The World Cup is here and I've been watching a lot of "Friends" (apologies for the lack of formatting, I'm blogging from my phone). Some weird neuron connection, probably fused as a result of Internet use (that's what everyone's saying these days), fired and connected the two.
Joey Tribbiani, the often dumb "Friends" character played by Matt Le Blanc, is a midfield maestro. In terms of the jokes his character has, and the punchlines.
Midfield Maestro Move #1: The One-Two
Joey: Hey Ross, if homo sapiens were in fact, "homo" sapiens, is that why they're extinct?
Ross: Joey, homo sapiens are people
Joey: Hey...I'm not judging
Or, another one:
Rachel: Guys and girls both carry this bag. Unisex
Joey: Maybe you need sex. I had sex a couple of days ago
Rachel: No no Joey...U-N-I-sex
Joey (smiling): Now how could I say no to that?
Midfield Maestro Move #2: The Killer Pass
Joey (hitting on a girl dumber than himself): You look familiar. Maybe it's because I'm on television. I'm Joey Tribbiani
Joey (checking out an attractive girl, within earshot): Hot
Girl (turns): I'm sorry, what?
Joey: I said you're "hot" and now I'm embarassed
Girl: Oh, I thought you said "Hi"
Joey: That would have made more sense
Midfield Maestro Move #3: The Venomous Shot
Joey (about his advice to an acting student): I told him to play the role "super-gay"
(Yeah I know the last one is kind of lame. I thought of the concept in the shower and forgot the example I actually wanted to give)
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
The World Cup is here and I've been watching a lot of "Friends" (apologies for the lack of formatting, I'm blogging from my phone). Some weird neuron connection, probably fused as a result of Internet use (that's what everyone's saying these days), fired and connected the two.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
His office is completely filled with books. Shelves line three of the four walls and they are packed with all kinds of books, all very interesting. I envy the guy for getting to work in such a cool office.
Too bad a literature degree can't make you any serious money. Is there any way to read books and make a lot of money? I'd be the best in the world at that job. Why am I such a materialist? :(
Thursday, October 29, 2009
They do say that the majority of blogs languish after one or two posts. I managed 20+, but finally petered out.
A lot has happened in a year. I hope it's not another year before I post again. But I can't write anymore now. Have to get back to work.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
ICL, the Indian Cricket League, has been the ugly sister of domestic T20 events ever since the launching of the IPL. It is regarded in many quarters, not unfairly, as a place where only two types of players go: those past it, and those who aren't going anywhere. Since most of ICL's "international stars" are players looking to line their retirement nests with a few more greenbacks, I don't have much sympathy for them. Unfortunately, ICL teams are also home to many of India's young cricketers, who had lost all hope of ever making the national team when they put all their eggs into the Essel group's basket. Thanks to the BCCI's arrogant and in my opinion, illegal, ban on any players associated with the rebel league, their careers are pretty much over if the Essel group decides to call it a day. After all, ICL isn't setting the TRP charts on fire by any stretch of imagination. This would be a massive waste all around.
The BCCI owe the Essel group a huge debt of gratitude. If it weren't for the owners of Zee, the BCCI would never have been forced to launch what is possibly its greatest ever money-spinner, the Indian Premier League. It wasn't just money either. The IPL threw up many new stars, players previously completely unknown. The biggest beneficiary was Swapnil Asnodkar, a previously unknown Goa batsman, languishing in the Ranji Trophy's plate division, out of sight of the national selectors. His opening partnership with South Africa captain Graeme Smith was one of the main reasons that Rajasthan Royals emerged triumphant in the inaugural IPL. But who knows how many Swapnil Asnodkars play in the ICL? Will they be frozen out of the national side forever, just so the BCCI can make a few million more by strangling ICL in the cradle?
The ICC has just asked the BCCI to speak to the ICL. I can't remember the last time the BCCI listened to the ICC. The ICL is also planning legal action against the BCCI, probably on the basis of unfair trade practices. We all know how long court cases take in this country. Unless the BCCI willingly speaks to the Essel group, with the hope of reaching a constructive solution, the ICL is basically toast. Their viewership is not nearly enough to sustain them (I read somewhere that fewer than 5% of households have access to Zee Sports, the main broadcaster. Zee's dispute with TataSky can't be helping their subscriber base either). The franchises have virtually no fanbase to speak of, at least in Mumbai. Let's hope the BCCI puts the good of Indian cricket ahead of profits, for once. I won't be holding my breath.
How will cricket benefit? I was watching an ICL match the other day, I don't remember between who, but what struck me the most was how many names were familiar. In just that one match, played the following: Chris Harris (NZ ODI great), Shane Bond, Nantie Hayward, Abdul Razzaq (set WC '99 on fire), Jimmy Maher, Stuart Law, Ian Harvey, Russel Arnold and Justin Kemp. Not a bad collection of names for a limited-overs match. You could build a very decent team out of that bunch. There are plenty of other retired greats plying their trade in ICl too, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Brian Lara, to name two. Throw in a few unknown, but possibly talented Indian youngsters, and you will see that ICL isn't really lacking in quality, as much as it is in glamour. India would be missing out on a lot of hitherto untapped talent, talent which has benefited by playing alongside top-class internationals for a year, the same as their IPL counterparts.
What is the future of the ICL? It could go down the path of American baseball. Baseball in America, known collectively as Major League Baseball (MLB) consists of two leagues, known as the American League and the National League, although since 2000, the two have ceased to be distinct legal entities. The two leagues together have 30 franchises. At the end of each season, the champions of each league play each other in a best-of-seven series labeled, quite presumptuously these days, the World Series. Players can and do transfer between the two leagues. A similar structure would be the way to go for the BCCI, if they are forced to recognise ICL. They can cross their fingers and hope that ICL folds on its own, and the good players come back to the BCCI fold.
The other way could be simply to integrate the two leagues. This would increase overall competitiveness and there is a precedent for it, again in American sport. American football is played under the National Football League (NFL). However, briefly in the 1960s there was a rival league, known as the American Football League (AFL) started in response to resistance by the NFL towards expansion of the league to include more franchises. AFL started in 1960 and boasted of 10 franchises. It began by recruiting top college talent from under the noses of the NFL, then began raiding NFL squads for players. After finally establishing equality with NFL on the field and in the money stakes, the two leagues merged in 1969. Imagine the possibilities of a merged T20 league. There could be two divisions and relegation and promotion battles, a la soccer leagues, from which both leagues draw inspiration. With many of the franchises in the same city, there could be amazing local rivalries. Think of it: Mumbai Champs versus the Mumbai Indians, both curiously inaptly named teams (the Indians contain the maximum number of foreigners allowed, while the Champs sit at the bottom of the ICL table), the southern rivalries of Deccan Chargers, Hyderabad Heroes, Chennai Superstars and Chennai Super Kings. ICL also contains franchises not found in IPL, Ahmedabad, Lahore and Dhaka to name three.
The latter option is much harder for ICL but also more rewarding. By regularly playing against IPL teams, they would certainly earn a lot more money and get more exposure. But as mentioned earlier, AFL was only able to merge with NFL by proving its strength. The only way ICL can do this is to grab currently active international stars to play in their league. This is only possible if they can convince the other cricket boards to break ranks with the BCCI on the issue of banning ICL players from international cricket. It seems unlikely the BCCI will reverse its stand unless its hand is forced.
Monday, September 15, 2008
In a rather endearing piece of naivete, we thought we'd leave a bit earlier if we got our own breakfast instead of waiting 4 hours for the hotel to make it. So we'd purchased a jar of strawberry jam and a couple of loaves of bread the previous day. Unfortunately, we hadn't factored in Vix. Needless to say, we left an hour and half late.
Next on the itinerary was Periyar Tiger Reserve. It's located near the town of Kumily, near the southern portion of Kerala's border with Tamil Nadu. The drive was all downhill, a winding road from the hilly tea gardens. We listened to music and I was labeled "anti-Pappu" for skipping "Pappu Can't Dance". He who holds the remote holds absolute power, till he falls asleep of course. We passed thru innumerable hamlets. Tiny Christian (chapels?) punctuated the road sides. Men walked about in lungis everywhere; they even rode motorcycles wearing them, a feat that defies belief.
Kumily is, in my humble opinion, a sorry-ass town, whose streets are lined with spice emporiums, hotels and restaurants. It exists solely to service the tourists who visit Periyar. There are plenty of spice farms in the area and you can get good-quality spices there, which is exactly what Horus did in the evening.
Our hotel (Mt Sinai Tourist Lodge, just so you know never to go there) was representative of the town of Kumily: sorry-ass. Tiny rooms with the barest of decoration and comfort. The corridors were open and the railing was bare concrete. Our rooms faced an under-construction building. Indeed, the two buildings were so close together, we could easily climb over to the other building from ours. We laid out wet clothing out on the concrete railing, in the bright sunshine.
Lunch was at a low-to-medium quality restaurant, bereft of anything not containing rice. It didn't matter, because I wasn't in a position to eat much else and I believe Rocky was with me. The food wasn't anything to write home about.
To see Periyar Tiger Reserve, you drive in and buy a ticket for a boat ride on the man-made Periyar Lake, where all the animals come to drink. The best time to go is early morning or failing that, late in the evening. We elected to take the boat ride the following morning, just before leaving for Allapuzha and instead, go on a guided trek in the afternoon. So we signed up for Cloud Walk, a 4-hour trek along the hills of Periyar and were assigned two guides. Those who weren't wearing shoes, socks and full-length pants had to wear protective canvas stockings. Leeches are abundant in the Periyar Hills. The guides also carried a packet of salt along, just in case a leech did clamp on.
Off we went. As soon as we started, Ruud, who had already been running a fever since we reached town, decided to go back to the hotel. He went to the bus and was driven back. It was a wise decision. Cloud Walk in Periyar National Park, was anything but a walk in the park.
Apart from Neo, Henry, Horus and our guides, everyone was huffing and puffing in fifteen minutes. The climb was up, always up, and steep. Because of the rains, the paths were slippery and treacherous. We climbed up, heads bowed looking out for leeches, panting and gasping for breath. It rained intermittently. The guides showed us the wire fence separating the park from tribal lands. Apparently it was an electric fence, but nothing happened when we touched it. Maybe there was load-shedding going on there too.
Presently, we came to a hilly clearing, where a group of locals were playing cricket. On a slope, and with a real, hard cricket ball no less! No pads and gloves either. Every once in a while, the ball would roll down the hill and two guys would scurry after it, lest it conk someone in the head further downhill. It could have been us!
And we kept climbing, till we reached the summit of the hill, about 500 metres high by my reckoning. There was a large cross. We were virtually standing on the Tamil Nadu border and could see that state. It was raining and the wind was blowing quite hard too. Our windcheaters and clothing were whipped about by the gusts. We got up to a lot of antics at the hill top. No need for me to describe them; just check out the photos.
I was tired. My legs had turned to lead. And then I learned that the trek wasn't over. Far from it. We weren't even halfway through. In fact, we would be making our way along the hilly ridge to a point very distant from where we stood. That is what we did. Along the way, we encountered some ramshackle wooden shacks, on the tribal side of the wire fence. They looked awfully rickety but we crossed the fence and went in anyway. A wooden bench collapsed almost instantly under the combined weight of Jay-Z, Henry and myself. We took a lot of videos, laughed a lot. I was constantly conscious of the fact, as the others joined us in the shack, that the floor could collapse at any instant and send us rolling down the hill. I was most relieved when we left.
Neo picked up a couple of leeches on his sandals but they were found and disposed of instantly, before they could do any damage. We reached a tall steel watchtower used by forest officers. It was thoroughly rusted and the guides told us to go up four at a time. The view from the watchtower was spectacular. More leeches as we left the tower and these were also doused with salt.
Finally we emerged onto an asphalt road. I hadn't the slightest idea where we were. There was a minor comic moment along the trek when we found out that one of our guides' names was Indre. Jay-Z can speak some nonsense, which sounds like a South Indian language. Most of his "sentences" start with the word "Indre" and they usually go like "Indre athropode andrema". He stopped speaking "Malayalam" as soon as he found out our guide's name.
It started pouring once again. We were already drenched and chilly and took refuge in front of a provisions store, where Henry bought fake-fruit jelly candy. I wanted something a bit warmer and refused a rare show of generosity from him (:P). A man came up and offered us an elephant ride. Everybody was very excited and Jay-Z and couple of the others went off to have a look at the elephants and negotiate a rate. We got their "best offer": Rs 250 for a half hour ride. Everybody except Rocky and myself assented, so we stayed at the elephant loading dock (a raised platform where you can climb on), watching a Mallu film on the TV and shivering in our wet clothes. We took pictures of the guys on the elephants and watched the mahouts bathe and feed the elephants platefuls of rice.
By the time we got back to where our bus was parked, it was nearly 6:30 PM and darkness had already fallen. We called Ruud at the hotel to ask them to heat up some water for out baths. Hot water is a surprisingly rare commodity for Keralan hotelry. He sounded very sick and was running a very high temperature.
At the tourist centre, we heard a most unpleasant bit of news. There had been some political trouble in the district and a general strike had been called starting at 6 AM the following morning. We were advised to leave the district before that time, which essentially meant a departure time of 4:30 AM or thereabouts. Of course, our boat ride on Periyar Lake was also out of the question, so we would never see a tiger or any other animal. The closest we got to seeing wild animals on the entire trip was when Horus stepped on the droppings of an Asiatic wild dog during the trek.
Back at the hotel, we thought things couldn't get any worse, then realised we were wrong. They did; very fast. The hotel rationed out hot water, for one thing. We were told that if we took hot water now, we wouldn't get any the following morning. Hotel policy mind you, not lack of hot water. Then, there was a "one bath towel per room" policy. All the hotel's towels were at the dhobi's apparently. I could not remember the last time I had heard such a load of bull's excrement.
Vix had been carrying a leech on his leg for God knows how long. It had happily been drinking his blood all the while, without his suspecting a thing. The thing wouldn't come off when pulled by hand. A packet of salt was found and purchased swiftly, but Vix burned it off with a matchstick before that, so we were stuck with a useless 500 gram bag of salt. I took Ruud to the doctor on his dad's instructions, then sent him back to the hotel and went off to buy him medicine. Then I cursed at the hotel manager till he gave me a bucket of hot water, cursed some more when I didn't get a fresh towel and gratefully took a hot bath. Let me just mention the hotel's name so that you never go there: Mt Sinai Lodge, Thekkady, Kumily. Please do not ever go there.
Dinner was at another depressing joint; we had Chinese for a change and found it mediocre, like everything else in Kumily. Horus bought spices and we went back to the hotel. The big final of Euro 2008 was on: Spain vs Germany. Stifling yawns and propping up drooping eyelids, eight of us watched, sitting on a bed meant for two, as Fernando Torres scored the only goal of the game for Spain. It ended at 3:00 AM. We hadn't slept a wink yet and had to leave in another hour and half, to beat the strike.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Rocky earned himself the nickname Pressure-Boy, for obvious reasons, though even I was similarly afflicted. Neo was running a slight fever, as was Amul.
And of course, Horus had hit his head the previous evening. In addition, we were fast running out of dry clothing. We'd given most of it up to the hotel laundry and now they were working frantically to get it dry by the following morning, when we left. The hotel's game room had our clothes spread out on all the horizontal surfaces, fans running.
All wasn't doom and gloom though. We had beautiful Munnar before us. Setting out at approximately 10 PM (late again, due to you know who, this time, for real), we made our way firstly to Matupetty (or Madupetty or other variants) Dam. The weather was dull and grey, drizzling intermittently, and it was quite cold as well, considering we were near the tropics. It felt like how all non-English footballers describe Manchester as being. So we loved it.
At Matupetty, the first task of Rowdies 3.0000hhh awaited. It consisted of shooting balloons with an air rifle, like those games you have at carnivals. Everyone got one shot each, and the ones who burst their balloon would be immune from being sent out of the game. Alas, Jay-Z badly miscalculated. With no prizes on offer at the shooting stall, the stall owner had inflated the balloons quite generously, and the cloth backing was also quite tight; these are the main reasons it's difficult to burst balloons in carnivals. Everyone, except myself and Neo, got theirs on the first shot. We'd gotten the worse of the two rifles that the owner had. So there was a very, very, very long, instant-death shootout between us. To everyone else's envy, we got about 7 shots each, before Neo rather unfortunately missed the last balloon on the sheet. He was out and I had avoided elimination by a whisker.
Echo Point was nearby, and we drove over. We thought, at first, that it was a fake, because we couldn't hear any echoes. Turned out, we hadn't been shouting loud enough. This was a pretty busy tourist spot as well, just like the dam, and consequently there were plenty of vehicles around. One among us (I don't remember who, but it's just convenient to say Vix), rather hilariously got into someone else's Tempo Traveller, that looked just like ours. We took more pictures too. Taking inspiration from the billboard we'd seen on arrival in Kochi, we took the photo that's displayed alongside. The fellow tourist who clicked it for us just about held off paroxysms of laughter. Note Rocky's tragic lack of coordination between torso and legs. Also, Vix thinking that he's SRK.
Munnar is famous as a tea-town. There are three world-famous varieties of Indian tea: Assam, Darjeeling and Nilgiri. Of these, Nilgiri comes from the hill-station of Munnar, in addition to southern Kerala and the Nilgiri district in Tamil Nadu. When Ruud and I had last visited Munnar, eight years ago on a family trip, the tea plantations were owned by the Tatas. But in 2005, they decided to get out of the plantation business and sold out to the plantation workers themselves. Plantation workers now own 69% of stock in what is known as the Kannan Devan Hills Plantation Company (KDHPC), an experiment that is quite unique.
I got all this information from Munnar's excellent tea museum, which was where we went, after Echo Point. The tea musuem has a half-hour film on the history of tea in Munnar. It also has one of the few operational tea factories in India that is open to tourists. A wrinkled guide explained the entire process of converting green leaves into black powder. I was quite surprised to find out that green tea is made from the same leaves as black tea. The tour ended at a museum gift shop featuring (what else?) tea. There was also a free cuppa for everyone. The museum grounds also had a pretty little garden with plenty of flowers. Horus took a camera and went crazy.
Lunchtime. Rather, way past lunchtime. Everyone was hungry and it was almost three before we got into town and found a good restaurant. While the others started, Ruud, Jay-Z and I went to a store to do something that we'd all decided. We bought lungis for everyone, haggling and going from store to store, looking for the best deal.
The restaurant was excellent. We ordered Keralan meals (which means a thali in Kerala). A banana leaf was set in front of each of us. A middle-aged man with an avuncular air about him gave orders to his crew of waiters. They set about the job of popping our pants buttons, such was the quantity of food served. It was all vegetarian, all delicious, all rice and all too much for me. Endless bowls of delicious payasam followed the meal. And the best part? The bill. Lunch for ten people (Charles ate with us) cost us Rs 250.
After lunch, we could hardly walk. Nevertheless, we bought a couple of music CDs to listen to in the bus. We wanted to hear the Tamil song Aapdi Pode, made so popular by Abhishek Bachchan in a recent ad for a mobile phone. There was one more place still to go to; Eravikulam National Park, located 13 km from Munnar. We arrived there at 4:30 PM and were told that the park closed at 5:30 PM. Cursing Vix once again, we bought tickets and went up in the park bus (private vehicles aren't allowed up into the park).
Eravikulam National Park is one of the last habitats of the Nilgiri Thar, a species of ibex. It is closely related to sheep and is an endangered species; its world population is no more than 2500. The drive up to the park's entrance was thrilling too. It had gotten even cloudier and the park's pristineness was something to be cherished. The highlight of the drive was a spectacular waterfall, at least a 100 feet high. Indeed, it was so high up that the clouds covered the cliff from which it was falling, giving the impression that it was falling from the sky itself.
Because the park closed at 5:30, we didn't get to walk too far into it. At 5:15, park officials caught up with us and asked us quite politely to get our asses out of the park. Quite dejected at not seeing a Nilgiri Thar, we went back down to the parking lot by bus. There, Ruud and Horus found the next best thing to a Thar.
On our way back to the hotel, we had an encounter with a couple of scary-looking wild dogs that were guarding the entrance to a village on the banks of a river that were absolutely dying to get a look at. We also tore/dirtied our clothes trying to get over the barbed wire into one of the tea plantations to get a few photos. Back at the hotel, it was dinner time and then a few games of Call. Everyone tried on their new lungis and Vix smeared talcum powder on everyone's foreheads, to mimic vibhuti. Almost inevitably, his new nickname was vibhuti-boy. Then, we finally flung our exhausted bodies onto our beds. Neo was running a worryingly high temperature.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
There had been some drama the night before. Charles, our cheerful and good-natured driver seemed slightly pissé, because he'd wanted to leave early. The last bus home for him left at 8:30 PM, the time that we'd started our revelry in XL Bar. The ride back to the hotel left my knuckles white. Neo, Henry and Rocky were up in front with me and they looked somewhat fearful too. The others in the back had not the slightest idea that we were rushing through lanes 10 feet wide at speeds approaching those of a bullet. Speaking in Marathi, as foreign to Charles as Gaelic, we decided that we should probably give him some money so that he could take a rickshaw home. That had solved the problem.
The drive to Munnar was approximately 5 hours of road coiled around hills upto 1800 metres tall. Our trip was punctuated by two stops, although we wanted to take many more. The first of these was at a large waterfall by the roadside; it was large enough that there was a small bridge over it. As always happens with such places, stalls selling food and drink sprouted up around it. We discovered that bhutta in Kerala really isn't that good; at least it wasn't at that place. The corn grains were really dry.
Photography was easy too, because of the spectacular views that the hills of Munnar provide.
Our second stop was at another such location. Spirits were high; we'd stocked up in the town before we hit the hills, having been warned by the ever-reliable Charles that venturing out at night in Munnar for anything would be dangerous due to fog. The liquor store itself offered us more talking points. It was the most unusual one we'd ever seen. It was slighly less well-fortified than the average Middle Ages castle. And the cheapness of the liquor (all of it, even the good stuff) would gladden the hearts of all but the most devoutly temperate.
Although we were running late (because of Vix obviously), we stopped for a few more pictures of the astounding views that we saw. Greenery as far as the eye could see, rolling hills blanketed with forests and tea plantations.
We arrived at our quarters in Munnar, the Igloo Lodge (and ayurvedic resort) at approximately 3 in the afternoon, three hours late. All our afternoon and evening sightseeing plans were effectively wiped out. We had been booked into dormitory accomodation here, unlike anywhere else. The dorm, meant for about 20 people, held only half that number. One bunk bed for each person! The hotel building looked new and freshly painted, the grounds and lawns were nicely groomed and well-maintained. There were fruit trees and flowers, shrubbery and climbing creepers of all manner.
Having arrived too late to go into town for lunch, we decide to revictual at the hotel's own restuaurant. It would go on to be one of the most tragic mistakes of the trip.
With no dishes from the restaurant's lunch menu available (since it was 3:30 PM), we had to content ourselves with snacks; sandwiches and other similar fare. It's difficult for anyone to make a meal of the average sandwich in a restaurant. You can just about finish one in four bites. With it being three hours past when we should actually have had lunch, and with people like Henry (whose exploits at the dinner table are as infamous as his feats on the football pitch are renowned) among the hungry, the scene was set for a long afternoon. It didn't help that the restaurant was laughably understaffed. I could almost imagine the guy who took our order going into the kitchen, donning a chef's hat and apron and chopping veggies. In any case, a lunch consisting of about 25 sandwiches and 4 plates of fries took us about 3 hours to order, have served, and eat. So we took some more pictures.
By the time we'd finished, all hopes of a small evening excursion into town had vanished. So we played football, 3-on-3. With Henry and Horus on my team, we could not fail to win. Horus later got a knock on the head as a result of falling (some would say pushed by Henry) onto the brick border of the garden. On the plus side, Horus made the new Rowdies artwork before it happened.
We had the foresight of ordering our dinner two hours before we were hungry, and it turned out to be quite good. After dinner, there was the big event. The first Rowdies vote-out. The vote-out itself was conducted in a quite normal manner. The events after it were something else entirely.
First, Jay-Z, the host, forgot who had gotten how many votes. While we laughed and jeered (quite good-naturedly), he frantically played back the video to jog his memory. Then, when it seemed as though Ruud was going to go out, having garnered four votes, he introduced a twist. "Lekin ye Rowdies hain. Is mein twist hote hain." Ruud was immune, it would be Henry, Neo and Amul to play off in a game of Call, to decide who went out. It turned out to be rava laddoos-are-like-cigarettes Amul. Jay-Z was subjected to plenty more ribbing.
Then it was time to drink. The two bottles of beer we'd bought were finished quickly, but no one was showing any appetite for the hard stuff. People were already falling ill, victims to the cold and damp of Munnar.