A Poet’s Guide To Poetry

Choose a dainty topic,
A muse,
Make it obtuse,
Complexity gives it stature.
If no one understands it,
It becomes even better.

Don’t forget your metaphors,
Nature works best,
Glistening drops
Dancing in a rainbow
Easily outdo the rest.

Remember to add rhythm,
A few random rhymes,
Find a word,
A sturdy bird,
Repeat a couple of times.

And finally,
Split the lines
When no
One expects a break.
Such tricks are your friends,
The latest trends,
As permanent as a melting
Snowflake.

[Published here in The Creative Cafe on Apr 21, 2017]


 

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Fireworks

We are dead,
Asleep,
Killed by a streak of light,
The scent of almonds,
Fireworks.

Limbless toddlers,
We know not where we crawl,
From one hell to another,
Licking our skinned lips
With a rotten tongue,
Charred by gunpowder,
Swollen,
Tasting of sand and spit.

No healers can cleanse
Our broken souls
Either in this world
Or the other;
Blind and mute,
We must return
To become coins again
In a game of barter
For puny kingdoms,
Bloated with hubris.

We are all dead,
Asleep,
Unnamed bodies in
Another man’s war,
Awaiting rebirth
And an inevitable Death
In a pit of bullets,
Bombs,
And fireworks.


[Published in The Creative Cafe in Apr 2017.]

ALSO READ:
The Enemy


Fernando Alonso racing Indy 500

I wrote the below article only a couple of weeks back. With Alonso announcing he wants to race in the Indy 500, probably as good a time as any other to preview it here.

***

Fernando Alonso: A man cheated by destiny

It was 2005. A clear evening in Sao Paulo. The crowds had been cheering, howling even, with an excitement that only arises in anticipation of something special.

A man covered in blue overalls, his hair oily with perspiration, came up the steps. He had only finished third in that race but the moment was still his as a podium finish had given him the Formula One Drivers’ Championship.

The throngs fell quiet when he appeared, perhaps waiting for him to acknowledge them, and he waved, a refreshing grin permanently plastered on his face. The masses beneath him instantly erupted in cries of adulation and heads simultaneously bowed in front of their prince.

A new champion, the youngest the sport had ever seen, had been crowned. Fernando Alonso was a relatively inexperienced driver from Spain but he had brought to an end Michael Schumacher’s five-year reign at the top of F1. Ferrari’s red had been replaced by Renault’s blue.

[To read the rest of this article, please follow this link to Sportskeeda. It was published on Sportskeeda on 28 Mar, 2017. Their policies prohibit full reproduction.]

Hating and Loving the IPL

Published on ESPN Cricinfo on 23 Apr, 2017.


In the middle of the previous decade, cricket fans in India were introduced to a new spectacle. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), in all its wisdom, paraded its top brass on television and proposed the Indian Premier League (IPL). Supposedly perfect for an evening out with friends and family, the matches would finish in an evening. You know, like baseball.

I still remember the disgust with which my circle of friends discussed the new competition. Our beloved game was being demolished, sold to the television Gods for prime-time revenues. What about the battle between bat and ball, we asked, our collective voices high-pitched with indignation. What about the delicious build up to the final hour? Imagine our horror when we realised that game blessed by WG Grace and Ranji Sinhji would now have cheerleaders.

We couldn’t have been more annoyed if our quiet neighbourhood pub was being replaced by a screeching karaoke bar. Or our favourite local fish and curry restaurant was demolished for a fast-food joint. Might as well tear up Eden Gardens and put a shopping mall on the pitch.

We felt we were being betrayed. After a few beers, we even drew up plans to raise banners of protest outside the BCCI office. But then we were a bunch of couch commentators. Talkers, not doers. By the next morning, our indignation had given way to a headache and a hangover, but our decision to boycott stood firm. Or so we thought.

One of the chaps in our group was more of a football fan. Every set of friends has at least one of them. He couldn’t stand Test cricket, thought draws after five days were a colossal waste of time, and believed David Beckham was a greater sportsman than Sachin Tendulkar. Always the odd one out, he couldn’t understand why we were so fussed. From his point of view, cricket was finally becoming a tad interesting.

He was the one who secretly got us tickets. After raining our anger down at him, the rest of us looked at each other and shrugged. It was a Mumbai Indians match. Tendulkar and Sanath Jayasuriya in the same team, opening the batting together. We couldn’t really resist that, could we?

So when the day of the match arrived, all of us grudgingly headed to the stadium, promising ourselves we wouldn’t enjoy it. It probably took about five overs for our resolve to fly out of the stadium like those huge sixes that the batsmen unleashed. By the end, we were dancing the bhangra in the aisles while the cheerleaders twirled their pom-poms.

Ten years have passed since then and that circle of friends has spread to different parts of the world. Only last week, I saw a tweet from that football-loving friend praising Cheteshwar Pujara’s 525 ball vigil against Australia. I messaged him and imagine my surprise when he said it was the best match he had ever seen!

If it wasn’t for the initial taste of the IPL, perhaps he would never have gotten converted. T20 is cricket’s teaser, that free cocktail that gets people in the door and encourages them to hang around for seven course dinner. They come in for the sixes and stay for the maiden overs.

As for me and the rest of my friends, we have enthusiastically supported our chosen teams for the past decade. Let’s just say that while we enjoy our quiet beers, that doesn’t mean we can’t sing a mean rendition of ‘We are the Champions’ on karaoke.

ALSO READ:

Sachin Tendulkar: More Than Just A God

The One Where India Won The Cricket World Cup

 

Being 35 with Roger Federer

I am 35. About half of my life has probably been lived and for the mortals amongst us, it’s a somewhat difficult age. After a few years of believing that the world is your oyster, reality strikes and you begin to understand that there are a few things you can’t do, a few things you’ll never do. You reconcile yourself to your limitations and play the game you are in, with the hand you’ve been dealt.

It is what it is. Your body is creaking at the hinges. There is that hint of a back pain, maybe your knees hurt and while the sun and the wind have never bothered you so far, the indoors are usually preferable these days. Didn’t you wake up at five when you were a teenager, ignoring the freezing winter, for a few sets of tennis? What about the summer when it was burning outside and you were cycling to a cricket match? But you’re not that young these days. Not anymore.

But then there is this other guy. He’s 35 too. And he’s completely incorrigible. He has been waltzing around the Rod Laver Arena the past two weeks like he is taking a stroll in his backyard.

A couple of minutes of jumping jacks and you are drenched in perspiration but this guy looks like he’s ready for a party after a three-hour tennis match. Give him a tuxedo and he’d be ready to pose for GQ on the red carpet. It’s unfair! He doesn’t break a sweat, he’s never out of breath, he barely even makes an effort. A 40 shot rally doesn’t matter. He will still be ready for his next serve in 12 seconds.

[To read the rest of this article, please follow this link to Sportskeeda. It was published on Sportskeeda on 30 Jan, 2017. Their policies prohibit full reproduction.]

Saina Nehwal and Sania Mirza: Leading Indian sports

Saina Nehwal: Badminton. Singles. March 2015. World number 1.
Sania Mirza: Lawn Tennis. Doubles. April 2015. World number 1.

To be the best in the world at anything is an achievement most of us can only dream of. But let’s put this in perspective. 

These two ladies have reached the top of two sports that most Indians don’t care about. Sports that aren’t cricket. Sports where most people cannot name an Indian woman from a previous generation who has even played the sport, let alone be good at it. Sports where even Indian male role models can be counted on one hand. Name five Indians who’ve been in the top 500 in the world in either tennis or badminton. Okay, name ten. It’s not easy, is it?

I can’t imagine the struggle it must have been for both of them. Every sportsperson makes infinite sacrifices in her search for perfection. But that struggle reaches another level when you’re a little girl in India who wants to make a mark in sport. 

Someone I know once told me of a research paper which suggested that the boy to girl ratio in the IITs is so low because families will almost never agree to send their daughters to Kota for a year of coaching. Think about how the society reacts when girls have to travel around the country playing in the under-14 national circuit. 

Yes, she’ll miss school. Yes, she’ll be missing exams. Yes, it will cost money and there is no sponsorship. Yes, it will cost more money if a parent has to accompany her. Yes, she’ll have to wear shorts and skirts. Yes, there will be boys around. Yes, she’ll be staying in a dorm. Yes, she’ll be spending a long time alone with a (almost always male) coach. Yes, this isn’t just a hobby. Yes, she’ll be training in the sun. Yes, she doesn’t care about her complexion. Yes, she’ll be spending a couple of hours in a gym every day. Yes, that means she’ll get muscular. Yes, a fat pay cheque at the end isn’t guaranteed. Yes, she’ll do this again and again and again.

I’m lucky enough to have seen the both of them play. I saw Saina at the All England a couple of years ago. She lost but played with heart and I was proud to be cheering for her. Being a regular at Wimbledon, I’ve seen Sania a couple of times. She’s usually on the outside courts for the initial rounds and it’s amazing how quickly the benches fill up with fellow Indians. When she whacks that ball on the forehand side, it sure stays hit!

You’ve both done so well, ladies, and we are all so very proud. Thank you for this moment of pride. Thank you for not giving up when the days were dark. 

I heard somewhere the other day that since thousands have followed Matt Webb swimming across the English channel, perhaps his biggest achievement wasn’t the fact that he crossed it but the fact that he showed others it could be done. 

So on behalf of all the girls on tennis and badminton courts across the country, thank you for being their Matthew Webb. Thank you for showing them that it can be done.

Happy 2015!

Is there for honest Poverty
That hings his head, an’ a’ that;
The coward slave-we pass him by,
We dare be poor for a’ that!
For a’ that, an’ a’ that.
Our toils obscure an’ a’ that,
The rank is but the guinea’s stamp,
The Man’s the gowd for a’ that.

What though on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hoddin grey, an’ a that;
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine;
A Man’s a Man for a’ that:
For a’ that, and a’ that,
Their tinsel show, an’ a’ that;
The honest man, tho’ e’er sae poor,
Is king o’ men for a’ that.

Ye see yon birkie, ca’d a lord,
Wha struts, an’ stares, an’ a’ that;
Tho’ hundreds worship at his word,
He’s but a coof for a’ that:
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
His ribband, star, an’ a’ that:
The man o’ independent mind
He looks an’ laughs at a’ that.

A prince can mak a belted knight,
A marquis, duke, an’ a’ that;
But an honest man’s abon his might,
Gude faith, he maunna fa’ that!
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
Their dignities an’ a’ that;
The pith o’ sense, an’ pride o’ worth,
Are higher rank than a’ that.

Then let us pray that come it may,
(As come it will for a’ that,)
That Sense and Worth, o’er a’ the earth,
Shall bear the gree, an’ a’ that.
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
It’s coming yet for a’ that,
That Man to Man, the world o’er,
Shall brothers be for a’ that.

~ Robert Burns ~

My most favourite recitation of this poem was during a montage on Sky Sports, played through their Ryder Cup coverage last summer. I can’t find it online but this one is almost as good.

Hope you have a great 2015. See you around!

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