Thursday, July 27, 2006

Yaad ayenge woh pal....

What is ‘special’? How would you make a particular event special? If given a choice between selecting one from all the special moments of your life, which one would you choose? How would you rate one event as more special than the other? For all these questions, as of now at least, the answer for me is My Birthday. It is the day that celebrates my very existence! Now why should you believe that my birthday is truly ‘THE ONE’…? Well in this respect I can safely say that, “ Apun ko 24 years ka experience hai :)….”

In the formative years of my life, it was special because it was a day when I would wear ‘colored clothes’ (those days that’s what we called Non-Uniform clothes) to school, distribute sweets in the class (which made me feel that I ruled the class then) and one day when no one would or rather was allowed to yell at me :) then in college it became special because of the hajar parties I had, the many surprises and even more gifts…. But now it is special to me, because this is what people around me make me feel on this day. Everyone would go that extra mile to make me smile a little longer through the year!!!! I always acknowledged this sweet thing that everyone did for me every year but then some part of me always wanted to keep these moments not only in the by-lanes of my memory but also as instruments giving me vicarious pleasure when the chips were down. That’s when I started to pen down my thoughts; something like ‘Memoirs of Sharmili’ if you may say so.

Frankly I don’t remember exactly when I started to write down everything that happened on 22nd July…. But what I do remember is that as time went by I added new dimensions to this habit…. Slowly I started to try and stay up the entire day…. An hour spent sleeping was an hour wasted of my special day… then I started to note down every call, every message and every wish that I got (as childish as it my sound)… but I had a justification for all those who told me that this was childish…. That it is always nice to know that so many people took time out of their hectic lives and thought of me on this day and they took pains to just to pass on their good wishes to me… this is definitely something that adds to the specialty of the day, doesn’t it?

So as birthdays passed my, these parameters remained the same but what changed were the goals…. Meaning initially I stayed up for 19 hours, then 21 hours and finally reaching that golden number of 24 hours…. Similarly for the wish list…. First it was just a list of names who wished me, then became a list which had to cross a magical figure of 100 and finally it became a list which assured that the names of all those in my close circle wished me…. But the most satisfying part were the write-ups…. Every tiny detail was entered in them…. Friends gave a surprise visit or a surprise party, a friend who overcame all the long distance difficulties just to ensure that their gifts and wishes reached me on this day, a family who did everything in their capacity to brighten my day, flowers which were sent at my doorstep early morning so that their freshness freshens my day….. Though time dimmed the luster of the gifts, dried the flowers in the bouquet and reduced the impact of the surprises, they have become immortal through those word documents that I kept as birthday-records…. So true and so real are they that if in 2006 I read what happened in any of the years before; it would be like reliving that day again!!!!

So in these 24 years I have had awesome birthdays but I have also had many troughs when I felt unhappy, many reasons to crib, many instances when I felt extremely unlucky…. I know this is in accordance of principle, happiness and sadness alternate each other, but it is very difficult to be practical then…. But in these harrowing times; it is the affection of so many people, the love and the thoughtfulness of all who care; that the support of Lady Luck, that I felt then, carried me through these lows till the next year, when the supplies got replenished twice as much ON THE SAME DAY – 22nd July!!!!!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

HISTORY - Still a Mystery

Scene 1: Outside the Balak Vihar Vidyalaya High school (My SSC centre)…In March 1998, under the blaring sun; here I was, with 8 pages clutched in my hand and pacing back and forth in front of the school gates…. On those 8 pages were dates, printed front and back…… Before anyone gets me wrong because of the above statement…. Explicit mention just to clarify things…. I hadn’t started dating so early in life and I don’t think with the guys in my school; the number of dates would have been so high….. It was the History exam for SSC board and those papers included all the dates in our textbook that I had scribbled away to glory… Nah!!! Trust me…. This was not my favorite pastime back then….. It was, actually for a very silly 2 mark question no 1 – C in this paper, I distinctly remember, that I had put in so much effort….. In my defense (so that I don’t sound geeky and loserly), those days we were told that 2 marks were very important in this exam…. They could make or break your career….. So this marathon effort…. Now back to my scene…. I was busy rattling off dates in the air… Quit India movement – 1942…. Gandhiji went on a fast – 19XX (it’s humanly impossible to remember that after so many years…) Gandhiji protested at Lahore – 19XX, Gandhiji presided over the Indian National Congress meeting – 19XX….. A parallel thought occurred to me….. Man!!!! Gandhiji was a busy!!!! He did so many things in life… I appreciate all he did but couldn't he just leave the 10th textbooks alone…. I mean did he have to write about everything he did and when he did in those books….. 16 years ki jaan and 1600 dates yaad karne ko …. Its blatant extortion of children’s brains…. Thought interrupted….. Mithila comes, same confused look borne by her as by all the students present there…. “Shamu, civil disobedience movement chya veli, kiti national congress chya meeting jhalya hotya???? Aani kuthe????...” and then both of us tried to rattle off the answer…. We used to call this discussing, in the days of the yore :)….

Scene 2: Inside the classroom….
Finally the moment of truth arrives…. The paper just one bench away…. I got it… started to write vigorously….. Question 1 A – fill in the blanks…. Cake walk…. Question 1 B – match the columns….. Man could it be any simpler….. And then the question for which I had taken so many pains….. It was a record that since the inception of this question in our syllabus, I never got it correct…. So I was more determined than ever to get it right this time… after all I had written 8 pages and I had read thru them enough number of times… (For me that time, ‘rataoing’ was the best form of studying :)…well there was nothing to understand in these dates anyway….) so these were the 4 dates our of the zillion I had written…. First session of national congress…. Gandhiji on some vague fast…. And some 2 other things… the gray matter refuses to help me in this case…. I thought and I finally decided on one order…. No no, this fast was for this movement which was after this session…. Oh… and here came some new order…. Tried to make a mental image of those 8 papers….. I just wanted to see the order of dates there in those papers (they were in chronological order you see)….. May be this new order….. I really think those 8 pages helped me…. Coz later in my life, mathematics taught me that there could be 4! = 24 arrangements for that question…. And I had only around 8 in my hand….. :) It was getting difficult….. “It’s fine!!! Don’t panic shamu…” I told myself….. “Come back and do it later….” After that followed a string of give reasons… answers in brief…. Answer in one sentence…. Etc…. History section done, I came back again to my conundrum….. Looked at it yet again…. First order seemed correct… Was about to write that order when a new dimension presented itself….. Panic… Anxiety…. Stress….. “After civics section” I consoled myself…. I couldn't let those 2 marks go now, could I??? Civics section tackled… some parliament related gyaan….. Done with ease and speed…. Went back to the only question left…. 10 min more for exam to get over…. Please God!!! Why isn’t this clicking….. Gandhiji #1@%$$!#..... History
@#!$$^!..... Ok ok…. Last 5 minutes…. Finally entered the answer….. The first order itself….

Scene 3: Outside the gate… after the paper…
“Ae Mithila, ti order kay hoti ga????” She said,”I think ABDC” (or something like that which wasn’t what I wrote….) “Oh, mala vatala ADCB….” Finally when the results came, I know I had messed up the order….. History marks obtained gave a clear indication of this…. :(

Scene 4: My desktop as I am writing this!!!!
Now sitting here, I am wondering whether that incident made even an iota of a difference in my life. I am doing just about the same thing as I would have done if I would have got those 2 marks more…. And even more than now, HISTORY still remains a mystery for me…. I mean no disrespect to our great leaders….. In fact, I am a proponent of their greatness for what they went through…. The torture, the pains, the struggle….. I am not sure if I could do anything like that if I was present then…. There are no words that can express how grateful I am to them for the freedom they gave me…. Also I am smart enough to know the power of history on present….. The fact that there is democracy, use of English, rights/duties… everything is due to history and I am not ignorant of that….. But in spite of all this, one question still puzzles me…. What was the purpose achieved by knowing when Gandhiji broke his umpteenth fast…. Or for that matter who was the first viceroy of India???? How knowing this fact affecting me??? Knowledge is power but this power is helpful only in certain quizzes (though they form a set of very rarely asked questions)… and I am definitely not a quizzer…. Then why god why did I waste that time….. If I had been so wisdomous then (I am assuming I am one now…), may be I would have had many hours of peace….. I mean can you fathom the amount of time saved if I did not have to make that 8 page document (front and back)…. And to add to my woes, get everything wrong…. Which led to added time wasted, cribbing about getting the things wrong……

Hopefully this will prod the readers (especially those in tenth) not to waste such valuable time in life on those 2 marks :) a valuable lesson learnt I say… :))

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Finally down with a high FIFA fever!!!

I was a strong believer that you can never enjoy watching a sport more than playing it…. As a result I have never followed any sport religiously…. And in this country of cricket crazy fanatics, I found myself to be an oddity…. But the Quarter final match of FIFA World Cup 2006 altered my perception and exposed me to that dimension of sport viewing which corroborates the use of adjectives spine-chilling, exciting, nerve wrenching, awesome et all…. Germany vs Argentina…. I remember the match so vividly…. Not only because it was the first sport match which kept me at the edge of my seat but also because it was also my first encounter with experiencing all the emotions vicariously which I have always experienced as a player….

I was a U-16 football player so a football field was not an unknown arena for me… I had tried a couple of times to watch football before…. But ended up watching either league matches or some weak teams playing on the field making them boring, reaffirming my opinion that watching a game is boring…. But little did I know…. Agreed that matches are more exciting when the stakes are high…. But if you get involved in the game, every match could get exciting…. So this is how I got hooked onto the World Cup…. Just like everyone in India did…. A huge football wave surged in India where the only idea of sport was CRICKET!!!! Tennis had recently started off due to tennis sensation Sania Mirza but it died down as suddenly as it had started….

Now India was never a footballing nation…. So, the skeptics thought of this as being a following the crowd to be in the trendy, elite group trend…. In fact I had a discussion with one such skeptic…. He asked me a question, “what happens if the 5 penalty shootouts also even out and the score is tied at 5-5?” I told him that the next penalty shootout takes place and goes on till it gives an uneven score…. Then he said that one of his friends who thinks he is a great footballing fan told him, the 6th kick has to be taken by goalie and then everyone in the team takes it…. And then it’s a rematch…. Also, he asked around 10 more people and ended up with 10 different answers…. That’s when he said “No person knows all the rules here and we all ape to be football lovers…. How can you love a game without knowing the rules??? Just imagine watching a game of chess without knowing the rules…. How absurd will it feel?” I then told him then that the knowledge of basic rules should be enough to make you love the game…. You are fans and not players to know the entire rulebook for the game…. Basics like what a penalty is…. You should know what a free kick, yellow card, red card et all are…. You should know the dribbling rules etc…. and this information is good enough to like a game…. You don’t have to watch hundreds of matches to know Zinedine Zidane is a great player…. You see his skills on the field in only one match and you instantly know that he is one of the great players who command respect…. Not knowing, the game rules, doesn’t change the fervor with which you follow the game… what should get to you is the frenzy, the tension…. He said, “You don’t have anything at stake coz India is not involved… so it feels weird to choose any arbit team and cheer for them… And most probably the team chosen by you girls will have the cutest players…. Also I wonder where all the football fans go after the world cup…. The euro cup never invoked such enthusiasm and that time too, the same teams were involved”

I answered all these questions to the best of my ability and knowledge (limited due to the 'RECENT' football following) and yet he was skeptical... i even told him that there is always a first time for something... unless you do it once, you cant dream of doing it again.... but all in vain.... And this made me realize how difficult it is for a nation, with a parochial mindset and which doesn’t play many worldwide known sports, to accept that people can just suddenly follow a new game…..

It’s a vicious circle followed…. No sporting heroes… So no following... No following… So no one takes up that sport... So no heroes…. To add to this, we Indians are so result driven…. India won some hockey match and hockey grips the entire country…. Indian goes in F1 racing and suddenly everyone watches F1 with more zeal…. Indians come and win some title in tennis and we are watching tennis till the player retains good form…. Later this following goes into oblivion….And that’s exactly where this football fever is different…. It’s different coz for once; we are watching something with so much zeal without waiting for heroes from our country to take this game up…. In fact with no stakes involved, we are actually in a position to cherish the game…. We can watch a game neutrally and savor all the good things from both the playing sides and condemn all the bad things…. On the contrary this no stake involvement may be the factor that boosts people to take up football… May be then we can have a team which can go somewhere beyond leagues…. I mean despite the lack of involvement of our country, it did cause the masses to pick up football viewing inspite of the odd hours, dint it?

I also realize that the problem with football in India is not dearth of talent but it’s the system… Administration which has almost destroyed hockey won’t let football flourish too…. But may be with so many people talking about football, so many gully matches getting played, the administration won’t be able to ignore it for a very long time…. After all in a democracy don’t the people turn tables!!!!!

My only dream is to watch India play world cup football…. Korea, Angola could do it then why cant we? And when we do play; if we even reach till the top 6 positions, ill be very happy…. Coz asking anything beyond that may label me as a result driven supporter too :)