Friday, January 27, 2012

Whitewash Looms for Team India - Have we watched the end of an era?

As Indian famed batting line up was being swept away by precise English bowlers, one test after the another, excuses flew thick and fast from the Indian camp... It was said that the pitches were far too green, there was too much seam and swing on offer, players were injured, some others tired after playing the IPL... The hard earned number 1 tag was snatched away from them as the Indians capitulated to lose 4-0.

Pressure grew steadily on the team but it was the senior players, namely Sachin and VVS Laxman who were blamed the most. Sachin kept searching for the 100th 100 but it kept on evading the great man. Laxman looked a pale shadow of what he was in the early 2000's leading up to 2008-2009. Dravid was in imperious form on that tour and escaped backlash from the fans.

The series against West Indies came and went without any significant performance from these three players. India could not even win 3-0 against a young and struggling West Indian team at home in spinning conditions. Surely something was wrong. But, NO, winning 2-0 was enough for the Indian team... The signs were there for all to see... Unfortunately, the team were still blinded... By the IPL riches, by past performances, by thinking that this was just an aberration...

The tour of Australia was next. It was said that this is the best chance for the Indian team to win a series down under. People expected the experienced Indian team to steamroll the young Aussie team in transitional phase. As I type this at the end of day 4 of the last test of the Australian series, India are just 4 wickets away from a humiliating whitewash!

Sachin seemed burdened by the thought of the 100th 100 throughout the series. He seemed in good form in the first two tests but he always had an eye on the scorecard - "How far more to get that 100".

VVS Laxman still played those wristy flicks that defy gravity and laws of physics once in a blue moon, but more often than not his feet seemed stuck in cement. The hands went hard towards the ball instead of the soft touch that was associated with his batting.

Dravid, The Wall, crumbled match by match, bowlers finding ways to penetrate his defense as he kept getting bowled. He seemed baffled as the ball found newer ways to sneak in between the bat and the pad onto the timber. The death knell had been sounded.

"Have we watched the end of an era?", This is the question on every cricket fan's lips, whether he is Indian or just a cricket lover from around the globe.

This is definitely the end of an era, for me. These three may or may not play together in the Indian test team again. Well, they should not, logically. But I hope that they are given farewell matches. Let us, for a moment, remember that perfect straight drive from Tendulkar, the textbook forward defence from Rahul and the ball being flicked from way outside the off stump towards the mid wicket fence from very very special Laxman... I am getting all nostalgic, well lets leave that for some other time...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Three Friends, One Fiery Adventure!!!

Date - 13th October

Year - 2003

Place - D-34

Day - About 12 days before Diwali

Well, D-34 was the hideout (read hostel room) that I shared with 2 room-mates of mine, RS and PT. One night, after having the pretty insipid food served in the mess we returned to our room, discussing how we will be spending the upcoming Diwali (25th October) holidays...

RS started the conversation, "Damn, just 3 days off on Diwali! Come on, we need a real break, man!"

PT added, "Yeah, we used to get around 20 days off in school!!"

I (DS) further added, "And add to this the home sickness, I am so missing home"

Hearing this both RS and PT said in unison, "What do you think, aren't we missing home? Especially the home made food and the television and spending time with friends and family!!"

This was the conversation between a bunch of fresher’s who had just been admitted to an engineering college about 400 kilometers from Mumbai. 

Our college campus was situated at an isolated and peaceful location just off the state highway. The nearest village was 8 kilometers away. The campus perimeter was marked by barbed wires. Beyond these wires were thick forests, barren lands, fields... very little human population inhibited these areas except in remote villages...

Away from home and away from all the warmth of a family, these simple folks were missing the festive atmosphere back home and all the love and affection, not to forget all the feisty gourmet that came along with it which was conspicuous by its absence in the hostel and the college campus in general and all they wanted just wanted was a way to run out of it.

"Can't we leave early so that we can enjoy the festivities back home in Mumbai?" inquired PT.

RS responded almost immediately, as if he had been expecting this question to crop up sooner or later, "May be you are forgetting that we are in college! It’s been barely 15 days since the lectures have started... This is engineering... Not your school, it’s a hard grind here."

"You are absolutely right RS, this is not school. We can just leave... Who need’s permission eh?" I winked.

"Obviously we don't need permission, but there is only one gate in the campus from which everyone has to enter or exit. And the rector is such a prick that he has instructed the guards that no one leaves the gate with any sort of luggage/ bags without his permission!!" RS retorted!

"This is just so miserable, this is hell, well may be… even that is better" PT stammered to which RS and myself agreed resigning ourselves to our wretched fate before finally going off to sleep.


All of that night and most of the next day, and that included the lectures too, I thought on ways that would enable us to leave a bit early. Some were downright ridiculous like bribing the rector while some others sounded absolutely impossible like leaving the campus empty handed (since we had most of our clothes and basic stuff here with us). But by evening, I was happy that all my efforts had not gone down the drain and I was ready to unveil a reasonable plan to my room-mates after dinner.

That night, soon after returning from the mess.

"Hey RS and PT! I have a neat little plan that will enable us to leave for home early..." I bubbled enthusiastically with a sly smile beaming on my face!

"You are still having flights of fantasy man! Are you not satisfied by our wasteful conversation of yesterday night! Let's discuss something new and more interesting." PT pleaded, reminding us how we had wasted the whole of yesterday night.

But thankfully, for me, RS was a little more positive, "What is the harm in listening it out? He has been pretty smart with this sort of weird ideas right from our school days!"

I started without even waiting for the nod of approval from PT as I was too eager to share my plan with the two of them, "We will leave in the middle of the night by escaping through the barbed wires situated behind the hostel. We will traverse through the thick forest and make our way out at a place 3 kilometers from the nearest village. From there we will take the state highway up to that village. After resting for a couple of hours, we will take a bus to the next town from where the trains going to Mumbai make a halt. We will buy our tickets and voila! Free birds we shall be!!!" I completed with a big wide grin across my face, expecting applause from my two dear friends!

But what I got were a couple of stunned faces and some obnoxious glares staring at me which made me wonder as if they had seen some ghosts!

"But what if we get caught? You very well know that it's allowed to leave the campus only through the front gate. The punishment is straight suspension! It might also affect our grades and term work later on..." PT finally broke the haunting silence.

"How will we find our way through that thick cover of trees and dense bushes? We will get lost for sure! Its 5 kilometers that we have to be on track... That's a lot!" RS asked, concern writ large on his face but still, voice wavering with enthusiasm.

"Who will catch us at close to midnight? It will be lonely and deserted at that time!" I pointed out with confidence.

"But what about RS's doubt? He has a valid point" PT countered, apparently satisfied with my answer to his own question.

"That's one difficulty I had thought of too." I said before adding, "We will go through the route once during the afternoon in the next few days so that we get used to it... Everyone will be attending lectures at that time... We will slip out quietly after lunch..."

"It's too... too risky!!" PT said again looking glum.

"What do you think RS?" I asked RS who had been quiet for some time now...

"I think it's doable. There is risk involved, certainly, but then without taking risks in life one cannot achieve much anyway. It's a risk worth taking... Let's go through the plan again to weigh the pros and cons.", he finished, as we both looked at PT simultaneously looking for his nod of approval.

"O... Ohk..." is all that PT could manage probably because he did not want to be left alone while we made our way out of here!!

We discussed the plan in detail that night, talking and gesturing amongst ourselves animatedly like little kids who had landed themselves key roles in a Hollywood thriller!! At 2.30 in the morning, we had re-visited the entire plan thoroughly and it was decided that we will conduct a test run of the jungle route the next afternoon. We swore that this would be our secret and would not be disclosed to anyone under any circumstances, including our family members.


The next 3 days were spent sweating over the plan again and again at least twice a day! We would talk in hushed tones and the gate of our room would invariably be bolted from the inside at most times. The test run had been completed successfully on the 14th October thus boosting our morale and confidence.


October 17th, 2003

After what seemed like an eternity, the day to put words into action had finally arrived. The lectures had always seemed boring and endless but today, they seemed to be taking even longer than usual to come to an end. We all tried to keep as low a profile as we could that day, returning to our room immediately as soon as the day at the college came to an end, not loitering around and hanging about aimlessly after the college hours like was a norm on the other days. Food at the mess was consumed relatively quickly and quietly.

10 PM

Approximately 2 hours to go before we attempted our dare devilry!!

Nothing much was spoken between us in those two hours, if there was, I do not remember... The bags were packed, as the clock ticked away slowly, enjoying our predicament! At 11.50, I rose up from my bedding, and taking the cue, RS and PT followed suit. I opened the door and peeped out, all was silent in the hostel corridor. I motioned to my friends that it was time to move. With thumping hearts we made our way down the stairs as quietly as possible and slipped away, into the darkness behind the hostel.

Getting through the wires was easy and before we knew, we were into the wilderness of trees and bushes and shrubs. There was a chill in the air and the cold October wind smacked us in our face. We stood motionless for a few moments as our eyes adjusted to the darkness. None of us had a mobile whose dim light could have proven handy; we relied solely on our eyes to make our way through. Soon, we realized that it was one thing to go through the jungle in the afternoon without any luggage and quite another to try and make our way through it in almost pitch black darkness with an added 8-10 kilograms weight on our backs. We moved slowly, with calculated steps, talking intermittently only to make sure that we are on the right track.

The lack of any clear pathway and the thick cover of trees were proving to be a handful as we stuttered and stumbled and felt lost on many occasions but we kept pressing forward making slow progress. The landmarks that we had noted on our test run were proving quite fruitful and one by one the large Mango tree, the huge cluster of cacti, the spread out colonies of ant-hill, the barren tamarind tree were all ticked off as we  continued our quest for freedom in haunting silence. It took us a good part of 3 hours to navigate through the maze of the dense vegetation to cover 5 odd kilometers but we eventually found ourselves staring at the state highway at some distance at 2.40 am. We decided to relax for 10-15 minutes under a huge Jambun tree to catch our breath back and also to give out tired and battered limbs a much needed rest before we commenced the rest of our journey. We laughed and hi-fived each other while stretching out our tired muscles for a few minutes!!

The rest of the 3 kilometers to the village was covered without any major incidents except when a couple of cars passed us and we ducked for cover as we feared that  it could be someone from the college and that we may be recognized and caught. By 3.30 we reached the village and headed straight for the bus depot. We were all extremely tired from the 8 km arduous journey but the happiness that came from our newly acquired freedom was far far more! There were still 2 hours left for bus which would take us to the railway station from where we would catch our train.

"We have done it! Did I not tell you it will be easy" I boasted.

"Yes... Yes, you are an Einstein!!" RS muttered, probably in the hope that I would shut up and he would catch up on some sleep!!

"It was fun too, navigating through the jungle!! What an adventure we have had!!" I continued.

"Now that it is over, it seems like an adventure. What if we would have been apprehended? Our careers would have been in jeopardy." PT said letting out a huge yawn.

"Yeah!" I said "Whatever..." and we all caught a small nap getting up just in time to catch the bus.

We reached the railway station at 8 am, booked our train tickets scheduled for 8.45 am.

"Seat number 16, it's mine." I heard a voice behind me. RS and PT looked like they had spotted UFO's about to land behind me. I turned around to find the head of department (HOD) of E&TC branch, tugging at my shirt.

He then, looking at me with piercing eyes, asked "You all are students of VJIIT, if I am not mistaken"

I almost fainted but regained my composure soon enough "Yes Sir, First Year"

"Should you all not be in the college attending lectures at this moment?" he asked looking suspiciously at us.

"Sir, actually we came here to see off PT's uncle who is leaving for Mumbai" I said, pointing to the man who was seated on the seat number 12. My sharp mind and fiery tongue were working furiously!!

"Yes Sir, we will attend lectures after lunch today as uncle insisted that I come to the station as he was alone," PT added "And since I was alone, I asked my friends DS and RS to accompany me" giving us a rare and probably the first glimpse that he too had a fiery tongue with an extremely sharp mind!!

"OK" was all that the HOD said, now looking at the man to whom I had pointed out earlier.

O God, please let this man doze off suddenly or be deaf/mute for a few moments or anything that would prevent him from hearing and answering to what was going on! I thought to myself. We were all scared to death and feared for our future!

But the man replied confidently "PT is my nephew. These are his friends who have all come to help me board the train. Actually I was feeling a bit sick and with all this luggage, I needed a helping hand. Where are you getting down?"

"I will alight at Panvel" HOD Sir replied, a faint smile escaping his lips for the first time!

"I have good company till then. I will get down at Dadar" the man said as the train let out a long and shrill whistle. The man had used his sharp mind and fiery tongue, as he had let us known where our HOD would be alighting while at the same time changing the topic.

“Phew!” I almost let that out loud only to be elbowed by RS!

"Good Bye, all of you. Study well! See you soon" the man said bidding us adieu with a wink.

"Bye uncle. Have a nice trip Sir" we all replied, arranging even our luggage under the seat, as we darted out of the compartment.

We then ran and jumped into the next coach. Once there, it was decided that we would complete the rest of our trip in the general compartment as it was too risky and impractical to travel in the adjacent compartment. We then made our way into the general compartment just before the train started. We discussed how lucky we had got that day. We alighted at Dadar and thanked the man for understanding the matter and helping us out. He assured us that the HOD was convinced that we would be returning to the college.


30 Minutes Ago

We were sitting on a bench at the platform, chatting and laughing, chatting about the past few days of our lives. Not many passengers were seen on the platform as this was a small station and not the starting point of any long distance train. We saw a man with heavy suitcases and bags struggling to make his way onto the platform. He seemed sick and was all alone. He came and sat right next to us. We soon got talking with him too! His seat was in an adjacent coach to ours and was going to Mumbai to meet his engineer son, who was settled there. We told him that we too were engineering students and were going to Mumbai to be with our family to celebrate Diwali a few days before the official holidays began (obviously we did not tell him the way we had left!!!). He was quite friendly who seemed quite warm with us. We continued conversing till we heard the whistle of the approaching train and got up. We first got into his coach to help him carry his luggage. We were about to leave the compartment... when... "Seat number 16, it's mine." I heard a voice behind me.


8 Years Later...

This was something that had happened in the fledgling days of our engineering careers... But all thanks to our sharp minds and fiery tongues, we escaped a severe punishment or even a suspension, had a gala time enjoying the Diwali festival with our loved ones back home, our troika became the HOD’s favorite in the terms that followed (since we were in the first year, the HOD never really bothered to check if we did attend the lectures during the days leading up to the Diwali vacations), and to top it all, we three became friends for life!

PS - This post is inspired from a true story which happened with me during my first year of engineering.

PPS - This was my entry to the contest on Indiblogger - Sets You On Fire

If You Like it then please Promote it Here - Three Friends, One Fiery Adventure!!!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Modern Day Jhansi Ki Rani

I was standing at the side of the road, trying to cross over to the other side in Ahmedabad and saw the following incident with my own eyes.

There was this lady on a scooter who just crossed the traffic red lights, the thing that happens quite a lot of times, when the lights turn red suddenly and you have crossed it already... So she just moved (as did some others) on but there appeared a traffic policeman from behind the trees and wielding his baton pointed the lady to the side of the road!!

"Madam, stop... You have jumped the red light!!" The traffic cop, chewing tobacco and sporting fake Hugo Boss glasses, blurted.

This was a sticky situation that she had got herself into, I thought... What would a normal person caught in this way do?? Try explaining to the cop that it was by mistake that she had crossed it... argue with him... bribe him quietly and get away... or the least likely pay the whole fine... My guess, looking at the lady, was that she will probably try to bribe and get away...

The lady stopped the scooter, got down from it calmly and to my surprise slapped the traffic cop and shouted "What were you doing hiding behind those trees, does the government pay you for hiding behind the trees??" She further chastised him, "There are scores of people breaking all sorts of traffic rules like driving on the wrong side, not wearing helmet, talking on mobile while driving, etc... Don't they catch your eyes??"

A sizable crowd had gathered by now watching the whole scene... Even I could not move away as I too, like others, was captivated by the fire shown by the lady!!!

The traffic cop managed "But... But... You jumped the red light, that could have caused an accident... You have broken the traffic rules!!!"

Ignoring the reply, she went on further admonishing him, "You only look for easy prey like me who can bribe you but that is not going to work with me, you understand.. SIR!!"

Saying this she shot off on her way, still muttering words under her breath... leaving behind a very stunned and somewhat embarrassed traffic cop, a chatting motley of bystanders and some car and bike riders who had stopped to witness this extremely unusual incidence!

I chuckled to myself at how the common man had just got his own back!! Most of the traffic cops generally look for people who can bribe them and they lie in wait for them. But this lady was a fiery character who not only won fighting against the system but also taught a few lessons to people like me watching... And what surprised me further was that this incident took place only a few hundred meters from the famous statue of Jhansi Ki Rani in Ahmedabad!

Statue of Rani Laxmi Bai Of Jhansi

I had just seen the modern day Jhansi ki Rani, I thought to myself and moved on towards my destination humming one of my famous poems written by Subhadra Kumari Chauhan on Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi...

Giving the English translation below -

Rani, who was fighting like a lioness, succumbed to the wounds and fell down.
She had to achieve a glorious death in war (Martyrdom).
From the mouths of the Bandelas and the Harbolas (Religious singers of Bandelkhand), we heard the tale of the courage of the Queen of Jhansi relating how gallantly she fought like a man against the British intruders:
such was the Queen of Jhansi.

Giving the English translation below -

You, by yourself be the memorial of Rani (queen of Jhansi)
because you had been an eternal token of courage.
From the mouths of the Bandelas and the Harbolas (Religious singers of Bandelkhand), we heard the tale of the courage of the Queen of Jhansi relating how gallantly she fought like a man against the British intruders:
such was the Queen of Jhansi.

This poem (what I have given is only two stanzas of a long poem) is one of my all time favorites and is a fitting tribute to the young and exceptionally fearless queen, one of India's many heroines... Reading the poem evokes a deep sense of patriotism and gives me goosebumps!!

PS - Images courtesy,

PPS - This was my entry to the contest on Indiblogger - Sets You On Fire

If You Like it then please Promote it Here - Modern Day Jhansi Ki Rani

2nd Test Match, India Vs Australia, SCG - 3-7 January 2012

2nd Test Match, India Vs Australia, SCG - 3-7 January 2012

India won the toss and elected to bat in the 2nd test match Vs Australia. Both the teams were unchanged for this match. Gambhir woefully short of runs, continued his wretched run of form scoring a duck!! Dravid who has been the saving face of Indian batting in recent times was also out early making just 5. Sehwag and Sachin began solidifying the innings but Sehwag too was out just for 30. Laxman departed early too, making just 2. Pattinson was the pick of the bowlers making life difficult for the batsman scalping 3 before lunch.

After lunch, Kohli and Sachin too departed, leaving India tottering at 124/6... Pattinson has taken 4 wickets and Siddle has taken 2 wickets till now... India are struggling at 161/6 at the moment... Tea is still 20 minutes away...

India have cut a sorry figure so far in the series Vs Australia... They have lacked the application and patience required to play a test match... Just like the England series of 2011 they seem to have no fight and tooth... Gambhir and Kohli must soon play a substantial innings or else they must be replaced... Even Laxman has looked below par till now...

Lets see what happens in the rest of the match...

Monday, January 2, 2012

Fan Speak - 1st Test Match, India Vs Australia

We all have our views on how India played and what they should have done to fare better... All the introspection, ideas, thoughts just post the Boxing Day Test Between India Vs Australia at the MCG...

Here I am giving a few of those thoughts which fellow Indian bloggers have shared!!!

Pitches down under are much different from the subcontinent, the batsmen need at least two to three weeks to get adjusted to it. Dravid, Sachin and Sehwag were able to bat well because of their experience. I was expecting a bit more from Laxman, though.

I admire Dravid because of his persistence. He is one guy who doesn't easily get affected whether it is aggressive bowling or the other batsman hitting fours and sixes, he plays his natural game and keeps the scoreboard ticking. That requires a lot of maturity.

Dhiraj Shenoy

Most important is to spend time in the middle with bat and not being to flashy, which our batsman failed to do. A few few of our batsmen are yet to get out of Catch (Giving) practice mode... Totally disappointed...

Recollecting the humiliating losses we have suffered in Oz, I thought this was the best time to turn the tide, but unfortunately... not to be...When would we defeat Oz 4-0 or 5-0 in Oz? I would love to die that day after seeing that...

The way India's Experienced Batting line up collapsed twice Vs the Young Aussie bowling line up was just so disappointing to watch... Considering that Australia were without their top bowlers, to see this happening to our famed Batting line up was really sad...

But its a game, I hope that in the coming year, they can take the field with a positive frame of mind, come back with the cup and make us all proud.. Let's cheer them and hope for the best to come!

In cricket, losses are normal, and I'm not sad that we lost. It happens. It saddens me that having 145 overs at least, chasing down a target of 292 at just over 2 runs an over wasn't possible. I don't blame the bowlers, not a bit. Umesh Yadav especially impressed me, and I was sad that he didn't get the fiver he deserved in the second innings.Seeing the way the men in blue went about the chase, was appalling. Such high strike rates.. I was at one moment contemplating that it was aT20, seeing how Ashwin and Zaheer, even Sachin were hitting the shots. Virat for a golden duck??! But, even with MSD and Ashwin batting, I was hopeful of the recovery, but alas, not to be.

They (Aussie's) didn't win the match according to me, we handed to them the win on a platter. I pray for better result at the SCG, but they need composure in the fourth innings.. Changes are afoot perhaps, but I'd retain the same team. We played well in three innings, but lost it in the fourth when it mattered. That's it. No one player can be placed blame I feel.

After watching the 1st match, I believe that this would be another white wash for India after England series. Lol, the match was in their pockets they just gave it.

They spoilt a chance to win in the 1st test , maybe over confidence , hope they mend it and go in and win the next match...

Umesh Derebail

Basically Indians are slow starters on overseas tours going by the track record. I feel the media has to take off the pressure on Sachin for his 100th hundred and focus on winning Test series in Australia. Dravid seems to having vision problem according to me, both the innings he was bowled between the gates.  I am happy that Indian bowling has come up to the expectation.  Now the fabled batting prowess has to be exploited. I hope Laxman, Virat and Dhoni come to party. I am sure at Sydney it will be a better team, with the team keeping off from Media bytes, the bat has to do the talking after all. Good Luck guys...

Most of these players went to Australia about 2 weeks earlier to get accustomed to the conditions, but they have failed. This is so irresponsible batting display. We lost the last 8 wickets for 62 in the first innings, that lost us the game... Also Virat has struggled big time on fast bouncy pitches, I think we can try Rohit... Or how about playing a 5th bowler instead of him and pushing Ashwin up, he batted well...

What are your views?? Add them in the comments section. The above Bloggers, if you too want to add anything more, do so in the comment section.