माँ

अब नींद नहीं आती तो थोड़ा धड़कन को सुन लेता हूँ,
मैंने दिल में माँ की लोरी छुपाकर रखीं है |
सर्दी में ओढ़ लेता हूँ एक पुराना कंबल,
मैंने माँ के आँचल की गरमाहट बचाए रखीं है |

माँ के आशीर्वाद से बड़ा फ़ायदा क्या?
माँ की नसीहत से बड़ा क़ायदा क्या?
मंदिर के तीर्थ में कहाँ मिलता है अमृत
मैंने माँ के आँसुओं की नमी बचाए रखीं है |

कौन बताए सही ग़लत किस राह पर चल पड़े?
कौन बताए दुश्मन दोस्त जिससे हम लड़ पड़े?
खामोशी की चीख़ हो या शोर में सन्नाटा
मैंने जेहन में अब भी माँ बसाए रखीं है |

O Captain! My Captain!

Dear Balasaheb,

Rest in peace. Being a father to a state like Maharashtra for more than 4 decades must be very tiring. Standing up for the weak, helping the lost find their self esteem, taking up issues every one else was shit scared of even talking about and above all, being relentless in the pursuit of establishing, nourishing and propagating your ideology must be a hell of a job to be accomplished by a single man. Just imagining all this makes me want to quit and leave town. And yet, you did all that, and did it in a way that made you larger than life for us,   a Demi God of sorts.

The reactions to your death were polarizing, to say the least. People are saying that we are being ‘forced’ to mourn. How can you ‘force’ a son to mourn for his father? How is it possible for us NOT to feel it’s the end of the world when one of the pillars of our identity crashes? How naive can people get in their assumptions of others? As I’m typing these very words, there are an estimated 2 million people on the streets in Mumbai, just to pay their last respects to you. Are they being ‘forced’ to do that? Is it ‘fear’ that is driving them? Did someone stuff their pockets with a wad of notes and the promise of alcohol? Can people be this fuckwitted to question our emotions for you? I guess I can only answer the last question today – Yes.

The apathy today has reached a point where a person who’s just been in Mumbai for 2 odd years thinks he understands enough about you and the Shiv Sena’s ideology and Mumbai’s fabric to comment on your influence on us. For him the Shiv Sena is all about V-Day hooliganism and vandalism of controversial arts. Shiv Sena starts and ends there. He derides your politics because having a cultural identity is bad according to his highly developed, cultured, ‘liberal’ intellect. I don’t even pity him. He has ignored the most important fact of your life – fighting for those who couldn’t. He has ignored your fight to help regain the self-esteem of the ‘marathi manoos‘, who was being ridiculed in his own home as a ‘ghaati‘. He has ignored the fact that right at this moment, Kashmiri Pandits are mourning your death as much as we Maharashtrians because they revere what you did for them. He has ignored that had it not been for you, Mumbai would be run over by Bangladeshi illegal immigrants and he wouldn’t have a place to dry his underwear. I bet he was shit scared when Mumbai was attacked on 26/11. I bet his dimwitted, warped intelligence and pathetic grasp of the situation won’t allow him to understand the havoc those illegal immigrants could have caused. For him, all these issues are irrelevant because they don’t affect people like him living in high rises. For him it’s just a matter of opposing anything anyone does which is outside the established and approved thinking and actions, benchmarks of which have been decided by a handful of elitist socialite columnists and ‘intellectuals’. Like these people, he doesn’t understand nor care about the common Mumbaikar who actually goes through this. And when the time comes to right the wrongs, these elitists are nowhere to be found, even when people bang on their doors and beg them to come out and do something as simple as cast their votes. He, like the people he draws his twisted view of the world from, are willing to defend defamation of my Gods being passed as ‘art’, but is cold blooded enough not to feel anger that my Gods were made the subjects of said ‘art’. Little does he realize that had that artist used his own religion’s prophet as a subject of his paintings, the backlash would’ve been near fatal. He prides himself in Hinduism’s freedom, and yet does nothing when that very freedom is abused and humiliated.

I too have demons of my own to slay. I didn’t agree with your protests and vandalism of V-Day. What Marathi youngsters today lack are a proper education about our culture and it’s strength, virtues and values. That is just bad parenting, more than anything else. That coupled with how V-Day is marketed (a way to express your love for your girlfriend / boyfriend, rather than a universal expression of love) is why that day is eagerly waited upon by youngsters. To target them physically won’t solve problems. And yet, more than that, I’m eternally grateful to you for often doing what I was too much of a coward to do. Like when I wanted to but couldn’t defend my religion, or when I wanted Mumbai to breathe again and not be subjected to the hordes of illegal immigrants. That is my solace. That is my redemption. Knowing and understanding what you did, and being able to see what it meant for the average Maharashtrian. Perhaps that’s the reason why today out of the 2 million grown ass, hardened people on the roads that are crying their hearts out for you, none are the typical page 3 mourners. On your last journey, you’re surrounded by the people you loved and fought for, and who loved you back. For all of us, you are the hero we needed and the hero we deserved.

I have a sneeky feeling that people hate you just because all your life you said and did what they could say in the comforts and anonymity of their living rooms and the internet. They too wanted to use cuss words in public, berate the corruption riddled, blood sucking government, but couldn’t find an ounce of courage to do it. And when you did it, their coached civility and the shepherds who herded them forbade them from applauding you, and their instructions manual asked them to condemn you. Such is the inbred hypocrisy around here that while you were targetted as being communal, MPs in Hyderabad walked, and continue to walk scott free after giving hate speeches on a daily basis. Such is the sycophancy today that while people worship the feet of the family that was forced down their throats, your’s is called a Mafia family and we, your followers are labelled blind whose ‘intelligence is hijacked by hormones’ (sic).

A hypnotist who ruled the subconsciousness of an entire state, a strategist who fought in the trenches and checkmated kings in their own courts, an orator who mesmerized millions, a leader who was as relentless as he was astute, Maharashtra’s Tiger who when sprang his claws drew blood, without the slightest care for opinion or votes. Words fail me to describe what you meant to this state, how burdened we are by your debt to us, and how disturbed at the thought that try as we might we won’t be able to fully repay you for what you’ve done for us. To quote Walt Whitman –

Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

DELTA1

Hero Worship

A footballer, not particularly well known, falls on the ground in a match. he’s taken to the hospital, in critical condition, where it’s announced that he’s fighting life and death. Over the next few weeks during the course of his recovery, people fall over themselves on Twitter and Facebook in showing their support for him. It’s boils down to who has the most eloquent, soul stirring, inspiring 140 characters to show support on his path to recovery. All this time, the true test of character is reserved only for him and his family as they grapple with this adversity. As he completes his recovery, people lose interest, and he fades into the same normalcy from which he was pulled into the cold limelight. Within a matter of days, a quarter of a turn around the globe, an unknown footballer falls on the ground during a match in a city, and dies due to the lack of the most basic of medical infrastructure needed to take him to a hospital. His death goes largely unnoticed. Later, on a Facebook football forum created by some friends, a supporter of an English football club from that same country shows his solidarity with families and friends of 96 fans who lost their lives in a tragic stampede at an English football ground many years ago. Chances are he wasn’t even born at the time the tragedy occurred, leave alone know about the club he supports. He doesn’t make any posts related to the death of that unknown footballer who died less than a 1000 kms away from him.

A cricketer, once a rising star, then branded arrogant and wasteful by some, regains his stature in the World Cup, only to be diagnosed with cancer immediately afterwards. People take it as their duty to encourage him, re-tweet and favourite his tweets and shared photos. A processed foods company comes up with their signature adverts saying ‘We’re in this together’. He finds a new meaning to life as he fully recovers and claims his stake to his position in the starting line up of the national team. The media finds a new darling – a hero that can inspire millions fighting this monstrosity of a disease. Meanwhile the fact that a majority of those millions don’t have the financial means to fight this disease is conveniently ignored. Even more ignored are those countless success stories in which ordinary people go broke in winning this fight and come back from the worst stages of cancer, and live.

A guerrilla group’s leader hits global consciousness as his heinous acts are publicized and authorities are pressurized to act with urgency. College going kids take an oath to make him famous by showing what horrible acts he has committed, and everyone jumps on the bandwagon. Engineering students from a city nicknamed ‘The Oxford Of The East’ are interviewed by the leading local newspaper where they share their plans to stick posters about the leader on the college walls to ‘make him famous’ and draw attention to his atrocities. Ask them about the number of infanticides in their city in an year, and chances are they’ll be dumbfounded.

The heir apparent to a nation’s Prime Ministership consoles a 10 year old boy who lost his father, a police officer, in a Naxal attack by saying, ‘I know how it feels to lose a father.’ The nation swoons. The subservient media glorifies the politician’s statement even further. Tons of ink blackens paper in singing his praises. Not one self righteous journalist comments on the fact that the politician has a last name that opens locks of the nation’s treasury and is the only qualification required to rule the political party and country. Whereas the little child will perhaps be forced to beg on the streets before he receives even half of his father’s ‘Full and Final Settlement’ amount.

The bravest woman I had the privilege to know saw her husband go from a healthy man, without any medical history, to a corpse in the matter of 14 days, while she herself fought a losing battle against her arch nemesis, cancer. There are no records of her bravery, no songs of her valour when she confronted death twice – once of the only man she ever loved, and when it returned to claim her. Her memories only linger on in the hearts of her children, her mother who watched her lose, and her awestruck family. Her story is perhaps more inspiring than the hyped up battles of those with the means to fight them easily and yet she remains a statistical number. There are countless others like her, who displayed human will at its magnificent best, braving the odds to fight such wars without caring about the consequences, only to be relegated to the shadows of the unknown, no matter what the outcome.

Hero worship is not what it used to be. Heroes are no longer defined by their character, their actions, their ability to inspire the commonest of the common. They’re instead defined by the visibility they receive through the manic tweeting fingers, perpetually in a race to outpace everyone else in being the first to post about that perceived heroic act on social media. Everyone knows everything about the chosen heroes, and yet no one is truly inspired by them. The only return sought on this investment of characters in a post is the visibility that post can receive, gaining likes, re-tweets, followers and shares in the process. The man who walked thousands of miles against the atrocious policies of an empire is etched in immortality, and yet the hundreds of thousands of ghosts who followed him to make his agitation a success receive not even a footnote’s worth of space in the annals of history.

When the ashes turn cold and the dust settles, the people who trend on twitter will always be forgotten. Facebook likes will become meaningless. Inspiration will remain a buzzword associated with posters with abstract images and fancy quotes.

What will persist is our failure to recognize true heroes, without the crutches of the instruments of hype.

DELTA1

Cup’s Home.

Back after a wild party on the street. No one knows anybody else out there, but everyone is everybody else’s best friend tonight. The one thing that binds this country together, has also brought us our biggest joy in recent years, and the biggest festival of any of the numerous religions followed here. But then again, if one has to look closely, it will be clear that the real religion is, cliched as it might sound right now, CRICKET.

We are a country that is pulled apart by ideologies that are in stark contrast to each other. We are a nation where everyone is looking in a different direction, of their own choosing or ignorance, and lack a leader who can point out the right direction and make everyone look there. But come match day, everyone is a follower of cricket. Race doesn’t matter, religion is forgotten, social class is banished, gender is ignored, all that remains is the pure, unadulterated love for the game. And tonight, that love for the game has reached it’s crescendo.

2003 was a heartbreak. 2007 was a shame. What followed was a painful rebuilding exercise. Stung by a divisive coach who ended up ruining the careers of two of the finest players of our generation, we knew this was not the way to build a world conquering team. We got a young, unknown face to replace a veteran as the captain – wicketkeeper. A mild mannered South African took on the stressful job of the coach. We found talent from the under 19 team, and also began grooming the youngsters from the regional sides. Somewhere on the strategy boards of the dressing rooms, a team was taking shape.

In the meantime, we started winning. And we started winning big. The Australians were ridiculed at their home, and only an apology of a match at Sydney meant we didn’t come up aces. But we crushed them at Perth. Other championship material teams were also ruthlessly taken care of. We became a force to be reckoned with. A team that had suddenly found its killer instinct. A team that had the brashness and ‘in-your-face’ attitude of the Australian team, but not their arrogance, and certainly not their foul mouths and dishonest ways.

More knowledgeable people than me will always maintain that the recently retired Australian captain was a true legend of his craft. I would politely, but strongly disagree. He had the privilege to lead stalwarts, absolute masters of their trade, against sides that were in awe of the sheer mountain of skill and talent that was facing them. He himself was always a top notch batsman, but nowhere near to the gentleman in the ‘Gentleman’s Game’. The truth is he was handed a champion team by his legendary predecessor, and also received tutelage from the master. Whereas our captain worked from the ground up. He actually built a group of players that could be depended on to perform on international stages. Players that had nerves, and could hold on to them, even to the very last one. He put on an icy cool exterior that was never confused, never flummoxed, never worried, never angry, even if the world around him was falling to pieces. That personification of composure was what gave his troops the confidence to pull out victories out of hopeless situation, something our team was not known to do. If history should ever judge the greats who toiled as captains, I daresay it will stand on a desk, and call out to the Indian team captain as ‘O Captain! My Captain!’

Through all this, one player, who had crossed every line, every statistic, every hurdle had carried on with the dogged determination of a mountaineer on a mission to conquer mount Everest. He was not playing for himself, for that would be too easy. He carried on his shoulders the expectations of an entire nation. In a nation  that  treats its favourite game as a religion, its favourite son was its God. Considered in a class of his own, even by his own equals, he was slowly finding a new level of performance, even at this late stage in his long walk. The early part of the new millennium was not very kind to him, and there was a repeated speculation about his eminent retirement. He never found it necessary to reply back. His own famous words after a match winning effort succinctly summed up his attitude towards everything – ‘When someone throws stones at you, you convert them into milestones.’  He found his second wind, and he just blew everyone away.

It’s 4 am on April 3rd, 2011. The feeling hasn’t sunk in. I was on the street and it was mayhem, chaos, insane. But none of it was disturbing. It all felt right. It all felt natural. I shouted slogans and hooted so loud I must have torn my windpipe. I bled blue, needless to say, but such was the intensity that it must have healed by itself. In any case, I was too busy reveling to notice it. If any country has malicious designs on my country, just look at the celebrations today. This is the united India. We are an unstoppable force when we charge. We are an immovable object when we shield.

In a nation besieged by corruption, social inequality, religious divide and political opportunism, there is one game that rules us all, one game that binds us . One game that makes Gods out of mortals, and followers out of fans.  One game that makes a nation realize that we PROUDLY bleed the same blood, red or blue. One game that makes us insane, makes us laugh and makes us cry. One game, that makes us dream, and lets us live them.

For what are we, if we can’t dream, or live them?

 

DELTA1

 

 

 

Night Falls, Knight Reigns.

Dear Christopher, Christian, Heath ( rest in peace man),

My memories of watching Batman on TV or in the movies prior to ‘Batman Begins’ were mainly of Batman saying something witty, fluorescent lights and bright scenes, a dramatic and theatrical ‘Two Face’. But the more i read Batman comics, the more I hated those movies, because they failed so miserably to capture who Batman truly was. All they knew was that Batman was just another superhero fighting on the side of good and winning against evil. But the essence of being Batman, being a hero who stood steadfast in the face of the greatest challenge and defeat, of being the world’s greatest detective, was still nowhere to be seen in those movies.

Had Batman been real, he’d probably watch this movie sitting in a lofty corner of a dark multiplex, unnoticed and would study every scene as it unfolded. He’d definitely study the games the joker plays and would be prepared for them. This movie, for the Batman, would be like looking in a mirror and coming to terms with what is. I daresay he’d have learnt a few tricks from this movie.

Had the Joker been real, he’d probably get a complex watching Heath Ledger play a joker so convincingly it makes the real one look like a fake. Being a sadist, and yet the will to find humour in others’ suffering, is something only a villain like the Joker can enjoy enjoy doing. Heath perhaps set the records straight by creating the best ( or worst) villain ever to play on a movie screen. (I’ve watched some movies, but have never come across a villain so intense…).

So thank you. Thank you for finally placing Batman where he belongs, as the greatest superhero ever created. Thank you for treating him with the intensity only Batman can have. Thank you for creating his arch nemesis, and locking them into an eternal battle. Thank you for creating a Joker that truly is a “clown” “prince” of crime, and making people shiver with the working of his convoluted mind. Thank you for showing Two Face the way his creators did, and not a Tommy-Lee-Jones lunatic and crazy wannabe.

Thank you for a wonderful movie experience and the satisfaction of watching my favourite superhero the way I like him to be.

Batman forever,

DELTA1

 

Devastating Dominance

Dear Aussies,

I daresay you all must be pretty shocked, to say the least. James Hopes in despair and disillusioned at the fall of his wicket was perhaps a snapshot of what your team has become in this series – From world champions to broken down men without an ounce of brain or common sense. How did you manage such a avalanche by yourselves? Don’t you know that the biggest weakness of any person or any team is underestimating others. And that is precisely what you did. You are so proud of yourselves, aren’t you? that you can just sledge and foul mouth your way to victory. I don’t deny that you have some of the most talented players in world cricket today, but then even those players resort to such underhand tactics and that too, off the field!!! What a pity then, that those same players are fucked by their victims!!!  I was so pissed of at all the guys who made fun of Andrew Symonds by calling him a monkey. Why do you have to insult the monkeys? And we in India worship them… this is sheer blasphemy!!!

Symonds, Hayden, Ponting… the bigger they are, the harder they fell (and I mean this both literally and figuratively).

Damn right we don’t have any flair or flamboyance! Damn right we are a team of the unknown and inexperienced! but I think we have taught you some valuable things in this tour. You didn’t win the Sydney test because you played better, we lost of because of some fucking bad umpiring decisions from some of the better umpires on the world circuit. We slit your throat in the Perth test and then filled it with the coarsest salt by winning it, and we DID outplay you there. And puh-lease don’t even get me started on the Tri-Series!!! Shame on you… bloody world champions!!!

Don’t ever make this mistake of cooking up controversies by calling people “obnoxious little weeds”, because rest assured, those same “weeds” have the calibre to pluck you out like feathers on a bird. I’m so happy because the Indian team has finally figured out how to play a game. Play Hard, Play Fast, Play to Win.

Never your’s

DELTA1

P.S. Sorry for the slangs used above. We Indians don’t believe in using such language in a mass medium, but I thought let’s talk to the Aussies in a language they understand.

Ferrari 1-2, the Red Devils score…this should be promising…

Massa has a soft corner for Turkey… i am sure. The Prancing Horses had a perfect weekend with Massa on pole going on to win the race and Kimi coming home a fine second. The Mclarens never looked threatening and Hamilton’s tyre failure was another factor to play in Ferrari’s favour. But is is a case of too little too late??? with just 5 odd races remaining, Kimi will have to close a mammoth 16 point deficit and then win some more to beat Hamilton to the title race. With the Englishman’s pace and competitive package, that looks very difficult. And Alonso wont just sit there and let the took take away the coveted spot. He’ll do everything he can to make life miserable for them. This season is heading for a photo-finish it seems.

 

Elsewhere, in the EPL, Manchester United finally registered a win against Tottenham Hotspur with screamer from the Portuguese playmaker Nani. That was one helluva shot and must’ve made any manager and fan proud. But the problem is that MU have started with a huge disadvantage and only time will tell whether they can recover from these early disappointments.

 

May the Scuderia and the Red Devils win them all…

 

DELTA1