Sunday, 26 April 2009

Sweet dreams are made of these

For all the fuss I make about my rejection of destiny, luck and all that jazz, my iconoclasm succeeds in eluding me in times of need. Pascal’s gambit, I suppose.

It was another of those Saturday afternoons. The ceremonial ablution had been completed, the watery dal swallowed and the Gmail account checked and re-checked. ‘Write editorial; Photocopy power systems notes; Prepare for instrumentation TS’ read the to-do list I’d super-glued to my wall earlier that day. They could all wait. Two more hours would have to be killed before the long overdue visit of the Two Moneymen. IPL it would be for now, I decided. Much to the delight of a good many of my darker brethren, the Deccan Chargers seemed poised for a mammoth score. Five minutes into my arrival, three wickets had fallen and 200 now seemed a distant dream. There. The minority Mumbai Indians crowd now looked at me with an added sense of respect. With Tendulkar dropping a sitter minutes ago, a new messiah was needed. And he was found in the long-forgotten corners of Azad Bhawan.

My rating further soared an hour later. Tendulkar got Mumbai off to a decent start, with Duminy and Dhawan still to come. However, a five minute spell saw the three men throw away their wickets cheaply and put Mumbai seemed all but beaten. As luck would have it, it was precisely during those five blighted minutes that I chose to make the long trip to Nesci for a cup of coffee- my fifth of the day. “How could you do this to us?” exclaimed one distraught supporter. A few Harbhajan swings and misses sealed Mumbai’s fate. It was a lost cause now- even my presence could do little to alter the course of the match. The minority Mumbai crowd was left heartbroken, though my promises of staying rooted to my seat for every Indians’ game for the rest of the tournament lifted their spirits a fair bit.

The rain-gods were my next target. I prayed for the Chennai-Kolkata match to be washed out, to save me the trouble of reasoning with Cautley's bonehead of a canteen-wallah. They duly obliged. It was my day all right.

Nothing, though, could have braced me for the next forty five minutes. I gave the first half of the United-Spurs game a miss, choosing to attend The Two Moneymen’s generous treat at CCD instead. 2-0 down, read the scoreline on my return to Azad. “I hate saying this but my hope is thinning with each passing game,” I texted the Maddu Minion. Again, my arrival turned things around in a manner that I hadn’t imagined possible even in the wildest of my wild dreams.

A superhuman performance from Wayne Rooney ensured that Heurelho Gomes’ goal was breached five times in the next forty-five minutes. 5-2, the final score.

Liverpool, Juventus, Bayern Munich 1999, Tottenham 2001, Everton 2007, Aston Villa 2009, Tottenham 2009. The catalogue of great United comebacks has entered another chapter. Football, bloody hell!

P.S: Another football post. Apologies, Al.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Monday Morning Blues

I have always been a huge fan of liquor adverts. McDowell’s and its uber-lame ‘make-it-large’ series apart, most breweries come up with fantastic stuff to coerce the teetotalling millions into giving their principles a break. My all-time favourite is the Royal Challenge advert that was aired in the late ‘90s- the one where a guy practices his golf on a flight. He pulls off a fabulous putt and looks around hoping for applause, only to find his co-passengers in various stages of stupor. The world would be a far more wonderful place if only you could somehow pick your audience for each moment- you scratch your nose and every pair of eyes at Nesci looks on in disgust; later the same day, you score a stunning volley from 15 yards out with only the hapless goalkeeper and a couple of defenders in attendance.

I had my Royal Challenge moment earlier tonight, a tête-à-tête that I would have liked all and Kondy to overhear. It had all the makings of a highly forgettable conversation- I was into the last few minutes of a highly forgettable weekend, United had just lost to Everton and HOG and his threats of a back were still looming large on the horizon. I was hardly in the mood for any human contact, let alone three halfwits that proudly called themselves ‘True-Blues’. The next thirty minutes were a pleasant surprise- a reconfirmation of my constant accusation of Chel$ki being the embodiment of all things ugly in the beautiful game.

I never thought I could ever come to loathe anything more than Tutti-Frutti ice-cream and Liverpool FC. Then again, for all our hostility, there is an undeniable undercurrent of mutual respect in the Manc-Scouse rivalry. With Chel$ki, though, it is plainly a case of pure, unadulterated hatred. Strange, indeed, that only eight years ago, I eagerly looked forward to our trips to Stamford Bridge. Though never a fan, I really enjoyed watching the likes of Zola, Gronkjaer and Gudjohnsen play. Along came Abrahamovic with his oil. Chelsea would never be the same again. Nor would the Chelsea supporter. With the arrival of a bottomless bank account and an all-new squad, a new Chelsea supporter was born- one who did not mind the drab football Mourinho’s men played week after week as long as they brought (bought?) the silverware home. A Chelsea fan who turned up well in advance for the United-Porto game but leisurely sipped the Azad canteen’s heavenly mango shake fifteen minutes into his team’s own quarterfinal against Liverpool. One who spent hours cooking up lame Gtalk status messages, all on the recurrent theme of ‘I hate Man. United’ (Try this for creativity- ‘Roses are red, violets are blue; whatever you say, I’ll say F-U M.U.). A Blue who did not care how shamelessly Drogba dived as long as he won the all-important penalty. A Stamford Bridge where all in attendance believed that the end justified the means, no matter how many careers were ruined along the way.

Tonight’s result left me gutted. Fingers will be raised as they indeed should be. Everton were by far the hungrier of the two sides. While Moyes rattled off instructions to his players minutes before the shootout, Fergie seemed to be asking Macheda what flavor of ice-cream he wanted for dinner. Even so, the kids did us proud; our youth squad tore apart the side that stands sixth on the league table, with nothing to show for it. The situation I faced was a hopeless one, though. How do you explain the importance of a youth academy to three ‘die-hard’ Chelsea fans? How do you make them understand that not every club bought all its players from West Ham and some still believed in grooming home-grown talent? How do you tell them that every player started off at a youth academy, gained experience, peaked and turned thirty before joining a club like Chelsea? Exasperated, I tried another argument. I asked them about Maniche, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Steve Sidwell and dozens of other talented players who were bought at the prime of their careers, only to be discarded a year or two later, no more than shadows of the players they were on arrival at the Bridge. ‘What have you got to say about Andriy Shevchenko?’ I asked them. ‘Or Carlo Cuducini?’ ‘Just three words,’ replied True Blue-I. ‘Manchester United sucks.’

I rest my case.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

There and back again

The first cries of the pani puri vendors announce the break of dawn. The Arabian Sea glistens in all its glory once again. Pigeons and gulls fly over us and further inland. The sun couldn’t seem to make up its ruddy mind whether to shine in all its cynical glory or let the cool breezes endure. The distant silhouette of the Gateway of India is soon surrounded by specks of human bodies. The auto and rickshaw wallahs arrive in the hope of an early customer. The beggars pick up their rags and rehearse their heart-wrenching wails. The eunuchs are up, going around doing whatever it is that they do. Another day in the life of the world’s greatest city has just begun.

It has been quite a journey. Forty eight hours ago, I was in R-Land trying to make a dim-witted hexagenarian see reason. With us getting richer by 75k (with a fancy 4' by 2' cheque to prove it) and a mail from the Tatas heaping an undue amount of praise on us, the milk of human kindness would rise like a tide in the old man, we thought. All that remained was mere paperwork- he would sign the blighted application and be done with it, perhaps with a few words of wisdom- a ritual men his age can’t seem to do without. None of that happened, though. Except the homily with the words of wisdom, of course (“You're still young. Many big opportunities will come your way. And not all of them will clash with your examinations. Har! Har! Har!”) Far from amused, I set off anyway, deciding to do a “Screw you guys, I’m goin’ home.” The last word, of course, has no place in the present context.

Three uneventful rides (aboard a bus, flight and an auto-rickshaw respectively) found us at the hallowed gates of the Taj Mahal Palace. As embarrassing as it might sound, this was my first stay in a 5-star hotel. I have flown first class only once in all my life, and that was also on a ride to the Schiphol when the KLM officials were kind enough to offer me a free upgrade. A flight journey is invariably synonymous with a packed Cathay Pacific 400-seater or four hours of Omaret Yakobean aboard Air Arabia's Boeing 737s. The ordinary folks that we are, my family and I are loyal customers of the RCI Resorts and the Midway Motels of the world. An odd Sheraton stay makes my day. The last line rhymes, by the way. That I had another first-timer for company helped, of course. I still made a fool of myself, but it was reassuring to have someone by my side through all my buffoonery.

My blog turned two earlier this year- an occasion that I, in a spate of laziness, conveniently chose to ignore. The forty posts notwithstanding, my blog is far from the complete chronicles of my life in R-Land that Miss Muffet keeps referring to. Strangely enough, the most memorable events are the ones that don’t find a place on my blog. The two trips to Allahabad, the ushering in of the new year, the Dark Knight at Satyam on my birthday, the encore two days later, Nihilanth, Watch Out, the 28th of August, 2007- the high points of the last two years are all conspicuous by their absence. Some moments are too sacrosanct to write about, perhaps; some memories too special to be shared. My third trip to the financial capital in as many years is the newest addition to the aforesaid list.