March 31, 2011

The Long Walk Back

I met him the first day of the IIMB interaction. I thought he was one of the nicer guys. I invaded his computer the night after I gave my AuMale interview to leech Scrubs off his FTP and I thought he was a fantastic guy. Then he egged me on to continue in marketing and joined SNDU a year before me. And I thought, he was a super guy. Then he joined my team and it was like a breath of fresh air and I thought he was an awesome guy.

And then, as we were in Colombo, he got me to the Premadasa for a World Cup Semi Final – My first. And he proved that he was a super rock star. Actually I always knew it. Few people have this kind of a passion for anything. The Coke Tag of Eat Cricket, Sleep Cricket comes true with him. Thanks crazy follower of Little Master. The Manoos should be proud of you.

Anyway, while we were sitting at an awesome place watching the match I suddenly noticed that the walk back to the pavilion was really long and in the TV screen we never get to understand what goes on as one walks back after losing his wicket or as they call it – take the long walk back. It’s beautifully tragic in some ways. A lot of people walk the last walk back. They know they will never be on the 22 yards again and that realization suddenly makes you wonder about the transient nature of the world around us.

The atmosphere was electric. I think the greatest gift a sportsperson gets is to stand in front of a full stadium and hear the National Anthem of the country. It does not matter if the crowd is supporting or opposing you. Both have their charms and can give you the goose bumps beyond imagination.

The drums, the beer, the hairdos, the last ball of Murali on home soil and a wicket. You could not have asked for more. As he says there is always a compelling historical fact somewhere. The Sri Lankan Team has never lost a WC semi final in South Asia that my family has watched on the ground :)

The next day was the Mother of All Matches. India Pakistan in a World Cup Semi final. And interestingly I watched it with the super awesome guy mentioned above (SAG), the super excited boss, the Amaze-ing Lady and a friend from Pakistan (FFP). And as much as I would have liked to be a nice person and be neutral about the match, I don’t think I handled it too well.

Cricket and I have been strange companions ever since that Chemistry Class in Class 9 when our teacher caught hold of me on one of those not so rare occasions when I missed an organic chemistry twister and said, “if Sachin scores a century what’s it with you?” Since then I think I have always put cricket on the backseat if there was something more important. So on the day of the Mother Match, I was actually talking to Sri Lankan kids about their food habits, aspirations, choices and I don’t think I missed the game too much while I was at it.

But then I arrived just after God of Cricket lost his wicket and all hell broke loose from there. SAG and I rocked the entire Cinnamon Lakeside with our constant cheering and just could not be the nice neutral people. It was an India Pak Semi final. Poor FFP- he was outnumbered 2 to 1.

And then the three of us returned back to our rooms. Finally, watching a match which had so much more cricket than politics in it; we had fun all the way. The Long Walk Back takes a new meaning altogether.

But now, it’s time for blood, sweat and blue. The final hurdle is yet to be crossed.

March 27, 2011

And That’s When I Realized

It’s said Eve came from Africa. And that’s why perhaps the Africans believe that “nothing is too heavy to take back to your Mother.” So while I can claim to be from a place that held the cradle of civilization, I think Africa in all its raw grandeur can always claim to be the cradle of humanity itself. It’s where the boy Tarzan had been told, “Tarzan! You have to be humble if you want to live in the jungle.”

My closest friends know what South Africa meant to me many moons back and thus it seemed apt that this was the place where I learnt some of the most important messages of my life. Some were just plain vanilla good; some disturbing; some even raising more questions than solving.

  1. And while I sit at the 19th Floor of the Westin overlooking the harbour waterfront, where the giant Ferris Wheel still is lit up, waiting for the network finally to connect me to the rest of the world, I want to write.

And that’s when I realized, how important this blog has been to me to let out my inner self even when friends were not around. I have never remembered birthdays. Neither did I for this blog. But a few days back it did complete its four years and that deserves a standing ovation.

  1. This was the first trip where I went around spending money left, right and centre. While I was coming to Cape Town, everyone under the sun warned me that it was an expensive place and it turned out just that. Everyone warned me to stay safe, in more ways than one, and probably it was not as bad. Yes, the main markets seemed to shut down pretty much by 6 and the grandeur of the evening bazaar of Istanbul was missing. But the markets showcased the beauty of the raw African talent and their art. Wares came from every nook and corner of Africa, each figurine representative of the tribe they were made by. I think that scared me a bit. I was no longer a backpacker running behind a truck to take me to Jhajjhar and it made sense to play safe.

And that’s when I realized, I behaved like a spoilt rich kid who was a sissy and the nomad was dying.

  1. Green market square was a unique place to window shop. As soon as I entered it, I remembered all the horror stories you read as a kid about African dolls coming alive in the middle of the night. The graphics were different than whatever I have ever seen. If I were more conversed with art I could have said what they were, but to me it seemed more like extremely well done stick graphics; as if nothing much has changed since the days the Maori danced their spears and told their grandchildren of the lion they had tamed. And how sad they were that the King had gone on to become another star in the sky. In that market, I met shopkeepers who weren’t the best of them all. And in some faces, it showed desperation to close a deal. The value chain was perhaps as bad as it is for an onion farmer in India. The same artefacts were selling at double the cost 10 kms away at the waterfront. Perhaps this sale would mean buying there dinner for the night. And there she told me, “you are talking about 10 Rands and the coffee you will have tonight will cost you more.”

And that’s when I realized, the fight for survival is the greatest fight for all.

  1. One night after a great dinner at Camp’s bay where I for the first time touched the waters of the Atlantic, we hailed a taxi to come back. The gentleman was twice my size and for some reason we did feel scared. But then we got talking and he was the most inquisitive man I have ever met. He had questions on India, on religions, marriages and everything else possible in a 20 minute drive. In fact, I wish in the future I get only such people working with me; an undying desire for knowledge.

And that’s when I realized, stereotypes are ingrained in our first impressions.

(to be continued)

March 18, 2011

It’s Time for Africa

So finally the wheels turned and after three years, I finally am in Africa, the most mysterious of all continents, perhaps even more than Asia can ever be. Romantics have written pages after pages on the Far East and the Indian sub continent, but very few places in the world have captured human imagination in the way Africa has done. The mystical Shamans, the lure of the diamonds, the vast bushlands and stories of man’s triumph over nature and in the process its slow but inevitable destruction.

SNDU being a good employer has kept us in a nice hotel and as I entered the room I saw the Table Mountains on my left and the harbour on the right and nestled in the cosy warmth of the land in between lay the beautiful city of Cape Town.

And somewhere close by lies Robben Island.

Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.