied in the same High School; I went there as it was called a factory for Engineers and Doctors. He went there for it was called the cricketing school of Chandigarh: the college that gave India Kapil Dev and Dinesh Mongia, used to give India thirty or more IITians every year and scores of Engineers and Doctors on top of it

I had the privilege of hearing Yograj Singh's comments about his son. Yograj got to play one odd match in International cricket and he ensured his son was good enough to play a few hundred. Yograj had an interesting life span, including a stint at Punjabi movies I believe, and attempts at running a Petrol pump in Chandigarh. So when an excited reporter interviewed him, the father said, "Sher ka bachcha hai, ghaas thode hi khayega" (He is a tiger's son, he won't eat grass), emphasizing that Yuvraj is meant for big hits and big matches. Each of his sixes was a delight to watch. Yograj, like every proud father, said, if his son asked him today, about how he performed the father would tell him, "not bad." Fathers will be fathers. When the reporter asked him if Yuvraj's sixes were an answer to five sixes he got he for, the father retorted, "It was an answer to the four hundred rule of the british. My son gave them a good loud message much like Gandhi, Nehru gave to British in their time." On a day like today, I will forgive the father of breaking into all the hyperboles he could think of, and I will join him in being a proud countryman of the man who hit every six taller and longer than what preceded it. Also Yograj raved how India and winning matches for India was more important than any personal accomplishments, and even if it sounded Bollywoodish, I felt proud, happy, excited and thankful.

India nearly lost the match; you may disagree, but I was worried. irrespective of what happened when we bowled. Our batting display was worth a watch, but England quite close. Much closer than what I expected. Sehwag barked and had a bite in his strokes: his usual wag and "get out as soon as possible" approach was missing. Gambhir took his namesake task seriously. Pathan was a revelation once again, and since he is young and good learner I am ready to invest hopes in him. Dhoni must have felt relieved after winning the match: as a future captain of Indian cricket team (or one day team), he would prefer to start on a good note. England did quite well, but it was a day where England could not blame Collingwood or his lap dances for their defeat.

For me the highlights of the series so far have been these surprises. Life is full of surprises and so is cricket. Australia was defeated twice, England and West Indies are out of the World Cup., a thirty three year old man has made us forget how important players Inzy and Md. Yusuf were for Pakistan. Odd players are shining. India is thriving without Tendulkar, Ganguly and Dravid. Australia is struggling. But the best part is number of sixes. Today Kemp showed us why he is dangerous. Yuvraj hit 50 off 12 balls. Asif had a tight bowling spell in a high scoring match. Bangladesh has been more competitive than it ever was in longer versions of the game. Vettori has emerged as a shrewd leader. irrespective of what team wins the series, irrespective of what flaws the shortest version of game has, the cricket has been entertaining and worth watching. I might watch artsy movies with relish, but I love a comedy, a masala (spicy) Bollywood movie for the entertainment value. If you think miracles don't happen, see how India escaped against Pakistan. Or see six sixes of Yuvraj. If you think skill is unimportant, watch Asif bowl, or Kemp strike his boundaries. If you want melodrama, hear or read an interview by Yuvraj's father:)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

De dard wo ki tere jaane ke baad

दे दर्द वो कि तेरे जाने के बाद
कह सकूं कि मर्ज़ बड़ी थी
अच्छा हुआ चली गयी
यूं लूत्फ रहा इश्क में तो
सालों लहुलुहान रहूंगा

दे दर्द वो कि तेरे जाने के बाद
बेफिक्र हो नयी भूल भुल्लैया चुनुं
हर सितम उसका अदा लगे
हर खता उसकी मामूली नज़र आए
दिल तेरे न होने की खुशी मनाये

वो दर्द कैसे दोगी, मुझसे क्यों पूछती हो?

आसान बहुत है, बहुत रस्ते हैं
भाग किसी और से शादी की सोचो
कोई जाती भेद या धन के बहाना निकालो
नहीं तो कह दो की मेरी नाक बड़ी है
या शकल ठीक है, अकल मामूली है

पर यह नौटंकी की, कि न चाहते हुए भी तुम
किसी नवाकूल की बांहों में जा बैठी
और सिलसिला चाहने लगी शादी के बाद का
यह मंज़ूर नहीं मुझे

एक दो किस्से होते ऐसे
तो निभा लेता कमबख्त
यहाँ हालत यह है की
मिसेज़ किसी की, महताब किसी और की,
और मेहनत चाहती हो मेरी हर रात
यह मंज़ूर नहीं मुझे

दे दर्द वो की तेरे जाने के बाद
कह सकूं कि मर्ज़ बड़ी थी
अच्छा हुआ चली गयी.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Whose story is inscribed in your eyes (Translated lyrics of Teen Deviyan)

Whose story is inscribed in your eyes?
If you can decipher it, pray paraphrase.

Like an answer to some wish
'Tis written, but is incomplete
Why shouldn't be my every tale incomplete
I am yet a madman incomplete

If its nothing, why these expressions?
Why are dumbstruck, my all possessions?
To walk with a little help from beautiful
is my daily habit

Here there in the autumns, loafer
My heart is still a loner
I haven't understood your heart a trifle
I have come to know only you.

Hindi Song Title: Likha Hai Teri Aankhon Mein
Hindi Movie/Album Name: TEEN DEVIYAN

Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri

Hindi Lyrics:

Khwab ho tum ya koi hakeekat

Are you a dream, or reality,
Who are you, tell me?
You stayed afar for hours
Come, come closer.

The heartbeats heard,
an echo of some feet
And a shadow of tresses
wafted over my heart

I do meet you
at every junction
And you walk away,
leaving unfinished tales.

Again shout after me,
Again call out my name,
And if I fall, catch me
in your arms again.

(The attempt is amateurish, for I spend very little time on working a translation.
I have posted it on Sept 15 morning, and I will continue to polish the lines.
There is a merit in practicing translation, and I wish to translate not just he words, but the whole idiom. This will require more calculated rendering, and before I proceed to the greatest works of the greatest Hindi poets, I am somewhat disrespectfully, practicing on the lyrics of some of the finest songwriters of the country. The only justification I have is that I believe songs have less sanctity than poems, and are less trenched in metaphor and rhetoric. There are countless examples for and against what I just said, and lets leave them for future discussion.

I will value all comments and suggestions about better ways of processing the poems into English. I promise to return and revise the translation, till I am satisfied with the word choices. For now, it is a working translation, and not a fully worked out one).

Friday, September 14, 2007

Googlies: Twenty twenty win over Pakistan

A win is a win is a win is a win.
Or maybe not.

A few days back, rain had dampened India's chances.
Today, Asif nearly finished us off; before Uthappa salvaged another big inning.Big in terms of value. When Uthappa was hitting his boundaries, when Asif was turning into a hero, what was the original bad boy of Pak cicket Shoib thinking?
Perhaps this: I should have hit Asif harder
or maybe "why at all"?

I gave up all hope. Then there was a ball without a run and on the last ball a run out led to game being a tie. This never happens. Never to India. Never on a Friday (Jumma). Never on the beginning of Ramazan month. I grew up cursing Fridays, for India invariably lost to Pakistan in those dismal Sharjah days. Miandad, who happens to be related to Dawood now, could hit a six even on last ball. India could always hand a victory to Pakistan after solid opening stands. There was a time when we lost and the reason was simple: everytime the ball touched the body of an Indian batsman, the Umpire raised his finger. So when India had the match tied, I checked on a few other websites. I cannot allow a typo to make me really happy. I am a writer, or I think I am a writer, and who knows but a writer, how invaluable the typo is. Yet India had the match tied, and then this curious rule made 20-20 sweeter.

The hit the stumps rule is just awesome antithesis of how cricket is played. Yet it has an element to it, which I had undervalued, before I actually saw it unfold today. Pakistan missed all three attempts at stumps. Shoaib must have cursed, Inzy must have shaken his head and Yusuf would have been too irritated to comment. Back home, Saurav dada Gangul;y must have pumped his fist, Dravid must have raised a toast to his relinquished captaincy, and Tendulkar must have watched like a curious schoolboy, asking wifey to give his aging muscles a well-deserved massage.

Few things were sorted out. Sehwag is still the wag without the bite. Pathan, like most real Pathans, is fighting battles within. Sreesanth was sensible today, but that lad drinks too much Red Bull or something of the sort, and can explode any minute. Agarkar will always be the most hated guy in the bowling department, but that dude did ball alright in his first few overs. Indian batting, except for Dhoni and Uthappa sucked, and unless amends are made, their weaknesses will get them killed soon. My only wish was to see India lose and sort of limit my time spend on watching these scores. In the India A match on the other hand, the old men scored double centuries (Badrinath and Akash Chopra) while Tiwary and Pujara fell cheap. Also fell Md Kaif, who it seems, will never realize the dream of captaining Indian team to World Cup victory. The U-19 World cup was good enough. But you never know.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Janki and Mansoor (Chapter 3)

(Suryakant Tripathi)

I was telling you about Janki and Mansoor story. They call it my greatest hit. As if a case is a song. Maybe it is.

Ever heard the songs in local dialect that are popular among truck drivers from Uttar Pradesh? Each word is laden with so many bastard connotations that it is highly unlikely that you would have heard them. Unlikely, if you are the suave, city bred person you portray yourself to be. The tunes are worth a hum. Singing is bearable. But lyrics. Ah! Those lyrics! In the early nineties, when Gurgaon was an actual village, I used to be posted at the Border. By border I mean, Delhi Gurgaon border. Liquor used to be cheap at the border. Allowing people to go about their business has always been my policy, especially if I profit from it. I think I am a regular capitalist. In any case, those dhaba owners cut the chicken as easily as they cut the cop from a post of value, so better let them fry what they wish, and why not chomp on a free leg piece if I can.

Why am I telling you about the UP truck driver's favorites? Patience, you! Every story has its side-stories, without which an Indian story is going to be incomplete. Advice: Next time, pay attention. You must go and ransack a truck driver's collection of music. You will then understand why Altaf Raja, Ataullah Khan, Ila Arun and all the remixes as well as Himesh sell.

My first conversation with Mr. Agrawal was about a song we overheard from a truck. The saali (sister-in-law) sings to her jeeja (brother-in-law), "You have tasted my sister's, when will you taste mine", and after a pause comes the word "kheer" (rice & milk pudding). The chorus had a highly sensual sighing as the backdrop, the voice was nasal, and music was bummer, but lyrics made up for other shortcomings. Mr. Agrawal announced, "Saali! What a song!" I was in my uniform, and I guess Mr. Agrawal just had to know anyone in police and power to keep his books right. I smiled, and he beamed back, "Sit, sit. I'm Agrawal contractor. This truck is carrying cement to my site. Hey Raju! Get order from Sahib."

I was quite hungry and I was powerless in this situation. I'll tell you why I cut the chase and accepted the dinner. I could have said, "I have eaten." He would have said, "How can I ask you to sit and watch me eat alone. At least try the kheer." Now he hasn't asked me to pay for it, he just wants to order it. If I order it, and I need to pay for it, I don't want it, for I can't spend on food at restaurants, my meager salary cannot allow it. If I order it, and he wants to pay for it, he will have won half battle already for if I have eaten already, I can argue only so much about it. A newly made acquaintance has right to pay for the other, so I cannot call it bribery. It is a complex problem, so why go and scratch my head. "Get me a plate of Tandoori chicken, special onion salad, kadai paneer, raita and butter naan."

Agrawal was going to make it big was apparent to me in the very first meeting. The cement truck was loaded with ten extra sacks; he was saving not only on the taxes, but had obtained these for half price from the seller, who had no account of their existence in his purchase and selling history. My dinner was a long time investment Agrawal was making, and we both understood the concept of profit sharing. This was a couple of years before Manmohan Singh ushered his salvos against the license raj, and back then, it was people like Agrawal who greased the slow moving gears and motors of bureaucracy and could get any job done.

Agrawal was a stocky man of forty-five or so. He maintained a thick mustache and wore a red tilak on his forehead. Every sinner has his favorite God, the one he wishes to bribe with prayers, apologies, compensation and regular attention. Agrawal was a very religious man, and hence he worked with the blessings of late Chandraswamy as well as other political sadhus. After the dinner, Agrawal mentioned that he was holding a Satyanarayan Pooja at his house, and as a Brahmin, I could grace the occasion with my presence. You may say that I was walking into a trap by agreeing to the invitation, and I knew it quite well that Agrawal was setting me up. But I couldn't prove it, could I? If he gave 10,000 rupees to every Brahmin he fed on a Pooja, a religious rite, he gave maybe ten times the normal "gift" but that was religiously correct or acceptable. As it turned out, the seven Brahmins included a Junior Engineer in Delhi Housing Board Colony, two clerks from the office of Town Planning, one from Vigilance office, two clerks from the office of District Commissioner and me. We all agreed that Agrawal was a wise man with great future.

(To be continued.....)

Other chapters found here

Monday, September 10, 2007

Mujhe bhatakne do (मुझे भटकने दो)

कल का कलंक
आज का चिंतन
कल का स्वपन
मैं था,
मैं हूँ .

क्यों विरोध करती हो
मेरे बावलेपन का
अबोध नहीं मेरी सोच
सरल है -

इच्छाओं से त्रसित
वासना से सिंचित
अभी सूखी है,

पर कुछ समय दो
इस तृष्णा की तृप्ति के उपरांत
पुष्प और कनक भी उपजेगी

बांधना चाहती हो जिसको तुम
उसी नियत,
नियति को
कुछ ढील दो,
आकाश में उड़ते सभी पाखियों को
यह पतंगा चूमना चाहता है
कुछ ढील दो
क्यों सोचती हो कि क्षितिज लाँघ कर
मैं हवा हो जाऊंगा?

हर एक भ्रमनकारी भ्रमित नहीं होता
बहता है जब तक,
निश्चल रहता है जल,
साँस चलती रहती नहीं एक नियम में
जब मचलती है, जब गरजती है
तो ही हो सुर बनती है,
गीत बनती है

और बनती है क्रांति का आह्वान भी

मुझे मेरी राह से भटकने दो

क्या रखा है यूं भी हमारे समाज की
भ्रष्ट, भीरु, रूढ़िवादी रस्मों में
और यदि यथार्थ की कसौटी पर
यही परिपक्व, यही उत्कृष्ट सिद्ध हुई
तो मैं भी इनको अपना लूँगा

सम्भव है कि संसार में, हर युग में
नई परिभाषाएं बनती है
और पुरानी मटकियाँ टूटती हैं
तो प्यास नई नलकियों से बुझती हैं
मैं हूँ अभी संसार की उलझनों से मुक्त
मुझे भविष्य की फुटकार दे दे कर
मेरे वर्तमान में क्यों कुष्टा भरती हो
सम्भव है कि इस रोक टोक से
मैं पिंजरे-का शेर हट्टाकट्टा हो कर भी
भयभीत भीरु शिशु ही बना रह जाऊंगा

मुझे सीख दो, संभावना की चेतना दो
मेरे संस्कारों की दृढ़ता पर विश्वास करो
हर चोट से निखारुंगा मैं
विफलता अपराध नहीं होती
श्रापों और वनवासों के परिबल से
राम कृष्ण पांडव करण परुशराम अवतार तक
अपने जनम का पुरुषार्थ कर पाये
योगी वह नहीं जो गुफा में
सब साधन सब सुख संग रहता है
योगी वह है जो जीवन क्रय में
विलीन हो कर
धरम करम का प्रतिनिधि होता है.

(सर्व मंगल हो)
विवेक शर्मा

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Book review: Becoming jane

Becoming Jane is a collection of quotes from Jane Austen. As author of Pride and Prejudice alone, she would have deserved a place in list of one of greatest romance novelists of English Literature. She wrote six novels, and every novel deals with issues of love, marriage, relationship and friendship. While Elizabeth and Mr Darcy are most well known of her characters, Emma is my personal favorite. In these novels, the language is Victorian, sexual propriety is heeded to (as per the need of those times) and hence as love stories, these novels possess an innocence, a charm that has been hallmark of Austen's style, and has contributed to her popularity with people of all age groups about centuries. Becoming Jane collects her pearls of wisdom from not only her novels, but also from her personal letters.

The book is divided into various sections, each highlighting quotable lines related to say family, vanity, beauty or courtship. Anne Newgarden, the editor, introduces each section with some insight into writing, life and times of Jane Austen. Certain social practices and customs from Austen's time have faded away, and these mini-essays convey what background information is not available firsthand to readers to Austen. But Jane Austen was, like every good novelist, a creator of a world complete in itself; characters who exist outside and beyond their space and time; and hence are going to be always relevant and identifiable.

If you are an Austen fan, and you have read all her books already, you will like this book, as it will bring back the memory of certain passages or personalities from your earlier reading. You will also find additional quotes from her personal life, which are equally enjoyable. If you haven't read Jane Austen, and happen to read this book first, you will see why Jane Austen is so popular.

Here are a few quotes as example, collected in this book:

What dreadful Hot weather we have!- It keeps one in continual state of inelegance.

Friendship is certainly the finest balm for the pangs of disappointed love.

"It is such a happiness when good people get together and they always do." Miss Bates, in Emma

"The ladies probably exchanged looks which meant 'Men never know when things are dirty or not,' and the gentlemen perhaps thought each to himself, 'Women will have their little nonsenses and needless cares.'" from Emma.

".... there are certainly not so many men of large fortune in the world, as there are pretty women to deserve them" from Mansfield Park

"a lady's imagination is very rapid, it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony, in a moment." Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice

"If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more." from Emma

'A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of. It certainly may secure the myrtle and turkey part of it." Mansfield Park

"The person, be it gentlemen or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." Northanger Abbey

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Googlies: Darr, defeat, history at Lord's

India won the test series, England won the one day series. "Hisaab barabar" Accounts closed.

When England were about to win in Lord's last month, rains helped. Today even rain God was away, watching either the Rugby World Cup or maybe US Open. Ganguly was made to look silly, Uthappa and Yuvraj were contained nicely, Dhoni ran out of partners and Gambhir wasn't third time lucky. But in the end I think it was Dar, as Indians you might think I am talking of darr i. e. fear, and that could be correct to some extent, but it was the umpire Dar whose one finger rose and killed Dravid and Tendulkar.

What is a batsman in front of an umpire? An errant ant on a page, that can be finished by an index finger. As England captain said, to err is human. I guess he wanted us to be ok with the errors, and adopt the policy of forgiving as divine. But the real rule is "To err is human, to forgive divine, and to err again and again, just shows the errant is asinine." How I wish the same errors had repeated when Pieterson and Collingwood were batting.

I am not too disappointed by the outcome though. We were 3-1 down, and 6-1 could have been possible. Thankfully Flintoff turned a lame duck at the right moment, and Tendulkar and Ganguly put their hundred run partnerships, Yuvraj, Gambhir and Uthappa fired at the right moments. We cannot have have a 2002 Natwest like win at Lord's always.

If you ask me great thing about the one day series was how Piyush got Pieterson out more than once for cheap. Uthappa's quickfire assault in second last One day. Yuvraj's hitting in more than one match and how Dimitri handled him during five sixes climax. The greatest moment of the tour: when Kumble hit a four to get his century. Kumble, after 118 test matched and in his 115th innings, plays like a top order batsman to come really close to a well deserved hundred. He has bowled in tighest of situations before, he has all the experience and expertise an Indian can have in handling pressure. He is well set. Out jumps Kumble, with determination to hit the ball out. The bat makes contact with the ball, and takes an inside edge, misses the stumps, misses the keeper and runs to the rope. Kumble, in those few minutes must have said, "Shit! Miss! Shit! Yaaaaaay!" When he raised his bat for applause, he appeared at once human and divine. Here to him, lets raise our hands and clap him out of what could be his last tour of England as a cricketer. I am sure Ganguly, Dravid and Tendulkar will be there another once. Lets give our greatest bowler the applause and recognition he deserves. To you, Anil! Our greatest Googlies came from you:)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Googlies: Uthappa, Ganguly, Tendulkar and Five sixes off Yuvraj.

He was almost caught, but our kid Piyush went over the rope. Then the ball went higher and higher and higher and in a span of five balls Yuvraj had conceded five sixes. Thankfully, it was the last over of England Innings. Dravid could have opted for Agarkar, but no sir, he had more faith in Yuvraj. Since Yuvraj is a part time bowler, so I guess we will forgive him. The fact of the matter is that Dimitri could have scaled any bowler. So I guess Agarkar will be all smiles tonight for escaping unscathed, as a mere spectator. Sometimes I worry that Agarkar will unleash a self everyone expects from him, and then we will all watch shamefaced. After all, he hold the record for getting to fastest fifty wickets and one of the fastest fifties as well. He is among the top five wicket takers in Indian One Day history, and yet, we cannot ever seem to trust the dude.

Uthappa is the obvious talk point for the day. But wait. We must remember that Ganguly reached his 11th half century of 2007 today. Lets hold grudges against him, for we know he is capable of scoring at faster pace, and he could have converted at least some of his half efforts into three figure scores. Lets throw all the mud we have got at him, for we would have done that if we had lost the game. Or maybe, for once, lets just thank the bloke for batting sensibly enough, and bringing the ship close to the shore. Tendulkar got the man of the match, cramps, another missed hundred (he has 41 already, so what?) and universal cheer. Even though his name is Gambhir, no one takes the guy seriously. Second time this week, he came and batted wisely and nicely. But then came the great Indian collapse and chaos. Unbelievable it was, when India won the match, and how!

Enter Uthappa. Asking rate rising. Wickets falling. Dhoni goes. Left with Agarkar, Powar, Zaheer and Piyush. Uthappa's first match of the series. A failure here means more bench time. India watching. Most have given up hope already. Only die hard fans and diseased optimists hoping for a miracle. Most certain that their prayers will be wasted. One run out. Thank God Uthappa survived. Another run out. This was cruel. Zaheer was just doing the right thing, had run out of the crease a little and ball hit by Uthappa went straight to the bowler. Two more batsmen left. When Uthappa walked across, and guided the ball to the boundary rope, scooping the ball as if with a spade, and throwing it back, to the boundary rope, a hundred million smiles flashed. Maybe more. Then came the next ball, but after some talk between the bowler and England Captain. Each second exploded like a tense wire of the nerves across the nation. Finally the bowler starts running. Uthappa strikes the ball clean. A fielder dives. Ball escapes. Boundary. Win. Uthappa, only 21, jumps and so does the nation overjoyed!

Cricket, on days like this, is nerve racking, intense, exhilarating. Making it 3-3 after India was 3-1 down was sweet. Doing it with this style: Priceless.

Hail Uthappa! Hail Ganguly and Tendulkar! Hail Cricket!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The End of The Affair by Graham Greene

The End of the Affair has Graham Green's trademark brevity. Short sentences. Short chapters. Simple narrative. Deep insight. The chief protagonist is a writer Bendrix who has an affair with Sarah, the wife of a civil servant, Henry. One day Sarah stops meeting Bendrix. Two years later, Bendrix comes in contact with Henry and comes to know of Henry's suspicion about his wife having an affair. Driven by jealousy and hate, Bendrix hires a detective, Parkis to investigate Sarah and her affair.

As the novel progresses, we come face to face with Bendrix's love and hate for Sarah and the jealousy and risk that such an affair involves. A strange camaraderie between Parkis and Brendix as well as Brendrix and Henry is the highlight of the story. In many ways, the novel is also a story about the belief and disbelief in God, a question all protagonists face in their own way. The novel weaves a complex and very heartfelt story of adultery and hate, interspersed with romance without sentimentality, and spiritual contexts without the need for discourse.

Since the protagonist Maurice Bendrix is a writer, the novel has an erudite and expert discourse on art of novel as the backdrop. The ideas about craftsmanship, inspiration, need to have first hand experiences and information, the fickle fame or lack of it, monetary hardships, the drudgery of writing as a daily task and the humane side of author are all explored as an undercurrent.

The End of the Affair is a great read for it manages to convey so many aspects of human relationships and how the emotions evolve and inter-mesh with rational and irrational events and emotions. It is a great book about the nature of atheist and how a belief system knocks at his door in times of guilt, sorrow, melancholy, love or the inexplicable. It is as much a story of bonding and unbonding between people brought together by the carnal needs, as is a story of men joined together by shared pain and memories. The heroine Sarah is very likable, the writer Bendrix is very believable, Parkis is unforgettable and entertaining and Henry is a nicely crafted character. The book is fairly short in length and is recommended for all it encompasses.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Janki and Mansoor (Chapter 2)

Chapter 2


When I think of myself, of Janki twenty years back, I see myself as this other person. What a year was it! Two murders that changed my life forever. When I told you the story, I kept myself detached from it. Even as I told you the gist of what happened, the scenes, the events played before my eyes. I saw myself in Janki, and yet all those scenes appeared fictional. Unlike what writers proclaim in novels, the past does not show itself in crisp digital technicolor quality. Memory puts a lot of dust and smoke on our past. If you send me back in time, I will neither recognize myself, nor Mr Agrawal and least of all Mansoor bhaisahib.

I was thirty five back then, my sons were thirteen and sixteen years old. Rajesh was quite fat back then, and his younger brother, Rakesh, was exceptionally thin. Now both my sons are married, have the typical Agrawal pouch and have their own sons in the image of Mr. Agrawal. Are they really like their grandfather? Can a fifty-five year old widow see clearly? If a widow had no photograph of her deceased husband for twenty years, would she remember his face? The smell shows up at awkward places; even in places like toilets, which is no place to remember them who you revere so. Yet toilets seem to be the only places where you can sit, relax and think these days. Ever since the Industrial Revolution (a manufacturing sector boom) started in 2009, India has turned into a high speed, fast paced nation. It is hard to even think of India of 1992, when cable TV was just coming in, software sector did not exist, economic liberization was considered a bane, Ram mandir issue was daily news, and I was a dumb housewife who knew nothing about business, politics and marketing.

A death alters everything. A husband's death is typically a wife's death too. No wonder they used to burn the wife alive as Sati during the nineteenth century. I could not let his dream die, and so I had to live. Yet it is one thing to dream, yet another to have your wife realize it. To tell you what happened in last twenty years, requires me to talk about things in a greater detail. Don't blame me for inconsistencies in my story; if I were good in memorizing stuff, I would have scored a distinction in my twelfth exams. I married a month after I turned eighteen. So I never got the college education, factually which holds the same value these days that fifth grade graduation had in my time. Most people think I am a graduate; Mr Agrawal had bought a BA (Bachelor of Arts) Hindi Honors degree for me from Dehradoon. Mr. Agrawal was very enterprising in that way.

When Mansoor bhaisahib was in jail on corruption charges, I was the one who bailed him out. When my first son was born, we were tenants in his house. Our financial situation was awful back then. Rakesh was ten months old when my breasts refused to comply with his hunger. We had barely enough to eat. Mansoor Bhaisahib had waived off rent for two months (secretly of course) to let me have extra money for buying milk for my son. When Rajesh broke his leg few years later, it was Mansoor Bhaisahib who took him to the hospital, and paid for the cost of X-ray, plastering and medicines. It was his love for my sons, and the love of his wife for them, that I never forgot. The God was so moved by their affection for my sons, that he gave them gift of child after ten years of barren marriage. Mansoor Bhaisahib was always helpful to us, and always said that Rakesh and Rajesh brought him good luck. As if! He was like a Mama to them and always had good advice and gifts for them. Mr. Agrawal could afford to forget, a mother is different.

Things are not easy to explain when there is so much to explain. Mr. Agrawal was one of the millions who had to leave Pakistan during partition. He was only a year old when his family left Pakistan, and you cannot really expect a baby to know of a homeland, let alone have an attachment to it. But he inherited a hate for Muslims, for his father lost two of four sisters and Mr. Agrawal lost his mother to the lust of Muslim pigs. The fact that another Muslim family had hidden other sisters, fed Mr. Agrawal as a baby was somehow washed out of the memory that bore scars of hate since then. Yet whenever he spoke to Mansoor, Mr. Agrawal maintained a demeanor that never reflected what he really felt. Things were simple till we had lived in Mansoor's house on rent. Things were fine before the Housing Board building collapsed. Things were alright till Suryakanth Tripathi came into the picture.

To be continued...

Previous chapters found here