Saturday, September 29, 2007

Street Cricket - Chintu's Story

[from the archives]

Sure- Every parent in India gleams with pleasure when his child/children actively join the game of Street Cricket in the evenings:

Rakesh.Akaash.Sameer.Siddharth.Chintu.Jaspreet. Standard Indian Baccha Party. Each, a master of his domain : Siddharth - with his super-off-spin ball ; Sameer - fast bowling ; Rakesh - with his brand new bat which he lends to people who make him captain ; Jaspreet - whose Mummy provided the elixir of life -- water.

In the middle of all these guru's, we tend to ignore the poor guy Chintu, for whom the two hours of cricket is an ordeal – every single day. As a victim of this forced activity right from Class 5 to Class 11, I know what goes on in the heart of all the Chintus of India. It’s not easy, I know. I will try to invoke the heart-wrenching details of the cruelty imposed by society.

My question to the world is- why does everyone have to like cricket? Where is the world where a child could freely shout - I HATE THIS STUPID GAME ! For the girls who were content playing "Stappu" during their school days, and for the parents who have inadvertently contributed their part in this cruelty, here's a short summary. Before that, a refresher of the words that will echo to them from decades away:

Batting - The most coveted activity of the three. Usually, the neighborhood seniority or brute power determines who gets to bat first. That’s politics - at its elementary level.

Bowling - The alternative to the dreaded act of fielding. The funkier actions you do with the ball, the more respectable position you obtain in the hierarchy. These may include :

  1. Spinning the ball on the fingertips aka Kumble.
  2. Doing invisible tampering with the ball behind your back.
  3. Missing the wickets by metres, credited to that awe-inspiring spin.
  4. Bowling in the opposite direction is excusable, if you demonstrate Step b.

White Ball- This means a wide ball. No new player since 1982 actually knows what "White" actually means. It’s a lingo handed down from generation to generation, frozen in its form. This is akin to the "Ice-Spice" shout which a kid screams out when he seeks someone in the game of Chuppan-Chuppai (or Hide and Seek). It took me a while to realize that he actually means - 'I spy’.

Umpire - The MAN. The KING .The one who uses his wisdom to uphold the virtue of the game. Of course, at any time, one team is always unhappy with his decision which usually can and is repudiated by any of the powerful members (not the chintus ). No one sits around being the umpire. He is usually a man from the batting team and his moral values are straight as noodles. Hence, a simple "Tereko mein dekh loonga saale" from the hulk of the team dictates whether the decision will be reversed..

Feeelding - The lowest duty in the hierarchy. Meant for recruits, destitutes and those who have not contributed to the cricketing equipment. It is irrelevant whether you are doing a good job or not. You are fielding, period. It is demeaning for the stronger team members, hence, it is always the chintus who are sweating in the sun, while the godfathers stand under the tree and boss around.

No Ball-Dead Ball-Furraaa- Vague terms to count out all the balls that did not reach the batsman, usually bowled by Chintus.

Baby Over -A concept truly Indian. It was definitely invented by the stronger guys of the team who realized that it was too expensive to allow a ‘Chintu’ to bowl half a dozen balls which could prove fatal to the team. Hence, the Chintu's bowl only 3 balls after which a kingpins take over. No hard feelings. I wonder who came up with the remarkable, but terribly demeaning prefix "baby"...

One Tip One Hand -Another truly Indian concept. It was definitely invented for whole team of Chintus who couldn’t possibly catch balls. So a 'catch' was legalized, if the ball was allowed to bounce once, and then caught with a single hand. Hence the term.

Team divison is usually done by "Tip-Top". It is too complicated to explain. So I'll assume you know about it. As the team captains pick and choose players, the chintus move around trying to catch the attention of the captains. It makes no difference. The chintus (might be more than one in number) are the last ones to get selected. The captain sizes up the chintus, sighs and moves away with a regretful expressions as chintu prepares himself for the next struggle :

mujhe batting milegi kya ?

The answer is no. Plain NO. Giving batting to the Chintus is unheard of. Of course, if due to some unfortunate actions, the batting order (of 2-3players) collapses, and Chintu does get a chance, he doesn’t last long. How can he, with his low experience and poor skills ?

Oh...Did I describe the wicket itself ? Only about 1 in 40 teams of India are fortunate to have real wickets. Usually its some Sharma Uncle ka Ghar where 4 lines are mercilessly drawn on the wall / garage. The height of the wicket is as debatable as the "white ball". Again, decisions are made by an active jury and not by the Umpire.

As the other team gets ready to bat and follow on, Team 1 plans its strategy. Chintus are at this stage divided into two types - The idiots who are loyal and ready to sit in the sun for a baby over, and the hopeless cases who can't even field properly. By my personal experience, it is always better to be the latter. With a little bit of whining, you can always get your baby over. Why toil in the sun for it?

Every street corner has its own set of rules about scoring -

Jhaadi ke paar - 2 runs ; Road ke paar - 4 runs ; Roof Top - out...

Of course, the rules and regulations were too much for me to handle. Add to that my pathetic performance in all 3 aspects of the game. It took me full 6 years to realize that I was truly bad at the game. Nothing wrong with it, or with the world, or with my peers.

Hence, on the day of June 3 2001, exactly 3 years back I put my foot down and said - "I choose not to play cricket anymore". I rose above all the peer pressures of the world and decided to take part in things that interested me. And not do things, just because I have to.

Of course, soon IIT happened and it has brought along another horror package for me (called Water polo). Its worse. I am wet. I am exposed. I am barely protected by my swimming trunks. I have a guy bulging with muscles, 2 feet away and ready to pound me. It’s an ordeal just to be afloat...But that’s another sweet story...Maybe some other time...

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Harry Potter 7

Warning: spoilers, ending and lot of cribbing in the post.

I am not going to complain of the excessive length of the book.
I am not going to whine about the gruesome markup on the book.

The final sour flavour in my brain was spurred by not the collective bunch of chapters in the beginning, but by the last chapter titled "Nineteen Years Later"
Why would an ardent or a mild Harry Potter fan want to visualize his teen chum as an aged father with 3 kids cheesily christened Albus, James and Lily? (If Suhaib's analysis holds true, then Rowling definitely ran out of new names!)

I'd like to draw an unfortunate but strong analogy to Karan Johar's movie "Kal Ho Na Ho". Remember the scene after the long drawn out death of Shah Rukh Khan (Die! Die! Die!). You'd be led to think that the end has arrived (Yes! I can move to the red exit now). And suddenly, this comical caricature of Saif Ali Khan, this white haired buffoon rubs cheek to cheek with an equally dumb old woman Priety Zinta. And your brain screams - No! I did not want to see that!

The dramatic ending of the book - slaying of Voldemort, everyone cheerful, fat giants leaping with joy, Dumbledore's speech from a photoframe (wasn't he dead?) and all other little nuances are wiped out with 3 pages of unnecessary clutter. And like a Hindi movie script, Rowling rams the fact that Hermione and Roy ka chakkar chal raha tha. I get you! There is adequate representation of main characters, clutter of little goody-too-shoes like Neville and of course, Draco had to sprout kids too. Fine. I get it. There is a whole new bunch of Hogwart morons.

Is this a devious plot to create another series?
I hope not.