Friday, January 01, 2016

Part 2 - Bollywood movies in 2015 that made me think

Part 1 of the series can be found here. Continuing with the top movies in 2015 that made me think -

6. Bajrangi Bhaijaan - 
Notable Bollywood Movies 2015 - Bajrangi Bhaijaan

Second surprise of the year for me. Salman Khan movies are normally all about his charisma, his body, his dance moves and dishoom-dishoom. This movie was a refreshing change and had a good story too. If you are one of those few folks who haven't seen this movie, this is about a Hanuman-bhakt (Salman) who meets a Pakistani girl lost in Indian shores. He helps her find her family in Pakistan by going to Pakistan without a visa. What he encounters and viewing the same in the larger context of India-Pakistan troubles, forms the crux of the story. I seriously don't know why Kareena Kapoor Khan was cast in this movie as her acting talent was rarely utilized. The child actress, Harshaali Malhotra, became an instant favorite amongst movie goers and for all the right reasons. I normally don't say this, but watch this movie for 'bhaijaan'!

7. Drishyam - 
Notable Bollywood Movies 2015 - Drishyam

First of all, I have seen the "original" movie released in Malayalam. That was simply awesome. Till the last scene, most of the audience weren't able to join the loose threads. In that context, Bollywood's Drishyam was a carbon copy of the Malayalam movie and it had to be good as far as story was concerned. The main actor's role is critical to the movie and hence, I had my doubts when it was revealed that Ajay Devgn will reprise Mohanlal's role in the Hindi version. Ajay Devgn's persona and his recent (action) movies make it difficult to believe an out-of-shape police officer hitting a muscular Ajay Devgn and Devgn, on his part, is simply begging for mercy. But I commend the risk Devgn took and am sure it will work wonders when the award season begins. Expect a few "Best Story" awards for Drishyam and maybe a best actor award too.

8. Manjhi - The Mountain Man - 
Notable Bollywood Movies 2015 - Manjhi the mountain man

Nawazuddin Siddiqui all the way. This is his movie. From start. To end. If you want to see genuine acting talent, look no further. The guy may look small for a typical Bollywood actor, but don't be fooled by his physical stature. He is one of the best there is, in the industry. Manjhi further cements his position in the film industry - as one who is full of talent and can play any role with full dignity. The thing about Nawazuddin Siddiqui is that you tend to remember the character he performs and not the actor. That's the quality you need in your stars. And I haven't even started with the story of this movie! This is a must watch, and primarily for the main lead. Hope we get to see such movies in future too.

9. Talvar - 
Notable Bollywood Movies 2015 - Talvar

I had seen the 1st movie made on the Aarushi Talvar case (Rahasya) which was more un-biased. I still wanted to see Talvar, primarily for Irrfan Khan. And I had no regrets. The movie is more or less on the similar lines as Rahasya. The role was tailor-made for Irrfan and he, as always, did a splendid job. In terms of relevance to actual story and keeping a balanced view on an issue that has plagued the nation, Rahasya was better. Talvar seemed to take a sympathetic and biased stand towards one side. However, in terms of acting and story-telling, Talvar was better than Rahasya.

10. Bajirao Mastani - 
Notable Bollywood Movies 2015 - Bajirao Mastani

Third surprise of the year. I am not a fan of Ranveer Singh. I still am not. However, he took this movie to an altogether different level by his acting and intensity. Deepika reprised the role of Mastani and did a good job at it. Priyanka did their part well, although I felt she should have got a meatier role. In a way, her acting talent was somewhat wasted in the movie. Bajirao Mastani is not the best movie of 2015 but it's one of the movies you should watch once. The sets and color combinations had Sanjay Leela Bhansali written all over it and makes it a visual appealing.

If you observe my list carefully, you will realize that 3 of the these movies have Irrfan Khan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui as main / side characters each. You may feel I am being biased towards these actors, but hey, their movies were great too. Let me know if you think otherwise.

Other Notable movies of 2015 that didn't make the cut but still worth a dekko (in the order of their release) - 
1. Rahasya  - similar to Talvar.
2. Shamitabh - watch it for the chemistry between Amitabh Bachchan and Dhanush.
3. Dum Laga Ke Haisha - cute love story and nice acting.
4. Dharam Sankat Mein - another movie on religion by Paresh Rawal. Not as involving as "Ohh My God".
5. Margarita with a Straw - top class acting by Kalki and Revathi, as always. 
6. Baahubali - for the special effects, one of a kind.
7. Masaan - for Sanjay Mishra's acting.

Happy New Year guys. God Bless!

Part 1 - Bollywood movies in 2015 that made me think

Welcome to another edition of top Bollywood movies of the year. This is my 5th year of publishing a post on top 10 movies in Bollywood that made me thing. Yes, 5 years! 

These are my posts on top Bollywood movies from previous years - 
2014 - Part 1 | Part 2
2013 - Part 1 | Part 2
2012 - Part 1 | Part 2
2011 - Part 1 | Part 2

2015 was a year of the "non-Khans" in my honest opinion. And by Khans, I mean the 3 Khans - Aamir Khan, Salman Khan and Shahrukh Khan. No Aamir Khan movie was released (which means there can more than 1 movie scheduled next year), one super-hyped Shahrukh Khan movie was released which was apparently beaten down on social media and two Salman Khan movies were released, one of which had a story (yes, seriously).

Before I talk about the movies, one word of caution. These are the list of movies I think were worth watching. You, obviously, can chose to disagree. 

Without further delay, these are the top 10 movies (listed in the order of their release) that actually made me think - 

1. Baby - 
Notable Bollywood Movies 2015 - Baby

Every once in a while, Akshay Kumar comes out of his funny-simpleton roles and delivers a baby (sic). Why am I making this statement? Because his last two movies before "Baby" were "Entertainment" and "The Shaukeens" which were released last year Last year also had a much acclaimed movie "Holiday". This year, it's "Baby". Despite what the name of the movie suggests, the story is about a secret mission and how the Indian forces get hold of the terrorist perpetrators. The movie is a bold statement and something which can be termed as fictional and cannot happen in real life. Akshay Kumar is simply great in "Baby" and is strongly supported by other actors in the movie. And by the way, this movie is from the same director (Neeraj Pandey) who gave us "A Wednesday" and "Special Chabbis". Any reason not to watch the movie? I don't find any. 

2. Badlapur - 
Notable Bollywood Movies 2015 - Badlapur

Dark. Very dark. Brutal. That's how I should define this movie. I feel this is Varun Dhawan's best. Huma Qureshi did justice to her role. But, Nawazuddin Siddiqui took the cake! Its a revenge story of a hero (Varun Dhawan) whose family died when the villain (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) was running away with the loot. But as the movie unfolds, the audience is forced to change the perspective of their hero and villain and eventually, you tend to realize that the villain lost the battle but won the war and the actor, despite winning the battle, lost everything in the process. This movie is by far the best from Sriram Raghavan's stable.

3. Qissa - 
Notable Bollywood Movies 2015 - Qissa

Few facts first. Qissa is technically a Punjabi film, although it has been perceived / promoted as a Bollywood film. Second, it belongs to parallel cinema genre. Third, it's a tale where you have to believe certain things that are not scientifically correct. Why watch this movie, you may ask. Because of all the reasons above, I say. Qissa is a master-piece in its own right. It's a tale of a Punjabi guy (played by Irrfan Khan) who wants a son to carry forward his legacy. When the fourth child born is also a girl, he decides to raise the child as a guy. Irrfan is shown as a guy who is desperate to raise his daughter as a son, who beats his daughters for having a fight with his 'son', who marries his 'son' off to a girl. Everything he does is illogical yet his portrayal makes you feel he is right to do what he is doing. That's what top actors do, they make you feel that wrong is actually not wrong enough. Qissa exceeds all expectation you have of parallel cinema. A word of caution, if you are not a fan of parallel cinema, stay away. If you are, don't miss this movie.

4. NH10 - 
Notable Bollywood Movies 2015 - NH10

First genuine surprise movie of 2015 for me. When you have a actor who is also a producer, I feel the movie will be about the actor marketing himself / herself. Anushka Sharma is the main lead and also the producer of NH10. The trailors proved the aforementioned feeling I had. But I was wrong. The movie was pure acting and not about producer promoting herself. Yes, she was the main lead and there was no popular actor cast alongside her. But she singlehandedly delivered. One of those movies where acting, story and dialogues were top-class. And yes, women-centric movies work in India. 

5. Piku - 
Notable Bollywood Movies 2015 - Piku

Another women centric movie that worked. You have to commend Deepika Padukone for acting alongside stalwarts like Amitabh Bachchan and Irrfan Khan. Piku is the name of Deepika Padukone's character who has a dad with constipation problems. The movie is a sweet and funny take on dad-daughter relationship with constipatio providing the humor. And no, its not toilet humor which is why the movie is classy. Piku is easily the best light-hearted movie of 2015. You have to watch Piku, if you haven't. You have to watch Piku again, if you have watched it before. Must watch. 

As always, there are 5 more movies that make this list. You can read about them by clicking here.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Soccer Logic: Underperform and thy boss shall get the sack!

It's the 'in-thing' now, isn't it? If you have been following EPL this season, you know what I am talking about.

If you happen to be a religious person, there's a strong possibility that your scripture promotes hard work and not to worry about outcome. If you are an atheist, you may follow "work is worship" quote. If you are an atheist and don't follow "work is worship" ideology, you will still (have to) work hard for money. If you follow sports, you will give your heart, soul and blood (metaphorically, in most cases) for your team. If you are a musician, you will practice and practice to get that perfect symphony with your fellow musicians. If you are a writer / blogger, you will always strive to write better than your previous post. That's called improvement, striving to outperform your previous achievement.

I get that.

But why, just why, will you ever under-perform? Maybe, I know the reason. Its only because you have something to gain by under-performing and the person / group you don't like has everything to lose. Simple.

Take Chelsea for instance -  
2014-15 - English champions, top quality players, a top manager in Jose Mourinho. 
2015-16 (so far): Among the bottom six, fighting with relegation candidates, players looking like a shadow of their previous self, manager fired.

Jose Mourinho fired by Chelsea 2015-2016
Quite an incredible turnaround right? How, in the world, can a championship winning team keep on losing match after match with the same set of "top" players? And its not just the same set of players, there were additions too, some of them top class. And still lose every other game? In my opinion, this can possibly happen due to three reasons - either the opposition improved by leaps and bounds / all their top quality players lost form and confidence / the whole team underperformed in unison. Opposition improved, that's for sure, but not above the quality of Chelsea players. All the top quality players losing form at the same time is a highly unlikely event. That leaves only one option - under-performance. Chelsea had more or less the same strategy as last season. So I don't buy the argument of Mourinho getting his tactics wrong. Logically, if Mourinho has been fired, the same should apply to the team as well, definitely for some key players in the coming transfer window. And what's more baffling for me is that a team like Chelsea chose to oversee the repercussion of this decision. Mourinho is now free to join a top team in England. And there are suitors too. Manchester United, for instance. So you will get a situation where Chelsea will face a team managed by Mourinho in England! A costly mistake, in my opinion.

Ever imagined such a thing in the corporate world? Maybe it happens, but mostly at the senior management level, I guess.

Coming back to the discussion, I have always believed that a boss is only as good or as bad as his team. Boss / manager's role is to give strategic and tactical direction and his / her teams role is to perform. Everyone performs to his own strength. Simple and straightforward, isn't it? Not at all because performance is not the only dynamics we have. Include personal enmity, ego, politics and you have a myriad of possible outcomes at hand. Time will tell if Chelsea's decision to sack their manager was right, but by then, another manager will get the boot (sic). 

And the cycle will continue. And continue.

PS: If you know me, you also know that I am not a Chelsea / Mourinho fan, infact far from it. I am an Arsenal fan (now you know the background of my above argument). 

Saturday, December 05, 2015

How can ICC replace coin-toss in Cricket?

Cricket is undergoing a change, and hopefully a positive one. Changes in rules (free hit rule), changes in the instruments (pink ball), changes in format (plan to have 4 day test matches), management changes (India, Australia and England now holding the reins) among others. While it's debatable that all are positive changes, but we can take solace from the fact that there are changes after all. Someone is trying hard to ensure their objectives (of making Cricket global) are met. Be that as it may, there are still some rules / events that need to change or be dropped completely. And it all depends on what the audiences want. Let me take the liberty to generalize what audience, especially the newer lot, might want from the game of Cricket.

What new audience would like to see?
  • Competition as opposed to one-sided matches
  • Concise format games introduced in new countries (T20 and ODI)
  • Making Test cricket (the ultimate challenge for any cricketer) more interesting and exciting

There are many ways in which all / some of the above mentioned requirements can be achieved. And it's a larger topic. We will discuss this, but maybe at an appropriate time.

In this post, lets concentrate on making the game of Cricket more interesting by completely eliminating an event of "luck" which happens before the game begins - "coin-toss". For the uninitiated, "coin-toss" is an event that gives a team an opportunity to decide what it wants to do when the game starts. There are two options the toss-winning team can decide - batting and bowling. 

Personally, I am not a big fan of coin-toss as it inadvertently favors one team over the other. This event is umpteen times more significant than a coin-toss in Soccer or any other sport. Here, the team that wins the toss can shift the balance of the game even before a single ball has been bowled. That's how significant it is in the game of cricket. So, by all means, coin-toss should be scrapped from Cricket once and for all. 

But how do we decide who gets to make a decision? I think there are two ways in which we can do that - 
  1. The most popular choice - the visiting team gets to decide. Simple, isn't it? The home side anyway has the home advantage, so to make the scale more balanced, the visiting team gets to choose. This is the easiest way in which we can implement and seems fair to everyone. But there are some loopholes here. Firstly, what if the game is being played in a neutral venue like the recently announced India-Pakistan series to be played in Sri Lanka? Who gets to decide then? Secondly, what if a bottom-ranked team hosts a top ranked team? Here the top ranked team, since they are visitors, gets to decide who bats first? Isn't this significant disadvantage to the bottom ranked team? Despite the home conditions, the bottom ranked team are not expected to win. Not having the option of a coin-toss will also eliminate whatever luck that could have come their way! Another point being raised in support of this choice is that it will prevent home team to 'tweak' the pitch to favor their strengths. I disagree. On the contrary, tweaking of pitches will increase! With the 'rub of the green' going the visiting teams way, the home team has little option but to ensure the pitch behaves the way they want. In my opinion, this option is popular but not foolproof.
  2. My Choice - the lower ranked team to decide - This is what I feel should happen. Let me explain. First of all, it overcomes all the disadvantages of previous option. Lower ranked teams will have an additional ammunition to fight a 'stronger' opponent. The higher ranked team will still have to remain strong to win. That's pretty straight-forward. Now let's include the home conditions. If a lower ranked team plays at home, this team will have additional advantage to make the best use of the conditions by choosing to bat / bowl. The top ranked team should be strong enough to cope with alien conditions. Take Australia v/s Zimbabwe for instance. If Zimbabwe are playing at home, they get the added advantage to decide who bats first. Although it may still not change the prediction of the result, Zimbabwe now have an added option to play to their strengths. In the first option, the onus lies with Australia who honestly won't need it. This is probably an extreme case. Take Australia and India for example and you will see this option will make more sense.
Anyone remembers the computer game 'Need For Speed 2'. It has an option called "catchup" which allows the lower placed racer an opportunity to come close to its closest competitor and thereby make it more competitive. Although it was just in a video game, there's no harm to implement the same in real life. Cricket is no different. There's no harm in giving an extra something 'legit' that can aid the lower ranked opponent. This also ensures the top ranked team remains consistent (and not complacent) throughout the game thereby raising the quality.

What do you think?

Thursday, December 03, 2015

India-Pakistan bilateral series controversy

Any Cricketing decision made in India will attract controversy. And I mean ANY decision! Even Anushka's presence in the stadium when Virat Kohli was woefully out of form became a controversy. Shahrukh Khan messing with the cops at Wankhede stadium (Mumbai) became an IPL controversy. We are good at it, aren't we? We link anything to everything we see in front of us. Maybe we misunderstood the "connecting the dots" concept. Anyone remotely linked to Cricket inadvertently drags Cricket into the mess around them. Or if they don't do, the media surely obliges. Why? Because it sells.

Either ways, we now have another controversy to deal with. I won't say its needless but its too sensitive and any decision favouring one party will hurt the other. The controversy is the resumption of India-Pakistan bilateral series. There are largely two big factions with strong views. One faction want the series to be scrapped and the other sees no problem in resumption of this series. Following are some of their views and what I think about it.

This is what the people who don't want an India-Pakistan bilateral series are saying - 
  1. How can you play against a country that has brought terror on your own country?
    My Take: This is a highly debatable topic and I personally don't have a clear stand on it. First of all, blaming a country in general is not entirely correct. There are organizations in the country that are terror oriented. Also, they themselves are victims of terror within their own country. Even schools are not spared. Having said that, it's not a justification of what happened in India in the past. Given this background, should we play cricket? I don't know. I will, however, take a stand (not clear, again) and say it's not the right time to play bilateral series, even on a neutral venue. Our soldiers and our people who were victims of terror deserve a closure and this series is by no means helping the cause.
  2. This is no friendly gesture. This is simply a money-making series.
    My Take: Obviously it is. Let us not be naive in thinking this will bring brotherly relations between two countries. Cricket is a sport and, like in all sports, there will be competition. Competition is always intense between arch-rivals. Indian and Pakistani players won't give even an inch on the field. Same goes with the fans of the respective teams during the match. So, the idea of "increasing" brotherly relation goes out of the window. Relation among fans have generally been warm and receptive. And that should / will never change. But this will be primarily a series that will make lots of money for the respective cricket boards, marketers will rake in more money from more sales, new cricket stars will be formed, memories will be etched (we still remember Sreesanth taking the catch to dismiss Misbah and help us win the inaugural T20 World cup in 2007, don't we?). Let's be honest here. Its serious business and all about the money. Let's call a spade, a spade.
2007 T20 World Cup Final India Pakistan Misbah Sreesanth

This is what the people who want an India-Pakistan bilateral series are saying - 
  1. Cricket will help accelerate peace talks between two countries.
    My Take: I don't think so. It's like saying, the pain in your leg will go if you massage your hands! Yes, I agree, Cricket is a virtual religion in India and Pakistan. But the issue at hand is far bigger and more grave. This may / may not work. Let's not over-complicate things here. Cricket is a sport. At max, it will allow key personnel from both countries to come together for a photo-op. Nothing more, nothing less. Remember, the photo ops that happened when India played Pakistan during the 2011 World Cup? Lets not make Cricket something it clearly isn't.
  2. What Cricket has to do with politics?
    My Take: In an ideal world, Cricket has nothing to do with politics and government between the two countries. But this is not an ideal world we live in, right? So, whether we like it or not, Cricket will forever be linked with politics and the government of the day. There's no shying away from it. Ironically, India's foreign policy is also connected to the relations we have with Pakistan. Cricket simply adds more masala to it.

And this is what the rest of the folks feel - 
  1. Don't care. My take: Who's to argue?

Honestly, we have a lot of issues within our country to fight for. Playing Cricket with Pakistan should be least of our worries. In a way, it's good that the series will be held at a neutral venue. Local fans don't have to pay for tickets and can watch it at home, thus saving hard earned money. Neutral venue fans will be able to witness high level of competition. Country hosting the series will rake in more money than what they do when their own team plays (marketing magic). And people within India who doesn't want this series can chose not to watch it at all. Win-win situation for everyone right? Wrong. I am sure our media will still find controversies in this issue and we will quickly lap it up. 

That's the way it goes.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

How IPL is planning to pick two teams for two years?

And, as we speak, IPL is back in the news!
View through glasses IPL current state vs IPL to be state
Transparency is what IPL will be focussing on
Enough of all the recent news bits like Bihar elections, Beef ban, award-wapasi, it's time for some CEC (Cricket, Entertainment and Controversy). You simply can't keep IPL out of mainstream news, can you? Amidst all the brouhaha, IPL was quietly cleaning up the mess that was self-created. It was quiet since cleaning up is not part of the agenda of mainstream news. Heads turned in the BCCI fold due to the new governance structure put in place. Roger Binny stepped down because his presence can jeopardize (or improve, whichever way you look at it) the career of his son Stuart Binny. Anil Kumble stepped down as he is still part of Mumbai Indians franchisee. Saurav Ganguly took his place. 

But what about the two banned teams - CSK and RR? And their players?

BCCI are adamant to have an eight team IPL for the next two years since their original IPL concept proposal was budgeted based on at least 8 teams. Lesser number of teams will mean less revenue in BCCI coffers and ever lesser amount as revenue for IPL teams. As a solution, they decided to replace 2 banned teams with two new teams, a eureka moment (sic) indeed.

So, how will the two new teams be finalized? Reverse auction process. The base price for both teams is set at Rs. 40 Crore. The entities bidding for teams will have to bid lower than 40 crore and the two least bidders will be selected. As per Rajeev Shukla, IPL chairman, "It will be a walk in bid on December 8. The base price for reverse bid from central revenue pool is Rs 40 crore and the party which bids for lowest share from central revenue pool will be the winner of new team". Surprised? No, BCCI is not in a generous mood. The bidding is not the amount the winners will pay BCCI, instead it's the amount BCCI will pay the two winning bidders from the central revenue pool. Interested parties will have to bid as low as possible - mathematically even a negative amount. A negative amount would mean the winning bidder will pay the BCCI the bidding amount for two years.

How long will these teams remain? Two years. That is as per the current scenario. Post two years, IPL will complete 10 years. If you remember, the original contract with all IPL franchisees was for 10 years post which all players will again be in the auction pool. IPL, in a way, will restart again. CSK and RR will come back in the fold after the two year ban.

Why will anyone bid for a team for only two years? It seems illogical in terms of business. To break-even, an IPL team needs a minimum of 4-5 years (RR was an exception). In IPL, you invest heavily in the beginning and reap the rewards in the long term. BCCI is aware of it and hence the concept of reverse auction has been introduced. Also, bidders will know that the platform provided by IPL is on a global stage. Winning the bid to have a team in IPL will translate into a huge marketing platform that will fast-track the brand for years to come, if handled properly. The players of the team automatically qualifies as brand promoters. Huge investment, potential loss in short term but a huge opportunity in the long term. The only constraint is the need for funds to invest for two years. Another reason could be the flexibility the IPL rules provide (sarcasm, indeed). IPL-11 may have more than 8 teams, if the return on investment is significant with minor tweaks in the format.

What about players of CSK and RR? Ten players, 5 from each side, will be drafted into these two new teams. The rest of the players will be auctioned. One concern the owners of two teams will have is that they have a lesser population to choose from. What if the new team wants Ajinkya Rahane or Chris Gayle? What if they want to buy a player from Delhi / Mumbai? IPL has an option to buy and sell players between teams outside of auction. This option, I believe, should be applicable to new teams. The only catch is the team who currently owns the player should be interested to sell.

Will Kochi and Pune be involved? No. And no reason has been provided for this decision. This is the masala the mainstream news may focus on.

Well, that's about it. December 8th is the date for the bidding process. Unless there's a twist in the tale. Don't hold thy breath!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Satire: What not to do on your first US trip?

Ok, first things first. This is a satire. Please do not take this post seriously. Or should I say, take it with a pinch of salt. No wait, that's too much BP. Take it with a scoop of yogurt instead!

This is my first US trip. It's been 10 weeks in US now. I am not sure for how long will it last. But I am taking my time to experience it all in my own little way. And hey, life keeps on teaching you lessons every single day and I have learnt a lot of unwanted (and some wanted) lessons in the past few weeks. Thanks to these lessons and their repercussions, it took me time to (re)start the blogging part of my life in US. 

Image courtesy -
What should I do with these lessons? Share, of course. So here are some of the unwanted lessons. Read and let me know if you have experienced some of these or if you think a lot more can be added here -
  1. Delete the song "Yeh Jo Des Hai Tera" (movie Swades) from your playlist - No seriously, delete it. Personally, I loved the song a lot. I still do. It is one of AR Rahman's classic. The lyrics, the music and the voice - they elevate you to a totally different level. I have it as part of my playlist. Just days after reaching US, I was listening to songs on my smartphone. I had kept the song selection as random, which means any song will be selected at random. As luck would have it, this song played. The bad part is, I started listening to this song from a different perspective now. But then I realized, Javed Akhtar is a genius. He left a loophole in the song. You see, the song goes on to say - "sab toh pa liya, ab hai kya kami". That's the loophole we need to exploit. After all, when did we achieve everything? There's still more to achieve right? Still, to be on the safer side, delete this song for now. You won't regret it. Also, for some reason not known to me, I had "Kiska hai yeh tumko intezaar, main hoon na" song from the movie "Main Hoon Na". It has a sad version too, which is very sad. Delete that song too. Trust me.
  2. Do not bring too much Indian stuff. They already have it here! Especially, if you have a project in NY / NJ, you will not only meet a lot of Indians every day, you will also end up buying groceries and other stuff (Indian) from Indian stores. Some of these grocery stores also play Indian music (talk of ambiance!). I brought a lot of stuff (including pressure cooker, frying pan, plates etc) assuming I needed these the most since I will be able to buy other stuff from US. It turns out, my hotel was in a street unofficially named as the "Indian Street". Ohh don't laugh, there's more - the closest shop to my hotel was a "pan-wala" shop! I must admit, I had my doubts about reaching US especially after having a 16 hour long flight. But the hotel selection and the location was just my luck (Good / Bad - you decide). The bottom-line is - bring only those stuff that you need. Rest all are available here.
  3. While in US, left is not right - right is right. Adjusting to this rule will take a lot of your time. Even while walking. Suppose you are walking down the road and someone is walking in the opposite direction. In India, as per norm, you are supposed to 'keep left' so that you don't collide with the other person. In US, it's all right. Keep right is the norm here. While driving, right side of the road is your lane (unless it's one-way). I have had moments where, when you walk, you inadvertently keep left and the other person coming towards you keep right. If not for the last second corrections we Mumbaikars learnt from Mumbai's own education system, I would have invited trouble.
  4. You can stand on escalators. You can walk on escalators at the same time - Yes, that's true. In India, especially in the metros, we are always busy and it shows in the way we walk / brisk walk / run. When you are overtaking someone on the stairs, you unknowingly (most of the times) bump your shoulder onto your fellow traveller. This incident is irritating for both. Some of us apologize and move on. Most just move on. Many countries, including US, have a solution for this. They have a clear path for people always on the hurry (left side of the escalator) while people who want to enjoy their moment in the escalator, can stay on the right side.  Philosophically, everyone reaches their destination; some just decide to rush.
Well, these are some of the lessons I learnt while in US. I am learning more with every passing day. Will share them too in due course of time. By the way, did I miss out on anything?

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Nawab of Najafgarh steps down

Any sport has to have some basics and some instincts that go along with the basics of the game. And these are unique for a particular game. Batting in Cricket needs different set of technique than batting in Baseball. Skills needed in Tennis is different from those needed in Badminton. Hockey on an artificial green turf is different from Ice Hockey, although the skill set is fairly the same. Even within a game, different players have different style and they are all effective. But you still need the basic technique upon which you will inculcate your own style of play. 

Take Batting in Cricket for instance. Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid are legends of the game. They have both been successful in their game. Yet they have different styles. Sachin Tendulkar is relatively more charismatic while batting and is a treat to watch when in full flow. Rahul Dravid relies relatively more on technique and is a live example of how to bat in a manner desired of a batsman. You may have a different perspective, but I believe both these legends are at the same level in terms of success. One is not greater than the other. However, I am sure you will agree with me when I say both these players had their roots in technique and developed a niche for themselves. 

Every once in a while comes a player who deviates from the routine and relies completely on a different set of skills and still succeeds. A player who has his own basics to follow, his own techniques yet highly effective. Indian Cricket had one such player. And his batting was like eye-candy especially for those who are more goal-oriented than the journey one takes to achieve the goal.

I am talking about none other than Virender Sehwag. 

Virender Sehwag retires from Cricket #ThankYouViru

He completely defied the most basic tenet of batting - footwork! Instead, he trusted his eye, his hand and his confidence on the pitch. And he succeeded. He made a name for himself even when Indian Cricket had other batting stalwarts who were breaking records with ease. It's easy to be a top player when you are surrounded by average ones, but Sehwag made it count when he was playing with Sachin, Saurav, Rahul and VVS. Sachin had charisma, Saurav flamboyant, Rahul with his rock-solid technique and VVS with style. Among them came Sehwag who simply went after the bowling with little to no respect for the bowlers (on the pitch, that is).

I have seen the best of Indian cricket play together - Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Virender Sehwag, Anil Kumble, Zaheer Khan, Javagal Srinath etc. The current crop is exciting, no doubt but they have time to attain legendary status in Indian Cricket. With Sehwag retiring, that 2000's era is now well and truly over.

If you want to bat the "Virender Sehwag" way, mug up the following steps - 
  • Completely trust you hand-eye co-ordination
  • Do NOT look at the scorecard. Scoreboards contain some numbers pertaining to the game. There are other team members who will do the math
  • Let your instincts talk on the pitch
  • That's it! No kidding, that's seriously how simple it is to learn about Sehwag. The only challenge is to effectively utilize them on the pitch.
Virender Sehwag started by being a Sachin Tendulkar look-alike, then a batsman who has similar batting  effectiveness of Sachin Tendulkar but ended being the original Sehwag! Thank you for the wonderful memories Viru-paaji. Your triple centuries was amazing to watch, so were your double century and innumerable centuries in ODIs. The way you went after bowling especially during pressure situations made you unique in this group of Indian Cricketing legends. 

The Nawab of Najafgarh has stepped down. All hail the Nawab!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Brendan Rodgers checked out!

Oh the interlull before the storm, they say! Only this time, there was a storm just before the interlull.

It was quite an eventful day in English Premier League last week. Manchester City destroyed Newcastle United with 6 goals, 5 of which came from a certain Sergio Aguero. Chelsea lost timidly (again). Arsenal defeated Manchester United 3-0 in what is now being described as one of the most eye-catching games in recent times (United fans won't agree, but that's the way it goes right). And then the most shocking of them all - Brendan Rodgers fired as Liverpool manager. The official statement says he left Liverpool as if to mean it was his decision, but truth be told - he was fired. The Liverpool piece got me thinking. Not in the right way though. It got me thinking about this brutal phase in Football where result means everything. 

Brendan Rodgers fired by Liverpool

Liverpool has been anything but exceptional in recent years. And in the one year where they were very close to the title, someone 'slipped' and they lost their way and finished second. That was also Luis Suarez's last year with Liverpool who was pivotal in Liverpool finishing second. Post-Suarez era has been average for Liverpool. Brendan Rodgers, in my opinion, did his best to make his team play an attacking mode of football but failed. He bought in many players on a premium who failed to deliver on the ground. Daniel Sturridge's injury didn't help his cause either. And add to that the saga involving Raheem Sterling, they already had a mess on their hands. To that effect, I am not shocked by Rodgers' firing.

What I found astounding was that it happened in the middle of a season and that too after buying players for millions! I don't understand the mentality of the owners and I don't have the information that they are privy to, to make such a decision. But as a football fan, it was nothing but rash. Maybe it wasn't anything to do with Rodgers but the availability of Klopp that triggered this decision. Even in that case, it was unprofessional on their part. Now Klopp has the responsibility to correct this mess and that too, quickly. I am a big fan of Klopp but I doubt Liverpool will even finish in the top 4 this season. In that regard, the owners have messed up the season for Liverpool.

Every football club needs two things - more or less - one is success and the second is stability. Running after one of them will diminish focus from the other. Take Manchester United's case for instance - sacking of David Moyes meant they were ready to compromise stability for success. Same applies to Chelsea and Manchester City, who regularly chop and change their managers. Now take Arsenal's case - stability is of paramount importance and due to the cost involved in the construction of the Emirates Stadium, they were forced to compromise success (winning the league) for more stability (consecutive top 4 finish for 18th time). Now that everything has been paid off, Arsenal can finally focus on success and stability, until Wenger decides to step down.

Speaking of Arsene Wenger, he expressed disappointment for Rodgers and rightfully so. Rodgers wasn't a bad manager, nor was he unsuccessful. After all, its been 25 years since Liverpool last won the league. If Rodgers can be termed unsuccessful, so are the rest of the managers. 

Football has become more professional and more 'corporate' in these times. Everything is analysed in terms of money that comes in and money that goes out. The transfer fees of some players is more than the prize money of winning the league. As absurd as it sounds, it is primarily because of infuse of advertising money and TV rights in the game. Advertisers pay money for returns and not necessarily for the love of the game. But they fail to realize that the product, on which they are pumping money, is losing in the long term. It will soon become impractical to invest in Football. This bubble will burst one day. Advertisers will find another product. Only Football fans stand to suffer.

I don't think there's any reason for Brendan Rodgers to feel embarrassed about the whole incident. He is, after all, a victim of the "corporatization" of football. David Moyes was one such victim too. Rodgers will now have to dig deep and start all over again. I reckon he will get a mid-table team in Europe to manage and he will do wonders to that team, the same way he did to Swansea City.

Adios Rodgers.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Confessions of a small(ish) fish

Resting himself inside a 'cocoon', eating his way to happiness and knowing exactly how to handle stuff on any regular day, this little fish had everything what he wished for. He knew exactly how to handle things, was comfortable when any irregularity used to happen in his life and was always safe in the support of family, siblings and friends. Anything that you could possibly imagine regarding a secured life, he had it all!

But that's the thing about comfort right? You are comfortable because you develop a safety zone and would like to reside in that zone for possibly the rest of your life. You are probably best at what you do, within that zone. You seldom explore, try out new things and make mistakes. You just love to do the same things day in and day out. And as long as your requirements are being met, you hardly care. 

As a legendary movie character (Joker from The Dark Knight) once said, "Introduce a little anarchy. Upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos". Should we stir the pot, or pond in this case? How, you may ask.

Let's move this little fish out of his familiar small pond and placed into a big endless sea.

Big fish in a small pond or small fish in a big pond

What do you think will be the emotion expressed by this little fish? Fear? Nervous? Anxiety? Excited? 

The answer will depend on how exactly you will feel when you are placed in a similar position. I, for one, will be anxious. Fear and Excitement are two extremes who only a small section of the population will go through. Nervous and Anxious are the middle line.

Now, our little fish will have to swim "with the proverbial sharks". This little fish will find many others swimming around who have made this big sea their home. Any intruder in one's home will be treated with anger, caution but not happiness. This little fish will now have to co-exist with the others and on occasions, will have to compete for common areas. Areas could be finding a place called home, eating stuff that's common across all similar sized neighbors and avoid being eaten by bigger neighbors. It's almost as if his world is now upside down!

Everybody goes through such a phase at least once in their lives. Some are fortunate enough to experience it early while some find this later. I am going through this phase. Early / later - I leave it to reader interpretation. The faster you adapt, the stronger you will grow and thrive. It's like a race with a small difference - winning the race is not mandatory; not losing is critical. 

The race has begun. 

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