Agneepath?

Nistabdh khada, nishabd khada
Hai raashtra aaj doraahe par
Ik aag se jalta rasta hai
Ik bujha hua sa murdaghar
Tum haath utha ke mashaal liye
apne dil mein ye sawaal liye
Ma behnon ki gaali kha kar
na koi seedha jawaab diye
is doraahe par aaj ruko
Gar kadam uthe seedha hi uthe
Aane wali peedhi pooche
Keh dena thodi der lagi
Par aaj uthe, hum saath uthe

Ye ajeeb drishya hai
Chal raha manushya hai
Ashru, sved, raqt se
Lathpath lathpath lathpath.
Kya aaj chunoge agneepath?
Agneepath, agneepath, agneepath.

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Problems of the Writing Mind (1)

Ever since I have decided that one of the things that I am going to take very seriously is this book idea that I’ve been working on, I am realizing how difficult it is to migrate from writing an incoherent short blogpost to a coherent full blown book. And some of the things I had noticed earlier are coming back to me. About how Sidin, a seriously funny guy, could write the trashy three book series. About how Amit Varma, one of the best bloggers India had, and some amazing thought provoking articles for various online and offline publications, could come up with My Friend Sancho. Compared to these prolific bloggers, some non-prolific bloggers actually have better books, I’d say. And some non-bloggers are actually miles ahead. And some of these books actually make me feel that Chetan Bhagat isn’t as bad as some of us make him out to be. It’s just bloody difficult

Anyway, to come back to my writer’s block problems, let me talk about a couple of them.

Fast food mind. With Twitter, Facebook and co, the mind operates in this libertarian frame where every significant or insignificant thought needs to be disseminated right there and then. A private chuckle or profound musing later, the thought has already outlived itself. Something longer than that ends up being a blogpost. Hardly anyone has the patience to read the long blogposts these days. Two reasons – too many blogs, too little time. They come with #longreads kind of warning. The problem for me manifests as a scarcity of thought as well. I have not been creating the mindspace and physical space which is broad enough to noodle over a thought long enough to write a longish post or section of the story on it. For instance, if I were to tell you that one of the ideas I had last week was the story of this anti-hero/vigilante who does what’s seemingly right but has no moral code whatsoever about how it’s done. Now, someone would automatically tell me which all comic books had the same idea as the central theme. I’d have read some, maybe. Or, none. Then I’d start scrambling for those comic books, their themes, plots, undercurrents, philosophies, fan fics, etc. In no-time an idea that could have evolved as an original idea, would be too encumbered by everything that has already been said about it. I am struggling to completely take myself offline. And I think I need to do it. Or, I can take a friend’s maxim to be true – It’s almost impossible anymore to find a thought that is completely original. Proposed solution to self – disconnect from the internet for extended spells. Includes but not limited to – deactivating the data connection on phone, and switching off the router in the bedroom (leave the dead spot as is). Disable wifi across devices (phone, ipad, etc.). And then, switch off the TV. I cannot go off consumption like gauravmishra did. But I can surely cut down my consumption, right?

The silence of the crowd – I am someone who has strong aversion to judge or be judged. While I started blogging in 2003/4, my initial ones (posts/blogs) were extremely private that I never even told anyone about. It was a webification of personal journal/diary. And the later ones have had a tendency to be frivolous about movies etc in a way that someone bringing them to my offline life does not bother me. The joke would be on me, and I am fine with it. Extending this logic, the moment I realize that the people around me realize that I am writing something and they start waiting for it, I will be too scared of being judged. And then my block becomes an immovable mountain. Even the home is a place where you feel that even the kitchen shelves know you and are judging you if you spend a minute too much in making that next cup of coffee! ☺ SO, I have always tried to find my comfort in the silence of the crowd. The chaos and the unfamiliarity gives me more open space, at times, then the comfort of a home. Hence, the decision over the last couple of days to find a noisy but comfortable coffee shop where I can sit and write.

 

That’s that then! More to come.

Coaches, Coaching: Passing Observations

Some on-off incidents –

#1 – There is a club in Raheja Vihar, close to my apartment. It has one badminton court. The next badminton court might be at Bombay Scottish. The one after that, likely, is in Hiranandani or Lake Homes. Each of these courts has defined play times for children, ladies, and general. There are hours when its deserted. There are times when you wait for 30 minutes to get a game in. Practice ralleys are not encouraged because it eats into other people’s time. So you talk in terms of 3 practice rallies only. Or 5. I haven’t seen a ‘coach’ here.

#2 – Three kids in the building where we live in Mumbai are playing a little soccer at the podium level. General gully scratching as one would say. One of them was trying to make his free kicks curve in. The second thought he knew how to and was trying to explain him, because his kicks had occasionally curved in. But then, kid#2 could also not do it consistently enough. The third was the goalkeeper. Also, as a second coach. If you heard the conversation, you’d know that they didn’t have a clue. They were experimenting. And learning.

#3 – A month long summer cricket camp in 1994 with a coach who is a nice fellow (a wicketkeeper batsman in the MECON team, also the second wicketkeeper of Bihar team)– Jitendra Singh. Jitendra bhaiya would tell us about the need for warm up, running, stretching etc. before you get to the actual game session. The game sessions were of two types. The typical nets where someone would bat and a set of bowlers would bowl. Or, split the lot into two teams and let them play a match against each other. As the play progressed, he would occasionally tell you what’s wrong with a particular delivery or shot. And so we tried to learn. In that period, I was experimenting with the bowling actions of Arshad Ayub, Saqlain Mushtaq, Anil Kumble, John Emburey, and a whole bunch of others before getting to a hybrid which was a cross between Warne and Kumble. I was a budding off-spinner. Maybe he noticed. Maybe he didn’t. He was happy that my deliveries were landing in the right areas. But he never talked about the loop, the trajectory, the rotations and the angle at which the ball should/ could land. Or the use of crease. Or the importance of pitches. In the same coaching camp, I don’t remember telling him much to the keeper either. That wicketkeeper, you’d remember from a few years back, wasn’t the nicest sight behind the stumps when he started for India, even though he used to be quite explosive as a batsman.

#4 – Last year, I was at my sister’s place. October sometime. One of those evenings, I took my nephew to his basketball class. He was 11 years old then. It was a 60 minute session. For the first 50 minutes, the coach conducted several 4-5 minute capsules covering the basics. How to move, how the knee bends should be, the second counting counting, the shoot, the dribbles, the hold, the release, offense movement, defense movements, decoys, etc. Small capsules of theory and practice. The kids were facing the coach and copying the basics. Next 5 minutes, he let the kids play in two teams. And for the last 5 minutes he let the kids do whatever they wanted to. Let them be kids, as they say.
Random conversations with several people since then suggest that at schools in US, the coach is the highest paid teacher.

#5 – I am reading Rafael Nadal’s book – Rafa. And one thing that stands about that ginromously successful and talented player is the excruciatingly painful training he has subjected himself to. All the hardwork he’s put into getting to that place. Somewhere in Sachin Tendulkar’s story is a similar lesson. Though, it was his brother Ajit who used to drive him from one stadium to another to another. And in both their stories, you have coaches who had a significant impact, more so in Rafa’s case than Sachin’s case.

*******

Notice anything? The general indication is that we as a nation are heavily dependent on talent. Not coaching, grooming or hardwork. Many with talent rarely get a chance to be near a coach. Even rarer is a coach takes interest. And rarest, a coach who is good.

The methods are absent because they are not considered important. The infrastructure is missing, because the administrators have other priorities. More often, how to be rich in 3 years and save for my coming generations in the next few. Like all things educational, our focus on the educators is abysmal. Teachers get paid less than daily wage laborers in primary school, and we expect them to lay a strong foundation (Rs. 5000 per month or so). A professor in a management school earns a monthly salary which a graduating MBA finds insulting. And coaches, more often than not, are an afterthought.

But how long will it be before we see a need for good teachers and coaches?

We know about Acharekar’s success as a coach. We have seen how Gopichand’s academy is grooming more and more world class badminton players. I believe that Bhupathi’s academy will give us some more world class tennis players. Albert Ekka Hockey Academy in Ranchi helps groom hockey players in the region with great consistency. Mary Kom is keen on a good boxing academy. Music, over the years, has maintained the culture of gharanas, and Rahman kind of people are investing in the KM Music Conservatory. We’ve seen Kirsten be a great coach to the Indian team. And historically as well, Ajit Wadekar, Chappell, etc. have played that role with varying levels of success. It will be interesting to see if a Dravid, Laxman, Kumble, Ganguly or Tendulkar take the route of coaching youngsters. Or, will most of them end up in the commentary boxes.

My hypotheses – it will probably be a 10-15 year long cycle where good players who retire from international or first class sports will take the opportunity to open academies, groom youngsters, bring best practices from around the globe, and get the backing of business houses who understand that there is money in creating a culture too, and not just encashing a fleeting sentiment. And then, we will have competent bench strength. And somewhere, enough adulation, money and competitive pressure to keep everyone going. I don’t think it’s going to work unless the economics is favorable.

विरासत (Inheritance)

उसे अकेले चलने की आदत नहीं थी। मज़ा नहीं आता था ऐसी वाक में। हमेशा ऐसा लगता था मानो बैकग्राउंड में ज़ी हॉरर शो का वो भद्दा सा संगीत बज रहा हो। हॉरर देखने वालों की तादाद दो तरह की होती है। एक जिन्हें वो भूत, वो खून, वो डरावने चेहरे देखने में कुछ मज़ा सा आता है, और दुसरे वो, जिन्हें ये सब एक कॉमेडी की तरह लगता है। वैसे इन दोनों ही पक्षों को ये संगीत कॉमेडी ही लगता है। मगर उसके दिमाग में सुनसान से ज्यादा तन्हाई का संगीत जी हॉरर वाला ही होता था। उसने कभी विश्लेषण नहीं किया था की क्यों ऐसा होता है। ऐसा भी नहीं था की उसे जी हॉरर शो बहुत पसंद था। बस एक संयुक्त एहसास था। और कुछ भी नहीं। कम से कम दूसरों को तो ऐसा ही लगता था।

वो भी एक ऐसी ही रात थी। बैकग्राउंड म्यूजिक के साथ जब वो अकेले बस स्टॉप से अपने घर की तरफ आ रही थे, तो एक खौफ की तरह उसे कुछ पैरों की आहट अपने पीछे महसूस हुई। पलट कर देखने की जगह उसने अपने कदमो की रफ़्तार बढ़ा दी। लेकिन आहटों ने पीछा ना छोड़ा। कुछ देर तक तेज चलते हुए क़दमों से उसने अपना रोज़ का रास्ता बदलने की कोशिश की। आहटें फिर भी साथ थी। उसने सोचा की वो चिल्लाये। मगर किसे? और क्यों? कुछ हुआ तो था नहीं। और मानो की ये सब उसका वहम हो? बचपन से सब ने सिखाया था की अगर डर से आँखें मिलाओ और डर को तुम्हारा डर दिख जाए, तो डर तुम पर हावी होने लागता है। येही सोच कर उसने पीछे पलट कर ये देखना अभी तक जरूरी नहीं समझा था। और साथ में दो सामाजिक डर अलग से – अगर कोई पीछे हुआ ही नहीं, और मैंने शोर मचाया तो लोग क्या कहेंगे? और अगर कोई पीछे है भी और मान लो की वो कोई यहीं का रहने वाला हो और मैंने शोर मचाया  तो बिना मतलब की फजीहत।

अब वो हांफने लगी थी। अभी भी घर कम से कम 100 मीटर दूर था। रौशनी थी। और भी घरों में रौशनी थी। उसे यकीं था की अगर वो चिल्लाएगी तो कोई न कोई निचे उतर ही आएगा। मगर जितने देर में कोई नीचे आएगा, क्या वो काफी होगा? अगर कोई उसे अगवा कर के ले गया? और इससे भी सुनसान जगह एक लोहे के सरिये से जख्मी शरीर की तरह छोड़ गया? सेलफोन कम से कम हाथ में निकाल लेती हूँ। मगर चलते चलते पर्स को टटोलने में रफ़्तार धीमी पड़ने लगी। दर से उसने फिर अपने कदम तेज़ कर दिए।

इन रास्तों पर चलते हुए अब 15 साल हो गए थे। और अब तक वो सोचती आयी थी की शायद ज़िन्दगी इन्ही रास्तों पर कट जायेगी।

उसने अपने मन को सांत्वना देने के लिए कुछ बोलना चाहा। मगर सूखे हुए गले से कोई आवाज़ नहीं निकली।

शहर कभी भी सुरक्षित नहीं महसूस होता था उसे। मगर कभी इतना डरावना भी नहीं की शाम के अँधेरे में उसे साए दिखाए दें। वो कॉमेडी क्लब में थी। लेकिन गए कुछ अरसे से उसे हॉरर शो डरावने लगने लगे थे।

काम्प्लेक्स के दरवाज़े पर पहुँच कर, जब उसे बिल्डिंग के गार्ड्स दिखाई देने लगे तो उसने हिम्मत जोड़ी और पीछे मुड़ के देखा। वहां कोई नहीं था।

वहाँ अँधेरे में उसे छह हैवानों की दी हुई वो विरासत दिखी जिसकी हिफाज़त में मुल्क के सारे सियासतदान लगे हुए थे।

उसने पर्स से फ़ोन निकाल, और अपने विश्वास और हिम्मत के लिए उस लिफ़ाफ़े को फिर से छू कर देखा, जिसमे उसका भविष्य था। किसी और शहर की किसी और गली में।

Mahabharat Ki Ik Shaam

Ruko nahi
Ab mat ruk jaana
Aaj jo jaage ho
To talwaron se dar kar
Mat jhuk jaana

Roz maraa karte the tum
Ab jab jeene ki sochi hai
Ji kar dikhlao
Paani ke dar se
Ya aanson ke behne se
Na ab ghabrao

Krodh ko paalo
Aag dhadhakne do seene me
Na ki pashu ki bhaanti
bauraye se daudo idhar udhar
Is krantipoorn mahine mein

Jhuka hai pehle bhi
Tanashahon ka taj
Jhukega kal phir bhi

Bhale qilon mein baithe hain
deekh padi hai unki thar thar
Aur maathe par bal phir bhi

Aaj agar tum palat gaye
Ghar laut gaye
Phir kaun sa amrit manthan hoga
Kyun hoga
Phir mrit janjeevan ka
Chakra chalega
Jyon jyon hota aaya hai
Tyon tyon hi hoga

 

रुको नहीं

अब मत रुक जाना .

आज जो जागे हो

तो तलवारों से डर कर

मत झुक जाना .

 

रोज़ मरा करते थे तुम

अब जब जीने की सोची है

जी कर दिखलाओ।

 

पानी के डर से

या आँसू के बहने से

ना अब घबराओ।

क्रोध को पालो,

आग धधकने दो सीने में।

 

न की पशु की भाँती

बौराए से दौड़ो इधर उधर

इस क्रान्तिपूर्ण महीने में।
झुका है पहले भी

तानाशाहों का ताज़,

झुकेगा कल फिर भी।

 

भले किलों में बैठे हैं,

दीख पड़ी है उनकी थर थर

और माथे पर बल फिर भी।

 

आज अगर तुम पलट गए

घर लौट गए,

फिर कौन सा अमृत मंथन होगा ?

क्यूँ होगा?

फिर मृत जनजीवन का

चक्र चलेगा।

ज्यों ज्यों होता आया है ,

त्यों त्यों ही होगा।

Sachin

The Tallest Cricket We Will Ever See

The Tallest Cricket We Will Ever See

I am affected by his retirement from ODIs. It’s time. It’s his decision. But it didn’t happen right. And we know it. And maybe at the end of SAF tour, he will announce his test retirement. The signs are there. The statement was on phone, brief, and a formality for a decision made differently, in some other place.

I am a Tendulkar fan. I won’t use the word “was”. I am. And I will be. Let me try and explain why.

Today, Indian team is going through a slump. Right? Several test defeats home and away, spineless performances, unimaginative captaincy, etc. etc. are being discussed. And somewhere, Sachin’s run with the team is being questioned. And people are talking about their growing disinterest and apathy towards the game.

If you were born in the 1975-1985 period (you just missed being a part of India’s WC 84 victory, but you’ve heard about it), you may remember. We had a horror of a team in late 80s and 90s. Full of legends dragging themselves, and a support battery that boasted of one hit wonders. Batsmen that were crafty or interesting or talented, but not match winners. Spinners that never could replicate the famed Bedi-Prasanna-Chandra era. Fielders that could make me feel like I am super-fit. At my present day fitness levels. And attitudes that reeked of – thank you, take it or leave it.

And then we heard conversations. About this talent. And then we saw it happen. Against Abdul Qadir. And then New Zealand. And then Australia. And then. And then. And we finally had something to attach our hopes and aspirations to. And he played. Like a tidal wave, he offered us adventure, excitement and peace. We rose with him. And we fell down with him. We reveled in the desert storm inning that did not win the match but took us to the final. And we made statements like – “if only he were around for 2 more overs”. Or – “Ab kya faayda. Band kar do ab TV”. And we cursed anyone who came up some convoluted statistical analysis to prove that you aren’t what you are made out to be. One of the things that all religious people tell you is that it’s about believing. And hence, the #SachinIsGod hashtags/memes never seemed too overboard.

Fast forward to 2011-2012– he fails. Critics who couldn’t last ten overs on the field debate how long he should stay on the field. I don’t care. Though I am all worried too. And I hope that there will be a swan song, but I am afraid that there won’t be one. For this is not a bollywood movie where someone just listens to a patriotic song or a mother’s cry and gets up to beat the bad guys.

Now, is there someone who’s been able to keep me interested? Someone to explain – why it doesn’t matter if I don’t follow every delivery of the game?. Online, offline? Why I won’t go out of my way to buy “Cricket Samrat”, “Sportstar” and go through the scoresheet of every match? And those cutout posters on the walls of your room? Yes, Kohli will earn his chips. And maybe a Rahane will happen. But right now, all hell breaks loose, and everyone’s fixated on this one guy. And you still want to debate that he is not the one you want to see as your best bet. Be my guest. I have nothing more to tell you.

Tendlya – Do what you’ve always done. Put on your headphones. And listen to Kishore Kumar or Pink Floyd. For the chatter ain’t worth it.

You, my friend, are a rapist

The rape did not happen that day.

Some of you may remember this. The males especially. Remember that party where this girl from the office was wearing that dress. And was looking really sexy. And you kept leering at her. No, you were not appreciating her. You were undressing her. And violating her. B50 thinks that rape is a very strong word that should not be used frivolously. And I don’t think I am using it frivolously when I say that you almost raped her that night. You took away her right to wear the dress she wanted to, and still be respected for who she was. And that girl who decided to pick a glass of rum or whiskey in the first office or college party. She must be promiscuous, you thought. And remember that girl who had two different boy friends. She can be a party favor, you wondered. Be at the right place at the right time, you planned. And remember the pass you made at that girl once you were too drunk. Maybe in a hope that being drunk allows you to say sorry later in case it she doesn’t like it.

Oh. And I forget.

You are from the elite group. The IITs/NITs/IIMs/etc. Educated, but by your own admission, not quite used to the company of women. Because you are prone to making funny jokes like – IITs don’t have females. They only have males and non-males. Your father, hopefully, did not tell you to be like that. Nor your mother told you that women are objects. You read about Sarojini Naidu and Florence of Nightingale in your school books. And the Ranis of several Jhansis. And that girl in the first bench who always wanted to be ranked first. That bloody maggu, yeah? Your teachers did not tell you this. Most likely. Yet you turned out this way.

So, what stopped you from becoming a rapist? Some kind of moral code? Fear of being caught and put behind bars? Fear of being ostracized  in case people get to know? Fear of being kicked in the nuts by the girl, or being pepper sprayed in your face? The fear of all your “other dreams” coming to an end for the sake of this one wanton fantasy? The fact that all these years, you’ve been fed by the parents, the teachers and the society around you that it’s wrong? But then, illegal downloads are wrong, and so is making lewd comments about someone behind their back.

Take the some total of all those things that stopped you from crossing the line. Somewhere, in there, lies the answer. Because it will take too long for you idiots to learn to respect women.

I wonder who it was who wrote – “jatra naryastu pujyante, tatra vasate devaah” (जत्र नार्यस्तु पूज्यंते , तत्र वसते देवाः). My country is in the pits of hell. And you, my friend, are a rapist. Because you rape when you get a chance. And you tolerate when someone gets raped.

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