The Island

I’m leaving on a jet plane. Perhaps not. I’m flying though. I don’t exactly know where I am but from what I can make out, it’s somewhere in Gujarat perhaps. I can’t see the coast but I can see water bodies. Large bodies of water that invade the land. They come tantalizingly close to the land and then recede. There are no waves though. The water is calm.

In the midst of one giant water body, there is a mass of land. An island. There is no connectivity to it. I look around. A few meters into the closest land mass, there is a human settlement; farmers, perhaps. But on this island, nothing. Just the island. Detached.

The island looks deserted. I see no vegetation. Perhaps there are shrubs and there is undergrowth on the sandy tracts but there is no significant vegetation. I am sure. Or so I perceive from high up.

So I see this island and am unable to take my eyes off it. I don’t know why, but somehow, it is gripping. Why would no one venture onto it? Has someone tried? Has anyone ever tried? Did they give up? Is there no point to it?

Perhaps life is like that island. An isolated landmass which in itself is, well, alone. Yet, it is part of something bigger; a country, or the world or the universe perhaps. At the crux of it, though, it is alone. It stands alone; it lives alone; it dies alone.

What larger purpose does it serve? Why is it there? The point is that it is there, whether it likes it or not. What does it mean? What does it signify? I don’t know. What is it that attracted me to it? Perhaps just that. That I don’t know.  And that perhaps I never will. Perhaps it symbolizes something. Perhaps not.

I seek it out for answers. I see it no more. The plane has moved.

The hundredth

2nd April 2011, the day that is forever etched in the memory of Indian cricket fans. India won the world cup that day. Now forgotten. 12th March 2011. The day that is most crucial to Indian cricket today. It was the day Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar scored his 99th international century. We are still awaiting 100 number hundred.

He has played 4 ODIs and 6 tests since then. That’s a total of 15 innings and he still hasn’t scored a century. What is going on? Well, if you ask Edward De Bono, he will say that the universe is conspiring against Sachin and preventing him from getting that all elusive hundredth ton. If you ask George W Bush, he is likely to say that it’s all because of those WMDs and if you ask Dhoni, he will say, ‘well of course’.

We, in India, treat cricket as religion and by extrapolation, Sachin as God. There has been no shortage of reasons as to why Sachin has not reached his hundredth. A famous astrologer came on national television and said that according to numerology, Sachin’s name was all wrong. According to the lining up of Mars and Jupiter on Sachin’s horoscope, his name only added up to 99 and not a hundred. He suggested that Sachin change his name to Saachchin to reach that hundred. The slightly wittier public suggested a better alternative – Sachin Tondulkar. Sachin (99) + ‘Ton’dulkar = 100. Voila!

Of course, not everyone is thrilled by this. Of course, any time that Guru Greg feels that he is out of the limelight, he releases a book and disses Sachin or Saurav or both. But never Dravid. Or Pit=yush Chawla. He has come out and said that Sachin lacks the mental toughness to get that elusive hundredth. ‘Sachin is mentally very fragile. He might get 99 hundreds but only when he gets that hundredth will he actually get to a hundred’, he said. Captain obvious, we said.

There has been no shortage of support from all quarters. Sreesanth said, ‘I have graciously agreed to donate my only century in test cricket to Sachin paaji.’ When we looked up the stats, Sreesanth was referring to the inning where he had more than a hundred runs to his name. In his bowling figures. Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh would, of course, gladly do it ‘for Sachin’ but one is approaching his century in kilograms and the other looks like the only century he will be making any time in the near future is in the nets in his backyard. The Indian team seems a long way away.

Not to be left out, the BCCI have also pledged their support and have tried to help the cause. ‘We see that this is a serious problem of national importance and that this mist be dealt with as soon as possible. As a result, we have decided to award one of Dravid’s centuries to Sachin. After all, Dravid is the most loyal servant of the BCCI. We call him up when ever we want to, drop him from the next tour, call him after five years and then promptly drop him again and he never once complains. We’re sure that he will graciously agree to donate his century.’ Dravid was unavailable for comment. He was practicing in the nets.

Even past legends like Shane Warne, Henry Olonga and Andrew Caddick have offered to come out of retirement to offer Sachin incentive to get his all elusive century. Shoaib Akhtar tried to lure him by making his autobiography controversial but Sachin did not fall for it.

Meanwhile, the twitterverse has taken this as some kind of a joke and has even come up with the hashtag #thingsThatWillHappenBeforeSachinGetsHisCentury and were audacious enough to add such comments as ‘Sachin will get his century. LOL’, ‘The Bold and the Beautiful will come to an end’ and the worst of the bunch, ‘Afridi will turn 19.’

There is only one solution to this madness. EA Sports cricket ’97. Hit the pause button (space bar). Put ‘131’. Richie Benaud will say, ‘congratulations. You have cracked the cheat code. Good luck!’ And then play the game. A century. Guaranteed. Put ‘321’ for good measure too. It turns gravity off.

The 10K

So I ran the 10k. Well, not quite. I ran, then walked a bit, and then ran again. Please ignore the previous sentence. Let me start again. I RAN THE 10K! I really did.

I’d really been training hard for this run. I ran and ran and ran. During the race of course. Prior to it, I ran on and off. I ran about 6K in about 35 minutes a few days before the event and I wasn’t even tired! Ha! I was wondering if I made a mistake by not registering for the 21K. Now, in retrospect, as Dell Boy Trotter would’ve said, ‘what a plonker!’ (Just in case you don’t know who Dell Boy Trotter is, Google ‘Only fools and horses’)

So I went to sleep at around 10 30 the night before. So I watched the United game (thank God they scraped a win!) and switched off the light at 10 35. Arun, of course decides to call. He was travelling and didn’t catch the game. I had to, of course, describe it.
‘We played OK, da. Just about won. OK. Bye!’
‘How did the forward line do?’
‘Just about OK da. Pretty disjoint performance. OK. Bye.’
‘..and the midfield? Roo played midfield, no? How was he?’
‘He played pretty OK da. Got frustrated quite a bit but not bad. OK. Bye.’
‘…and Lindergaard? He started, no? How was he?’
‘Had nothing much to do da. OK. Bye.’
‘…and… aan! The defence? Good, eh?’

And at that point I realized that I was going to have to describe a lot more. Well, the natural United-nut in me was aroused as well and, well, when United must be discussed, United must be discussed. And so United was discussed. For about 15 minutes. And then…
‘Seri seri. Mokka podathey. I’m on the bus and am going to sleep. OK. Bye.’
And then he hung up. ‘Whatay!’ I said to myself.
So, it was 10 50 now. Light off. Sleep time.
Climb into bed. Blanket but over eyes. ‘Sleep, pliss to be coming’, I thought to myself. And then I said to myself, ‘Dai! Too much time spending on twitter! Yuvar even thinking in twitter terms.’
Meanwhile, in the background: ‘EA Sports. It’s in the game.’ FIFA! My brother. Room sharing with sibling. Bah! The perils of staying at home. So anyway, time for ‘mind over matter’, I thought and went back to blanket on head position. I went toward sleep, and as luck would have it, sleep decided to not come to the party. This sleep chap is really something else. He taunts and teases you ever so often and when you edge closer to him, he runs away. The most curious thing is that he harasses and hounds you when you want him furthest away from you – when you’re in class. So, there I was, trying to sleep. There sleep was. Well, actually, there he wasn’t. Bah!

It’s 4 30 now. The alarm has rung. I must’ve fallen asleep at some point in time. Good. Groggy-eyed and out of bed. Brush teeth. Still too God-damn sleepy. I did consider going back to sleep but I just decided to let instinct guide me. And guide me, it did. To the kitchen. Two minutes later, I was sitting at the computer with a tumbler of filter coffee (double strong, no sugar) and staring at the computer screen. The feeling when that first sip hits your mouth. Aah! As would be tagged on twitter, #smallJoys.

Cut to the chase. 6 30. Off I go. The marathon begins. And so I run. The first refreshment station. Aah! Gatorade. Immediately the mind goes, ‘machan! OC le kedaikudhu. Kudichidu.’ <Translation: brother in law, you are getting it for free. Drink off.’ But I am, if anything, made of stronger stuff. (You will soon see, however, that I am not ‘if anything’ at all. If anything, I am ‘if anything else’. I ended up drinking Gatorade thrice during the run.)>

So in between Gatorades and water, I managed to do around 6K and suddenly I was pooped! I had barely made it past the past kilometre but after I saw the sign saying ‘6K’, I just stopped. I decided to walk until the next refuelling stop where I would resume. And so I walked. And walked. And walked. All those people who I sneered at as I passed them seemed to be going past me. Rats! Lesson learnt. Don’t sneer at people running. You never know when they will sneer back.

And so I decided that enough was enough and started running and voila! Another refreshment centre. Most. Not. Stop. Ooh! Gatorade. And I stopped. And then started.

8K done now. Again, the urge to slow down. So I did. Walked for a few meters. Now, this was the curious bit. I had my iPod on and was listening to a super mix of Raaja and ARR. Suddenly, I found myself walking and right next to me was this little girl, no more than 4 foot tall. I found that she was walking along. I looked at her a couple of times. Boy! Here I was, puffing and panting my way past 8K and here she was, this little girl, nonchalantly walking along.

So, of course I had to talk to her but my legendary shyness would not let me. As a result, I did not know how to start the conversation. Steve Martin saying ‘it ees louly weather’ in Pink Panther came into mind. Tee hee hee. So I summoned up all the courage in the world and said, ‘Hello!’

One nonchalant gaze and she said, ‘Oh! Hello!’

Aah! I’m not all that bad, I thought.

‘So how old are you?’

‘Eleven.’

Holy cow! The race has almost as many kilometers as old as she is!

‘…and how many years have you been running?’

‘Three. But this is my first marathon’, she said, almost shamefully.

‘My father is the owner of Hyderabad runners and I usually run with him. This is my first race though. You know how far it is?’, she asked.

She was a bit exhausted but still wanted to finish it. Now I was pumped up too! I mean, if an 11 year old girl can finish it, so can I!

So I said to her, ‘Heh! Don’t worry. I’m almost 12 years elder to you and this is my first race too.’

It was supposed to be encouraging. It really was. She looked at me almost asking, ‘So?!’ The words of course, were unspoken but I know a ‘so?!’ look when I see one. I seem to get quite a few of them.

So anyway, I said to her, ‘Right! Let’s sprint to the finish!’

She looked at me and said, ‘No.’

Thank God! In my manic moment of stupidity, I suggested a sprint. I mean! What was I thinking?!

<Note to self: Idiot!>

So then I said, ‘Let’s go then! Run run run!’

And so we ran.

‘How much further?’ she asked.

‘Just around the bend. Come on!’

‘Now?’

‘Come on! No stopping now. Run!’

And so she did. There were people all around as we got nearer to the finish line. All of them looking at this little girl running to the finish. All of them clapping.

…and then we crossed the finish line. And took the medal.

She disappeared. Then I saw her after a few minutes.

‘Oi! Well played!’, I said and held put my hand for a high-five.

She high-fived me back, smiled and went off.

Well done Spruha. Well played indeed.

 

Footnote: Ofiicial finishing time: 70 minutes. Really. I have a certificate to prove it too. Ha!

The Butt-trial

The spot fixing case has been on full throttle and it reaching its final crescendo. Here is an excerpt from the examination of one of the prime accused, Salman Butt, the erstwhile captain of Pakistan and the man at the eye of the proverbial storm.

‘For the record, state your name.’

‘Salman Butt…’

‘But what?’

‘What?’

‘Salman but what? Have you changed your name? Salman Butterworth perhaps?’

‘Objection my Lord!’

‘Sustained.’

‘So, Mr. Butt, let me get straight to the point. Were you involved in the fixing?’

‘It depends. I was involved in fixing the broken birdcage at the hotel I was staying in and back home

in Pakistan, I have a reputation of being a handyman. In fact, my Asterix-oriented friends even call

me Getafix.’

‘I meant match-fixing, Mr. Butt.’

‘Well, if you know the system in India and Pakistan, marriages are arranged and I have indeed

suggested alliances for my friends. So, in that sense, I have indeed fixed matches. Are you looking for

a Pakistani bride?’

‘I meant, spot-fixing, Mr. Butt.’

‘Well, that goes without saying. Marriage halls must be hired and I have been known to occasionally help out my friends in that regard as well – to fix the spot of the wedding.’

‘Mr Butt! I was talking of spot fixing during the infamous test match against England.’

‘Oh! That! Well, I do not think I know anything about it.’

‘Are you sure?’

‘No. I am Salman.’

‘Mr Butt! Some degree of seriousness is of the essence. Now, please let us know of your relationship with Mr Mazhar Majeed.’

‘Well, let’s see. My cousin from my father’s side is married to his aunt, which, I calculate, makes him my second cousin. Or wait. Is it the third?…’

‘Mr Butt!! Could we be a little serious here? Now, please let us know of how you came to be found with £30,002 in your hotel room -room 714 at the Marriott in Regents Park.’

‘Oh! That? Well, I was sitting in my room one evening and the police came in and found the money. D-uh! That’s how I was found.’

‘I can see that this is going nowhere.’

‘Indeed. This witness box is most uncomfortable. Could we continue this outdoors?’

‘No.’

‘Fair enough. It was worth a shot though. Oh well!’

‘Moving on… could you name the others accused?’

‘Well, Mohommed Amer – I can’t really be sure of how he spells his name these days – and Mohommad Asif.’

‘Go on…’

‘Well, that’s the whole lot.’

‘No no. You were just saying something. Mohommad as if what?’

‘Eh?’

‘Nothing. Moving on. Shahid Afridi. Just to set the context right. How old is he?’

‘Eighteen.’

‘Mr Butt! May I remind you that you are under oath. So tell us. When was he born?’

‘Alright. I’ll tell you. He was born on 1st March.’

‘And the year?’

‘Nineteen eighty… and then it keeps changing.’

‘Your co-conspirators and you have been accused of deliberately underperforming to remove him from captaincy and make you the captain. What do you have to say?’

‘Shahid’s a good kid but he got captaincy way too early in his career. He was hardly 18! But he was a good kid.’

‘Mr Butt, you have not answered the question.’

‘Well, I have nothing to say. As with all the other accusations, I deny this one as well. Now, I need to ask you a question.’

‘Yes?’

‘When is lunch? I’m starving.’

 

The case continues…

Controversially yours

Hello there!

I see you have seen me and fail to recognize me. That is probably because my face now has as much botox as has J.Lo in her, er, never mind. No problem. I, as you all know now, am me.

I am sure you remember me. I am that chap who was on a one man mission against the stumps of the world. I hated the damn things. Hence I broke a great many of them. I bowl. Bowled, might be more apt. I was a bowler. Now I wear a bowler! Ha! See! I’m witty! That’s why I have a book and you don’t! Ha!

Anyway, I’m sure you already know who I am. I am that fellow who used to bowl real fast. Some were, of course, jealous. Hence they called me a chucker. Now you tell me this. How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? Or how fast would I chuck if I could chuck? Gotcha! Ha!

You’ve probably seen my varied hairstyles and hair-dos, and some hair don’ts as well. So don’t. Or do. As you like it. I have plugs now. Or so you think. I like to think of them as rooted to the crease. Of my head. Not the crease lines on my forehead. Which I like to think of as the boundary. Four-head. Boundary. Get it? Ha ha! I told you I was witty.

Fun fact: Did you know that I was the only one from my generation to never retire? Not once! I can see that disbelieving look on your face. Allow me to dispel the notion. Go and check for any records of me retiring. I shall give you two minutes. I see you have come back and have not been able to find a thing. I see that you jaw is on the floor failing to comprehend my stupendous feat. You are thinking of how I can be so supremely gifted and yet not have retired even once in spite of my contemporaries retiring at least once and in some cases, many times over. Well, that’s just me! Wink!

OK, I am retired now but I have never been retired in the past. Or so I think. Wait. Yes. I just confirmed. Never retired; only banned. Don’t look at me like that. There is a difference. Don’t believe me? Look it up!

Well, what can I say? I am special. Some people even called me the Rawalpindi express. Pfft! I hereby anoint myself ‘The Rawalpindi jet’. A train is too slow for me. I’m leaving on a jet plane. Now, don’t mock me because of my extreme bulk and size. I am not a jumbo jet. Not yet, anyway.

So I’ve written some stuff in my book. I have written Sachin, in the early part of his career, could finish a game. Well, I stand by it. Have you ever seen Sachin finish a game when he was 15? No? See! That’s what I meant! He only debuted at 16 and so could not finish a game at 15! And you think I’m stupid! Ha!

I see that the book launch in India has been called off because of this. Their loss, for they shall never get to see the epicness that is me in person talking about the epicness that is my book.  I also see that Wasim Akram has said that I have always been a problem when I was playing and continue to be one when I am retired. Hmmm. I am still looking for a good retort. I shall revert to you when I have one.

Last, but not the least, the PCB wants me to behave rationally. They want me to behave rationally? Really? Ha ha! I find that to be a bit of a farce. I have behaved nothing but rationally. I have not spoken a word about how someone at the PCB loved Brian Adams so much that he decided that Afridi ought to be 18 till he dies or about how the PCB actually thought that a matrimonial website was designed to fix matches. And they call me irrational. Humbug!

Controversially yours,

Chucky.

P.S I just found that retort. Wasim Akram spelt backwards reads Misaw Marka. Ha ha ha! See! I told you I was clever. What? You don’t get the joke? Pfft!