Friday, May 23, 2008

The Katta Syndrome

A collection of guys around something, chatting about nothing specific, cracking jokes, "breaking balls"**, and regrouping at consistent intervals is called a Katta. Katta is more commonly used word in some regions of India, but i guess Adda is also popularly used to refer to a place/spot where guys collect.

I have come to think that Katta is probably one of the top five necessities of a guy. [Tongue in cheek - I am not going to spell out the top necessity]

A guy will invariably figure a way out to group with his dudes - if it's not for a smoke, it would be for a coffee break, if not that, may be a foos game in office.

Ever since i stopped smoking, i needed some avenue to get out of my desk once in a while and do something non-work related. I discovered foosball. One of the best stress busters i have experienced. The cafeteria area near Foosball table is probably the second most visited place in our office; next only to meetings :)

In some sense Foosball has provided us with that Katta feeling. Some fridays people have beer in their hands and gather around the table. Most jokes, most comments, wisecracks happen around table. But i am inclined to believe if we did not have a foosball table, dudes would figure out something else. But not let go that Katta necessity so easy.

Like one guy at work place is big on Guitar Hero. So he goes inside the meeting rooms, hookes up his game to the big wide LCD and collects a few guys and they have a ball. Last week, for the Champions League finals, for Man United - Chelsea game, a huge crowd collected around a dudes laptop to see last few minutes of that awesome match. Some other guy was smarter. He hooked his laptop to the 50' LCD screen in the conference room.
[In case someone's getting wrong ideas; yeah we do work!!!]

Point really is, most people like to chat, hang around a bit. Whether using a game or a live match as an excuse or not, there's a definite need for people to group. There are exceptions to the rule. There are some folks in my office, who would just sit at their desks all day and work. But i am not sure their productivity is higher than us.

Chicago downtown is full of such Kattas. My favorite is "All Stars". I am going to bet anyone, that the Hot Chicken Wings at All Stars is better than anywhere else.At times, our group has ordered like 40 wings amongst 7-8 dudes;all wings getting over in a jiffy. On a typical work day, you'd find a whole bunch of people hanging in those bars and catching on the latest MLB/NBA/NFL game. These sports bars are nothing but paid Kattas IMHO. They provide the necessary platform for that Katta-giri i mentioned.

So is Katta-giri universal?

YES is the resounding answer. It totally is. No doubt about it. Watch Sopranos (the term, "breaking balls", i picked from) It is a good example of that. How the Italinos believe in the Katta thing. How they break balls and crack jokes around a table is very relatable. Both the American and UK versions of "The Office" give a good peak into the Katta-giri of both the nations. We all know how Europeans in general have the Katta thing going on with the enormous pub culture clubbed with Soccer passion. I am sure this holds true in China,Japan,Australia and where have you. All places have theirs.

Countries in the world have their own Kattas in some form or the other. In India the "cutting" chai replaces Beer at a Katta. The cutting chai is the single most drunk beverage in India. It beats the second best (whatever it is) by a few hundred light years. At any street corner or a Katta, it is the sip of that chai that keeps the talk going. Chai is the quintessential Katta drink of India. The awfully sweet, sometimes muddy chai cup is the lubricant for a smooth conversation at Katta.

For any guy who could not relate to this article or have not been a part of this Katta culture - i can only say - TOO BAD. You surely have missed something priceless.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Like any other metropolis Chicago has it's share of "dark alleys" and dirty patches. One such patch is "Made in India".

It's the portion of Devon street which has the most Indian shops per mile. Devon street actually runs right through the heart of city and goes all the way to north and west suburbs. But the extreme east and south part of the street is where the fun is.

As you go due east, there's a visible change in the environment. You can see all Jew shops lined up on both ends. If you go on weekends to Devon, you'd see Jewish families in their traditional attire. After going further and passing a few blocks you start seeing Sari and Jewelry store. Now you officially enter the Indian domain. Names of shops like Sarita, Jyothi, Patel galore. And before you know you are surrounded by tons of desis, with very bright colored clothes. The colors are in-your-face and in-your-eyes bright.

The first 15 to 20 minutes is invested in finding a decent parking lot on a good day. On bad days, you pretty much give up after, making like, 4 or 5 rounds on the same road. If you do happen to get a parking, you walk down the Mahatama Gandhi Street. That's where the core group of shops are. The Patel Brothers, the Sukhadias, The Mysore woodlands et al.

It's hard not to notice a few things. Manikchand Gutka pouches, bright red spit of "paan", paper and other peripheral garbage are some of the things you see as you walk down the "walk of shame". But it's easy to see that most Indians are at ease with the situation. It's almost like they have left the America they live in far behind at the last block, and have smoothly eased into "their" country. It's almost like we are "at home".

The traffic too is very "Indian". The place where i get the most honks per minute of driving, is Devon street. Not because i break the rules or something, it's actually because i follow them. People at Devon don't like it. It's like i am slowing things down for them if i yield to some pedestrian. "Move out you bugger" and then a horn is what i get.

Devon has a mix of India and Pakistan shops. There have been riots too at some point, apparently. The street is actually divided into a MG Road and a Mohammad Ali Jinnah road. The boards of "zabiha halal meat" confront you as you walk through the Pak dominated shop.
Looks to me like Indians and Pakistanis on Devon are equal opportunity abusers. They contribute to the mess equally. Can't play no favorites here.It's almost like India and Pak are united in creating a united mess. (At least somewhere we meet)

Devon in some ways is the counter foil to the posh side of Chicago. As you move away from street and drive due east you end up hitting the Lakeshore drive, arguably the most plush road of Chicago. Devon is like the "bizzaro-Lake Shore drive". Like Seinfeld says - "bizzaro Superman". The Anti of something. The anti-hero. Devon street which is just about a mile from lake shore drive is the exact opposite of Lake shore drive. Crass, ugly, uncivilized and totally in-your-face. The tall, hip, very urbane buildings on Lake shore where some celebrities live, are as near to Devon as Peddar road is to Worli slums in Mumbai. The resemblance is uncanny.

So i read somewhere that you can take a man away from country but cannot take country away from him. Sounds like this phrase has many variables. In anycase, nowhere in Chicago does the phrase stick more than at Devon. The arrogance of shop owners, the messy streets, the bright/loud people, the honking of cars, the complete disregard for "others", the mad rush at grocery stores (to save that 10c on rice bag), vendors selling sugar-cane juice outside on streets, bargaining in shops....

The day i feel i have been sanitized enough, and i need to mess up a bit, I take a trip to Devon. Turns out, the India i know is just 12 miles South

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A Game

I will play a game with myself. I will try and connect a word to another one, creating a chain... and somehow come back to first word, completing the chain.

Universe - Infinite;
--Infinite - Limits;
---Limits - Algebra;
----Algebra - Senior School;
-----Senior School - Past;
------Past - Nostalgia;
-------Nostalgia - Nagpur;
--------Nagpur - Green;
---------Green - Cool;
----------Cool -; - Blue;
------------Blue - Lake Michigan;
-------------Lake Michigan - Chicago;
--------------Chicago - Second City;
---------------Second City - Improv;
--------------Improv - SNL;
-------------SNL- NBC;
------------NBC - Jay Leno;
-----------Jay Leno - Jokes;
----------Jokes - Seinfeld;
---------Seinfeld - New York;
--------New York - Fast;
-------Fast - Food;
------Food - Italian;
-----Italian - Sopranos;
----Sopranos - New Jersey;
---New Jersey - New Port;
--New Port - View;
-View - Barbara Walters;
--Barbara Walters - Oscars;
---Oscars - Hollywood;
----Hollywood - Angelina Jolie;
-----Angelina Jolie - Adoption;
------Adoption - Africa;
-------Africa - Safari;
--------Safari- Lion;
---------Lion - Gir;
----------Gir - Rajasthan;
-----------Rajasthan - Fort;
------------Fort - Jaisalmere;
-------------Jaisalmere - Train on Wheels;
--------------Train on Wheels - Lalu;
---------------Lalu - Fodder;
----------------Fodder - Cow;
-----------------Cow - Milk;
------------------Milk - White;
-------------------White - Snow;
------------------Snow - Shovel;
-----------------Shovel - Ass;
----------------Ass - hole;
---------------hole - Mouse;
--------------Mouse - Windows;
-------------Windows - Microsoft;
-----------Microsoft - Bill Gates;
----------Bill Gates - Billions;
---------Billions - Forbes;
--------Forbes - Magazine;
-------Magazine - Filmfare;
------Filmfar - Bollywood;
-----Bollywood - SRK;
----SRK - Energy;
---Energy - Fuel;
--Fuel - Hybrid;
-Hybrid - Prius;
Prius - Smooth;
-Smooth - Ice Cream;
--Ice Cream - Dinshaws;
---Dinshaws - Summer;
----Summer - Holidays;
-----Holidays - Indoor Games;
------Indoor Games - Dessert Coolers;
-------Dessert Coolers - Mango Milkshake;
--------Mango Milkshake - Alphanso;
---------Alphanso - Bombay;
----------Bombay - Traffic;
-----------Traffic - Infrastructure;
------------Infrastructure - Roads;
-------------Roads - Black;
--------------Black - Black Hole;
---------------Black Hole - Celestial;
----------------Celestial - Planets;
-----------------Planets - Light Years;
------------------Light Years - Universe

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Remembering an Unsung Hero

{This is a long article copied from my old blog. Almost 3 years old}

I would like to start a series of articles on the personalities/people whose achievements went unnoticed or they were, as they say, Unsung.

I would like to start with the man who according to me was singularly responsible for affecting the lives of the entire Indian middle class, a class which i proudly belong to.

No its not (the oft repeated) Manmohan Singh, but the real force behind him and the political will behind all his measures - Mr. Narismha Rao.

While reading through the tribute by rediff's Amberish Diwanji on Narshimha Rao, i realised what this man had achieved with such paper thin majority behind him. Agreed that he used all the means (good or bad) to achieve what he finally achieved. But look at the results.

I will always prefer a leader who is corrupt but gets results for the people rather than a non-corrupt 'progressive' socialist who only speaks and plans and does nothing concrete. Ideally i would like a leader who's non-corrupt and result oriented. But leaving idealism aside i wouldn't mind, lets say, a leader who builds roads, hospitals, schools and infrastructure and also warms his pockets on this path.

Narsimha Rao may have been corrupt and there's been lot of mud on his dhoti right from Jharkhand MPs to Harshad Mehta, but what he did for India during those turbulent times has been un-matched in Indian political history.

Before we judge Mr. Rao from these isolated events, lets take in context what was the state of the country when he became PM. Lets get some facts.

He was the PM of India from 1991 till 1996. Just preceding his rule, there had been two failed governments. One of VP Singh and the other of Chandrashekhar. Owing to VP Singh's Mandal the nation's social fabric was in a state of disarray. The so called OBC's were the new Czars. To counter the potential divide within the larger Hindu family L.K Advani had to embark upon his rath yatra to Ayodhya which in turn polarized the Hindus and Muslims further. A divided Hindu family was what VP Singh was looking at as he wanted to become the messiah of the Muslim-OBC vote bank. Advani was able to consolidate atleast a chunk of Hindus behind him, specially the Hindu middle class. That probably saved a much larger divide along the caste lines, which was VP Singh's real intent.

Lets say finally neither Advani nor VP Singh succeeded completely in their missions. VP Singh in fact became a spent force almost immediately.But these two also left the country in a state of uneasy disturbance by their actions.

But the real issue facing the nation was the economic crisis. The Gulf war had just ended and the oil prices were at all time high. The previous government had already taken loan from IMF keeping Gold as mortgage. Something that was unprecedented in the history of Nehru's socialist India. Thanks to Nehru and Gandhi family whose "socialism" had the tacit support of the communists in all those years, the country was on a brink of economic and social disaster. All those years the Indians had been fed with stories of how self sufficient India was and how good was Nehru's socialist policies and how PSUs would be enough to make India productive. It was only a matter of time before the socialism's bomb exploded in the face of Indian policy makers, who all those years, were just avoiding to confront this issue.

In this context i would like to quote Dr. Ramesh Thakur of the United Nation's University..
"Fascination by Jawaharlal Nehru [...] with the state's occupying the commanding heights of the economy and with planning as the instrument of choice for economic growth -- at the cost of a free-market price mechanism -- grew from an admiration of what at the time seemed to be impressive achievements by the Soviet Union, one of the two superpowers. This produced compromises with liberal democracy. The result was the greatest pogram of poverty multiplication and persistence in human history."

And the bomb did explode, the day the news came of India surrendering gold to World Bank in return to a loan.

So basically Rao came in at an unenviable time. Also since he was not a Gandhi family member it was not going to be easy for him to have the backing of the Congress MPs who are eternally intoxicated in sycophancy of Gandhi-Nehru clan. He was always going to walk a very tight rope.

But he had one big advantage. BJP after loosing the 1991 elections was not at its combative best. It was always going to be a weak opposition. Also it was pro-liberalization. But its biggest handicap came when Babri was destroyed. In one stroke that event galvanized the entire non-BJP force of the country. In one way it might also have been Rao's master stroke.
By being soft on BJP and in some ways allowing Babri to get demolished, Rao gave the entire "secular" polity a permanent handle to beat BJP with.

Babri demolition sent shock waves across the country. More importantly it tamed BJP and its off shoots. A weak opposition was Rao's best bet during those days. And he got that in exactly one year of his rule.

With oppositon on the back foot, Rao now had to rein in the even more vocal opponents of practically everything - the Left. One must credit Rao of handling them well by playing them against BJP. He was able to divert all the left's negative energies towards BJP while silently under taking the reforms. He gave Manmohan and his team a free hand to handle economics. A free hand without political pressure is probably every Finance minister's dream. And Singh made full use of it.

It must not be forgotten by all who are always jumping in giving Manmohan Singh all the due for liberating the economy that as a part of the deal with IMF in 1992, India HAD to liberalize its economy. There was no going back on that. Manmohan Singh JUST HAPPENED to be the Finance Minister at that time. I doubt any other finance minister (whether Jaswant Singh,Yashwant Singh,P.Chidambara or any other) would have done anything different.

Lot of people today give all the credit for economic reforms to Manmohan Singh. But that at best is only partially true. Today Manmohan Singh is just the face but power lies somewhere else. 13 years ago the story was not different. He was playing his innings when the real game was played else where. Rao had the political will and the guts to carry on with what he thought was right for the nation. Without much fuss and hype he brought some sweeping changes in India's economic thoughts and ideas. Behind the scenes he manufactured deals and applied his political skills to keep the communists and socialists from making too much noise. While Manmohan Singh got all the praise showered upon him , specially by media and the middle class, Rao silently worked to see that all the bills are passed smoothly.

In his essay "The political economy of reform", management guru Gurcharan Das wrote,
"Narasimha Rao deserves credit for his deft handling of the reform process, especially in sequencing the acts in a politically shrewd manner. Hence, India has avoided the political damage – or even collapse, as in Russia’s case – that many countries have suffered after the economic reforms"

Rao's tenure was qualitatively different than that of Rajiv Gandhi's. One must not forget that Rajiv Gandhi, the poster boy of Indian politics, had things on platter. He had more than three fourths of Parliament members solidly behind him. He had the world at his feet. He could have done anything with a snap of his finger.The media was behind him and there were no private channels to probe his dealings and breath down Rajiv's neck for every decision he makes.
(Its a different thing that he wasted all those years in playing a celebrity rather than a serious leader and frittered away all the good will and advantage he started with).

Rao's style, as Shekhar Gupta of IE puts it, "was so hopelessly understated as to amount to self-denial". As he gave free hand to Manmohan Singh for handling nation's economy he was also equally benevolent towards the home affairs ministry. The Punjab problem, one of the worst faced by India, post-independence, came to an end during his tenure.

And most likely it ended because even though Rao was fully aware of KPS Gill's strong arm tactics he did not interfere; on the other hand he created an intellectual base in the media to justify Gill's actions.

"The end of terrorism in Punjab without conceding any of the demands of the terrorists and the successful termination of many hijackings without conceding the demands of the terrorists, were some his achievements on home front" - writes B.Raman (Author of many articles on International Terrorism)

His foreign affairs acumen was never a question. Hence his bold decision in 1992 to bring into the open India's relations with Israel, which had been kept secret since they were first established under Indira Gandhi's orders in 1969 and to permit Israel to open an Embassy in New Delhi, was nothing short of a master stroke.

Israel which had been a victim of terrorism for long was a perfect partner for our counter-terrorist program. Rao saw that India could learn a lot from Isreal in many areas of tackling terrorism.

In a country where the Nehrus and Gandhis are worshipped, there was this political pygmy who by his actions brought more positive changes within the country than those brought in by the entire rule of the Nehru Gandhi family.

Right from handling Foreign affairs to internal matters to economics to politics, Rao showed that you can drive the nation out of problems rather than take it towards it.

His own party, the Congress (shamelessly) never really acknowledged his contributions and achievements.Congress men feared a backlash from their goddess Sonia, if they ever uttered anything positive about Rao.

Unfortunately Rao's political career ended in humiliation. He was being dragged from court to court in various cases even as his own party men were looking the other way or looking to hold the fingers of Madam Gandhi.

I guess we are too close to Rao's history to really fathom his greatness. It is really sad that we have made heroes out of unqualified and ill deserved people today and we have consistently forgotten the contributions of the real heroes.

Rao, knew more than 18 languages, he was a qualified lawyer and had great knowledge of world history. He used all his knowledge and experience to drive India out of those tough times. Frankly today's new generation leaders are not a patch on this man.

For me he was probably the only Congress Prime Minister , who i will ever see in positive light.

Sorry Jaipur

Jaipur - I am sorry. I am sorry that you lost 70 of your innocent citizens. But i am more sorry because I belong to Nation who would soon forget you and your lost lives and go on to live a routine life. A Nation that would like to believe, as long as it does not happen to "us" it's ok. I am more sorry because before the end of this week, those 70 lives will be numbers and statistics to be kept for future reference.

Jaipur - you are part of "India" but may be you are too far. Too far from our "mainstream" thought which is more worried about the security of our "stars", our "heroes", our cricketers. Don't get me wrong. We will provide the necessary lip service . We will say we "condemn" the attack. Our beloved Prime Minister although may not have sleepless nights for you as you are not an Indian Muslim "wrongly" held by the (evil) western governments. For our PM those 70 were just faceless individuals and he thinks he is too busy wasting sleep over those people. But again don't get me wrong, he will *loudly* and *clearly* condemn the attack. He may even ROAR for all you know. He will, with his pigeon chest puffed all of 25 inches and say WE WON'T TOLERATE this. So watch out for his unequivocal condemnation.

Jaipur - Currently we are busy with IPL and cricket. And you can understand.You are leading the table of points and have beaten even SRK's team, you should know how the cricket craze has engulfed all of us. May be that is why you were chosen as a site for carrying out these blasts. To send out a message to all Indians, don't WIN.

Jaipur - please don't get me wrong again. We are going to be lectured on communal harmony and secularism by our esteemed elite. We would also be told how the "spirit" of India recovers from such attacks, pretty soon. Infact before you read this, the spirit would have already recovered and would be healthy to face another blast at another city. So you already know the drill, don't ya? If not, ask Varanasi, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Delhi, Coimbatore....

Jaipur - one bad news though. Even if somehow our central and state agencies are able to nab the culprits, say 2 years from now after intense search and investigation, you would have to wait for justice to be done. It is very likely that the justice won't be done at all. You know, we have a "human rights" industry in place here. There are some journalist and columnist who like to burn candles. May be they have a tie up with Dimple Kapadia who has a designer candles showroom. But anyways, so look out for those jack asses, oops, sorry elite jholawals. They would like lighting candles at India Gate to oppose the conviction of a terrorist. After all a terrorist is a human, no? So basically you will have to live with this idea that the people who killed 70 innocent others will be our governments guest as some journalists won't like it if they are hanged, although the terrorist has made chest-thumping declaration of killing 100s of Indians

And Jaipur - if you thought SRK's jumping like a kid over Shoibh Akhtar, India's latest star's, chest was inappropriate given the sad situation don't get him wrong too. SRK is pretty animated and i think he is smoking pot. He forgot that there existed a city called Jaipur. For him Knight Riders is all that is to India now. So sorry for his pretty graphic and animated "gay" show in front of the ever willing Kolkatta crowd. Sorry that this was happening, even when you were lifting debris over your dead bodies. I understand that, if it was another nation, the match would have stopped half way and at least a symbolic mourning of 2 minutes would have been done to show solidarity with you. But wait, Kolkatta is your rival now, so may be not. Apparently SRK was going to have a big party post match. Just a few hours after this tragedy. So in case you did not know this because you are busy sobbing, remember you heard it hear first (I need to keep the tradition of "Exclusive-Breaking-News" alive, you see)

So Jaipur - so long.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Greatest Cricketing Moments

The success of IPL has clearly whetted my appetite for more cricket. At the cost of my wife's anger, i still keep logging into any website that can give me a small peak into IPL. Highlights, interviews etc.

Youtube has become my favourite buddy lately.

Over the weekend I started thinking what were those great cricketing moments I ever witnessed in my lifetime. And i came up with the list closest to my memory.Some of those have blurred over the past, yet somehow i think i recollect enough of them to put it out.

7. Javed Miandand last ball six of Sharma : Sharjah-1986. This moment probably ranks only a close second to Pakistan's World Cup Win of 1992, for any hard core Pakistani cricket fan. This was Pakistan's greatest six ever.

It turned Javed Miandad into a God in Pakistan and by same count, demoted Chetan Sharma to a villain who's reputation got a permanent taint in India. Sharma was permanently married to that last ball.
Never has one cricketing shot had such a reverse impact on two nations. Till that point, India and Pakistan were evenly matched. In fact India had a slight lead on a head-to-head record with Pakistan in one day-ers.

But that day in Sharjah, Javed Miandad changed Indo-Pak cricket forever. India could never really get over that shock. For almost a decade after that, the results of India Pak games became a mere formality, with Pakistan winning 8 out of 10 games and improving the head to head record, many times over.

6. Sunil Gavaskar breaking Don's record : For those who have seen Gavaskar at his peak, he was the ultimate legend. But not for my generation. I started "digging" cricket when Gavaskar's career was on a wane. He was never my favourite. But that winter morning in 1983, when Sunil Manohar Gavaskar walked in the stadium in Delhi, I along with the entire nation prayed. We prayed, that Gavasker would tame the might of Windies pace and break a 4 decade old record.

And he did. He equaled Sir Donald Bradman's record, making his 29th century. Although he broke it in far more matches than the Don; who really was counting? A nation starved of sporting heroes finally had an Indian name against the title - "Highest Test centuries".

5. Shastri wins Audi : For most of the cricketing world, India's 1983 Prudential WC win was always a "fluke". But one lanky Indian had some ideas about changing that notion. His name was Ravi Shastri - a slow left hand finger spinner who was permanently "benched" during the 1983 WC tournament. In fact the only games India lost in 1983 in England, had Shastri in playing 11. So this guy din't have much reputation to guard to start with.

But something changed in the 1985 Benson Hedges WC in Australia. Shastri was sent as an opener instead of his usual tail ender position. And Shastri was not going to leave this chance.

Shastri was from Mumbai, same city as Indian captain Gavaskar. It was rumoured that Sunny was backing his prodigy, even though Shastri was not really up to it. It turned out later, Gavaskar got it right. Shastri with calm and patient knocks would stick around the wicket as long as possible and build up a steady ground for long hauls. Those days a 200+ score was defendable. And Shastri did just that. He would stay around the wicket long enough to see India go through that psychological gate of 200.

India won the finals beating arch rivals Pakistan and Ravi Shastri was awarded the Champions of the Champions award. Apart from a lot of cash he got Audi, making it a household name and a dream car for every male in country.

4. Ajay Jadeja destroying Waqar's career : I really doubt there has been any one-day player in India whose cricketing acumen was as sharp as Ajay Jadeja's. He got dragged into the unfortunate match fixing scandal (and i think unfairly so) and a great prospect ended. Till that time though Jadeja had single handedly won more games for India, than any other. Lot of people do not realise the amount of work he had to do due to his odd rank in the batting order when Indian front order had screwed up (9 out of 10 times)

Jadeja's slaughter of Waqar Yonis at the knock off game in Bangalore in '96 WC, still remains one of my fav cricketing moments of all time. Although Sidhu was awarded the man of the match for that game, for me it was Jadeja's day.
His cameo towards the end was what ultimately became the difference between the two sides. India went from 230 odd to 280 in last 3 overs, thanks to the brutal Jadeja attack.

He single handedly broke the myth of "soft" Indians unable to take on the aggressive Pakistanis forever. Waqar's career took a downhill from that game onwards and after that loss, the Pakistani team was looking for excuses on how to not land in Pakistan.

One of the most absorbing games of cricket I have ever seen. My heart still pounds at the image of that game. The tense atmosphere, the on field controversies (Prasad-Sohail), Imran Khan's flip-flopping commentary and the pouring of entire city of Nagpur on the street's, after India's win are images as fresh in my mind as anything else. That day, India did not win world cup, yet that game had an out pouring of emotions, i have never witnessed.

3. Sachin hits Shoibh Akhtar for a six over 3rd man The rivalry was built up before the game even started. The match, India vs Pak, 2003 WC, was not only between two arch rivals, but two very fascinating cricketers. One, India's favourite son, Sachin Tendulkar, and other, a person with a reputation to destroy the opposition by his sheer speed. A very animated individual, Akhtar, could invite intense emotions both on and off the field.

It was billed as match between Sachin and Akhtar. Akhtar had got the better of Sachin in a couple of earlier meetings. People had started doubting Sachin. Was he afraid of Akhtar, was he loosing his reflexes? Inquiring minds asked.

The atmosphere was charged like hell. The entire Pakistani team in their florescent greens had blood on their tongues. Their pace attack was the envy of other teams. Akhtar, Waqar,Akram - you cannot have a better threesome in one team.

The Rawalpindi express comes roaring in. The entire crowd behind him. Sachin watches off the first 2 balls carefully. He is seeking a revenge. We know. Sachin knows. But will that moment ever come? Not till the 4th ball of the over is bowled. Sachin flashes his bat to a wide ball outside the off stump. For a fraction of a second, the entire nation's heart is in their collective mouths. Where did the ball go?

Luckily for India that day, it went past atleast 15 rows behind the 3rd man boundary.

The battle had ended in one over. Rather in one shot. "..A shot that had ended a decade of Indian inferiority against Pakistan.." said Ramchandra Guha, the famous historian. The "Express" finally knows, why Sachin is what he is. No one dares to "bill" another of these battles anymore. The genius prevails over the challenger. The express comes to a screeching halt. To rub salt to his wounds, Shoibh Akhtar is taken off the attack immediately. The ultimate insult to a paceman's ego.
Sachin wins an individual battle and the day for India.

2. India wins 20-20 WC : Pakistan need 13 runs of last over. Misbah-ul-haq, an unfancied young cricketer has brought Pakistan in sight of an improbable victory. The dashing Indian captain, Dhoni who's heralding a young and restless Indian squad, has a hard choice to make. Whom should he give the last over? Will it be one of his regular bowlers or the Haryanvi Jat, Joginder Sharma, who's balling is at best ordinary.

The chutzpah of Dhoni, he gives the ball to Joginder Sharma. Joginder Sharma's last name is same as the guy who let India down 2 decades ago against the same team. A sense of Deja vu prevails across the watchers. Will it be another Sharma, putting India's face to shame. The similarity is uncanny.

Dhoni follows his instinct. Backs up Sharma to do the job for India.

First ball, its a wide. Pressure is palpable. Second ball, a swing of the bat, but a lucky miss for India. No run scored. Still 5 balls and 12 runs needed. Sharma bowls a loose full toss. Misbah crashes it past long off boundary for a huge six. Pakistan is now precariously close to win. Dhoni walks up to his man, and calms his nerves. Dhoni's neck is on the line. If Sharma gives another six, its all over for both Dhoni and Sharma. The Indian crowd can be that unforgiving.

But destiny was not going to let India down again. India had never lost to Pakistan in a cricket world cup. India manage to retain that ONCE again. The entire nation erupts at stroke of midnight as Sreesanth takes his career's most important catch. Misbah mistimes a shot he will live to regret for ever. India win by just 5 runs. Unbelievable scenes across the globe. For me this was clearly the cricketing moment of the decade.

1. India Win Cricket World Cup'83 Anyone who has seen Kapil Dev grinning ear to ear, holding proudly the Silver cup in hand after drubbing the Mighty West Indies at the Lords balcony, cannot but call this the greatest cricketing moment India ever produced.

It was a wet day in end of June in 1983 and my first day at school after it reopened post summer vacation. I came back and joined the audience at home, trying to watch the game on a black and white TV. Thanks to the screwed up Government run Doordarshan, we were seeing the game only in installments. To add to it, the Maharashtra State Board of Electricity (MSEB) chose the exact same day to trip something and create a blackout. On no other day did the sale of transister batteries go so high as people got desperate to keep pace with Score of the match.

India had made a modest total of 183. Most had resigned to idea of Windies easily overhauling it. But there was hope and prayer. We had seen miracle happen earlier. And the emotional and religious Indians were praying every minute even when putting up a facade of being "cool" even if "we loose".

Vivian Richards, the most feared batsman in the world was crusising along easily, playing the "easy" Indian balling like he would play school kids. His confidence, his body language, his arrogance was mesmerising. But David was ready for Goliath that day. A lapse of concentration by Richards took him to loop the ball in air. Kapil Dev, the Palmolive da jat, ran almost 40 yards towards the boundary line in backward direction and took a catch that was going to change India's cricketing fortune for ever. One of the greatest catches ever witnessed.

By scalping Vivian Richards India tasted blood. This was going to be their biggest day. Their only chance to be visible. Their only ever hope of making it in the big league.

As Mohinder-deceptively-slow-Amarnath got the last wicket, that of Michael Holding, a momentous day was permanemtly etched in million memories. Thousands of bell bottom pants and big side locks and bushy hair styled desi Indians invaded the Lords pitch even as Michael Holding lay low on the ground trying hard not to sob.

The Devils had given Indian cricket fans the greatest gift they could ever imagine. A lump went to the throat of my mother as she saw Kapil Dev holding that trophy. Truely the greatest cricketing moment.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

And you thought...

...only USA was so self involved!!

A massive tragedy hits a next door neighbour, and before we blink, Myanmar is off the mainstream headlines (TOI,IBN,NDTV,

Bangalore Royal Challengers removing its CEO from the post is bigger news than 13,000 deaths.