Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Why I'm infuriated every morning

Fooling away with my laptop, sometime after midnight

Taking my cellphone off the charger and going to bed, leaving a rather innocent-looking set-up behind me

When I wake up in the morning

I'm sure the wires get into some kind of orgy every night. Every night.

CAN SOMEONE GET ME SOME CELIBATE WIRES? PLEASE?

***

PS:
This is not an excuse to show off my skills in the realms of MS Paint, possibly the greatest Microsoft tool ever.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

AK Hangal: My Contribution

It breaks my heart to learn of AK Hangal's untimely demise. When I saw him in Lagaan I thought he would go on for at least another fifty years. He didn't.

Despite the Kalashnikovs, Hangal was undoubtedly the most potent AK in the history of mankind. Remembering AK Hangal is not only about remembering Bollywood; it's about remembering the history of Man. He was there when India became independent. He was possibly there when even England became independent. Or even when cavemen communicated in guttural grunts. He was possibly (I need to confirm this) the first homo sapiens.

And he looked absolutely the same in that era as well. With his seemingly infinite glamour and charisma, Hangal was definitely a phenomenal hit among the hominids as well.

The Earth should have stopped moving, mournful and cheerful (since the average human age has come down by 1% or so) at the same time. It has not. Crows are cawing, the late monsoon breeze is still blowing, cricket is still happening and Fardeen Khan still exists.

Sigh.

And then, I come across Wikipedia, which says this.

RAHIM CHACHA.

They have messed up Rahim Chacha and Imaam Sa'ab. As if Sholay and Deewaar are the same. Worse, as if Yunus Parvez was even a small fraction of what Our Legend was. As if convincing a son to leave town and go to Jabalpur to work in a beedi factory is as easy as explaining the significance of the number 786 to a colleague.

I had to edit the page, of course. Immediately.

I had expected a lot of protest regarding this, but none rose to the occasion. The typical human response to the Wikipedia error was the thing that had perplexed (and possibly infuriated) him to no ends.

Sannata.

Let this go down as my contribution to mankind.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The grin

Fleeting memories come to mind.

Tall guy scores 51 on debut, bailing us out against South Africa. I like him.

No, that's irrelevant.

Tall guy opens batting and hitting Aussies all over Sydney Cricket Ground. Scores 167 off 198. Team scores 261 and loses by an innings. Hits all kinds of shots everywhere. McGrath and Warne decimated. I turn into an official fan.

Quits as an opener. Informs all and sundry that he won't open.

Scores two 300s somewhere in Ranji Trophy. Fails to break into the middle-order. In and out. Grins.

Scores 59 standing among the ruins as stupid Aussies bowl us out for 171. Mr grinner is sent out at three. On-drives Warne against the turn on fourth day, all day, for fours. Scores 281. Weird victory. Grins. Converts me into a hardcore fan.

Hooks Pollock for six. Scores an impossible thirty-odd at Bloemfontein. Greatest thirty-odd I've ever seen in a quarter of a century. Overshadows Tendulkar's 155 and Sehwag's debut 105.

Comes out at Kolkata with side trailing in second innings, four wickets down, trying to save innings defeat. Easily evaded. Tall guy scores 154. Grins.

Identical situation. Conjures a 148 at Adelaide somehow. We win a test in Australia.

My daughter is born on 1st January 2004. Our hero hits Aussies all over the park two days later. Outscores Tendulkar and scores 178. We cross 700. Declare. The man grins.

Scores five international hundreds on tour. No one else scores more than one.

Picks up vague injury. Comes back. Fifth ODI against Pakistan. Shabbir Ahmed bowls two identical deliveries. Outside off. Good length. Both good deliveries. Yet both hit for fours. One through extra cover. The other through fine leg or thereabouts. Grins. Scores a hundred. Wins series for us. Becomes my favourite cricketer sportsperson of all time.

Sent out at three again at Mumbai. Clarke takes 6/9. He scores 69. Match turned on its head. We win. Effing Australians get what they deserve. No footwork. Just grin and wrists.

Moron grins on as if he's a five-year old who has just been gifted with a huge box of candies.

Partnership with Zaheer Khan to win first ever test in South Africa.

Takes control of dressing-room after Harbhajan ban. Makes inspirational speech that team needs to be one in backing the off-spinner. No grin. Possibly.

Deccan Chargers offers him cash. Lots of cash. 15% more than their MVP. Turns it down and offers to be bought instead so that Chargers can spend money on others. I read news three or four times in disbelief.

Chases down big target Lankan soil. Grins again. I wish he didn't grin so much. Or so honestly.

Fairytale one-wicket win. Guy shouts at Ojha for not running. Looks almost comic. I end up writing this after staying up all night in EST.

Partnership with Zaheer Khan to win test in South Africa. The repetition is not a typo.

Announces retirement.

Sitting here, dazed, writing stupid blogpost. Bad English. Only facts. Only memories. Pent-up emotions. Cannot form coherent sentences. My hero is gone forever. It's not like letting a Dumbledore or a Sirius go. It's like Rowling dying midway through the series herself. It's that big.

Cannot accept retirement. Too harsh a blow. He needs to play on. I know it's hard for him. I know it's the selectors. I know he cannot handle ignominy.

Cannot come to terms, though, that he won't bat.

Helpless.

Feel like finding out his number and asking him to stay.

Cannot accept.

Overnight sleep doesn't help.

Not even books.

Eden Gardens is a ruin.

Cricket is a drone.

Life is a burden.

Give me back Laxman.

Let him emerge once again at 59/3. Let them bowl at him. Fast. Hard. Lots of spin maybe. Let them test his mettle. Let him have fun. Let him use the entire ground as his canvas. Let him bat on. Bail India out of trouble. And then get out playing a stupid stroke. And grin widely.

No tears, though. I grin as I think of him grinning. Will grin every time he goes.

With Gavaskar Kapil Vengsarkar Azharuddin Tendulkar Kumble Dravid Ganguly Sehwag Dhoni it has always been awe and respect. Same for VVS. Something extra also.

Affection.

They tell me he'd play on for Hyderabad. Not IPL. But Ranji. Will support Hyderabad. Not Bengal. For the first time ever since the beginning of time. As long as he's around.

Will miss those wrists. Will miss that bravado. Will miss that grin.

No, wait, it's one long, hideous nightmare, isn't it?

The grin has haunted me all night. Things are not the same. They won't be, either.

I shouldn't have written this post after all.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

MS Paint and Grammar

Let me get over with the harsh bits first. For someone who has been writing over a serious period of time now, I suck at grammar and choice of words. There's no point arguing: I'm just not decent enough.

There's good news, though. There are people who are worse at it. They simply cannot write English. Worse, they think they can. And I'm not talking about SMS language here.

SMS language is a world of its own, by the way. I agree that people who typically text each other
1. are awfully short on time: they need to calibrate (or whatever) space rockets at NASA, so typing an extra character or two may result in a catastrophe; hence the really long words like are, and, you, why are rather creatively replaced by r, n, u, y;
2. are pitifully low on cash: if the text message spills over 160 characters it might end up costing them a rupee; and even though they can afford a cellphone, a rupee is precisely what might lead to them turn up on the other side of the poverty line;
3. have not been taught a letter of the alphabet or two: they do not know the use of useless letters like s (z serves the purpose, multiple "z"s work even better) or th (d is good enough);
4. think inserting appropriate numerals in words make them look really cool (in2, w8, l8r are some amazing examples).

This is not an article about SMS language, though. This is serious stuff. This involves grammar. This is a handbook for the handful of people whose grammar is actually worse than mine. This also involves an assortment of creations in MS Paint.

I suppose I should provide a disclaimer here. My drawing skills are way, way worse than my grammar. The difference is so huge that you cannot even compare: the gap is more staggering than, say, Sachin Tendulkar and Kirti Azad. On a cricket ground. In 1998.

So what are the things that irk me?

1. Overuse of capital letters:
Some people are under the perpetual impression that it's perfectly normal for everyone to type with the Caps Lock on.

Consider the simple message:
Hello. I think Combiflam is a cool drug.

Compare this to
HELLO. I THINK COMBIFLAM IS A COOL DRUG.

Internet etiquette suggests that typing with the Caps Lock on implies that you're shouting. So unless you're Mahima Chaudhry, there's no reason that you'd want to tear your lungs, even though you're advertising for the wonder drug that cures high fever, headaches and muscle pain at the same time.

However, this is getting more and more "in" these days, especially on Facebook.

2. Inappropriate use of capital letters:
There are certain rules in grammar that dictate where to use capital letters. This, for example, is a perfect example of how to use capital letters in a sentence.
My name is Zayed and my cousin cannot act.

This, unfortunately, is not an appropriate usage:
My Name is Zayed and my Cousin cannot Act.

Name, Cousin and Act are not proper nouns. They do not begin a sentence. They do not need to begin with capital letters. It is wrong to do so.

I will not discuss non-usage of capital letters here. Some people spend their entire lives without using a capital letter - e e cummings being perhaps the greatest example.

3. Overuse of ellipses:
The new millennium marked a revolution in the history of the ellipsis. With emails and social networking taking text communication to a level unheard of before, the ellipsis has virtually been able to replace all sorts of communication.

For example, in 1995, your friend might have told you
Hi, Rohit! It's nice to meet you. Seems like ages since we've met, doesn't it? I think you should realise the facts: you simply cannot bat; and are not good enough to play for India.

In 2012, the same friend might write on your wall
hi rohit..................nice 2 meet u...............seems like ages since v hav met...............think u shd realise da facts................u simply cant bat.................n r not good enough 2 play 4 india.................

Do note the following changes here:
a. the ellipses have managed to replace all punctuation marks
b. they have managed to replace a few words as well
c. they have varied lengths now, typically at least ten dots
d. it's not mandatory to put a space after an ellipse any more

All four are wrong. And all of them manage to put me off.

4. Overuse of the question mark and the exclamation mark:
It no longer suffices to use one question mark or one exclamation mark. The writer somehow assumes that the reader doesn't get the question or the surprise (or whatever emotion is involved) when one punctuation is used.

So what are the changes?
Calm, composed old-school music-critic:
What? Himesh Reshammiya is an awesome singer!

Excited, adrenaline-pumped music critic:
Wot????????????? Himesh Reshammiya is an awsum singer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Terribly excited music critic on alcohol, grass and Red Bull:
Wot????????///// Himesh Reshammiya is an awsum singer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11111

Taking the finger off the Shift key just before you finish your long sequences of question or exclamation marks is an art skilfully mastered to show off hyperactivity. It possibly also shows you're a dork, but that's my opinion.

4. Homophones:
Case 1: Lose vs Loose
Of all the homophone goof-ups, this one irritates me the most. It's not difficult to understand at all.
Lose is a verb. The verb is lost.
Loose is an adjective. The verb is loosen.

Consider a random fierce-looking tiger, for example. Now, when you say
The tiger wanted to lose its stripes.
You probably mean the following future for the particular member of the cat family:
Whereas, when you say
The tiger wanted loose stripes.
You probably mean this:
Note the significant difference. The first one looks cool. The second one looks clumsy.


Case 2: Your vs You're
Your means something that belongs to you. You're basically means you are.

For example, when you say
Fardeen Khan, your pomfret.
You probably are making the illustrious screen performer aware of his possession of a member of the pisces species:
On the other hand, if you say
Fardeen Khan, you're pomfret.
You probably mean the radical interracial semi-transformation the charming personality had to go through:

Case 3: There vs Their vs They're
Once you refer to a group as they or them, any possession of this group can be called their. They're is as simple as the honest they are, the apostrophe just adding to the aura. There typically refers to a location mentioned before.

For example,
Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt went to London. They saw an emu there.
This is substantially different from
Through uninhibited love and affection, the Indian wrestlers made the emu their own.
It's also different from
The Indian wrestlers have a pet emu now. They're really fond of it.

Case 4: Its vs It's
This is another serious issue. Its is used to denote "something that belongs to it"; it's stands for "it is". This is one of the most common errors. An easy way to tell one from the other (thanks to http://www.theoatmeal.com for the idea) is to replace the word by "it is" and check whether it makes sense.

Examples:
Acting has its demands. An assortment of expressions is one of them.
This has a different meaning than
Hence, it's extremely difficult for Fardeen Khan to become an actor.

There are many, many other issues, like the overuse of apostrophes and a total apathy towards colons and semicolons. I intend to cover these aspects in details some other day, preferably with the aid of MS Paint - given that how proficient I've become at it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A birthday

There is a birthday today. And it's not my country that I'm talking about. It's the other birthday.

We actually need some history for this, though.

***

Till a long time I had been under the impression that Tridev was the greatest movie ever made. Ever. Even at that age I knew Naseeruddin was special and Sunny Deol was not. I used to mouth the lyrics of oye oye (someone had lied to me that singing the song can get me arrested, but I have forgotten who it was: I won't be surprised if it had been my mother).

Then came 1991. These was after my Class VIII annual examinations. Remember, this was the pre-cable TV, pre-DD Metro, pre-FM era. All we had was Doordarshan. And maybe Vividh Bharti. So basically, our weekly entertainment was limited to one Chitrahaar; one Chitramala (does anyone remember Chitramala?); one Chitrageet; one Rangoli; two movies; some serials (I have to agree that they were of infinitesimally superior quality to the ones they dish out these days); and cricket (mind you, Tendulkar had already arrived).

However, there were always the movie theatres of various types. There was New Empire, where you could have a drink in the interval (though not at fourteen); Priya, where the Front Stall was on the first floor and the "Dress Circle" was on the second; Bijoli, where they showed only Bangla movies; and there was Pradeep, where they posted a warning across the screen when high tide was approaching - to ensure that everyone had their feet raised, on the chairs. There were numerous others, but that is not the purpose of this article.

There was also Menoka. Menoka was the theatre that screened all the major releases of that era (they possibly still do that). However, they also screened old classics from time to time - a trend that was in vogue in Kolkata till about a decade back and has vanished subsequently, thanks to inexpensive cable television.

My father had promised me that he would take me to watch Sholay. He told me it was a greater movie than Tridev, and many Tridevs put together. This was difficult to digest - after all, how can you better something as grand as Tridev?

But I still went. And saw it. And bought the music cassette. And a two-cassette album of the dialogues. And learnt them by heart. And when I was permitted to go to the theatres alone, I made up for the first decade-and-a-half of Sholaylessness by watching it at every possible theatre at every possible opportunity.

My life changed. I got promoted to the Have-Watched group. The Elites. And by that I do not mean people who watch movies at Elite, no.

I got to know Gabbar's father's name; I got to know who acted in a double role in Sholay; I got to know whose head it was on the coin; I got to know of MYB 3047; I got to know how many times Jai had talked to Radha; I got to know the only time Sambha spoke in the movie other than poore pachaas hazaar; I got to know the colour of each of the three horses Kaalia and his mates were riding; I did spot the reference made in Andaz Apna Apna; I ended up finding out all places in India that are almost equidistant from Moradabad and Meerut; I also got to know of the qawwali that was not picturised in the movie; and even who the other Hari was.

And now, I know of The Seven Samurai and How the West Was Won. I even know that Mera Gaon Mera Desh was a worthy predecessor. But, hey, I can't remember loathing and being fascinated by - at the same time - anyone else before or after Gabbar. I cannot remember a scene that had a lump in my throat as big as the one I had when Radha put out the lights one by one in tune with the harmonica. I cannot remember my adrenaline rushing like what it does when Veeru rushes out to seek vengeance. I cannot remember gasping like I do when Thakur reveals his terrible secret, even after watching it for the thirtieth time.

It is certainly not the best movie of all time. But it's certainly the greatest.

***

So why today? Because the Sippys had decided for a 15th August release, in 1975.

Happy birthday.

PS:
I suppose I should share a birthday joke that I haven't heard of before 12th August, and am hence assuming it to be a fresh one. It's fitting that the joke should go with the post as well.

In 1975, Superman, Batman and Spiderman were flying across India and suddenly they died. How?
...
...
...
Na beta na, har cheez ka answer Rajinikanth nahin hota.
...
...
...
Yaad hai, Sholay mein Gabbar ne teen goliyaan hawa mein chalayi thi?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

WTF, Jo?

Dear Joanne:

Things are not right.

I know you're not aware of this, but that scarred teenager in glasses has been a substantial part of my last decade. I have spent a lot of hard cash, and more importantly, a significant amount of time following, revising, discussing, writing about and - shudders - thinking about the boy and his mates.

I would have accepted things if it had stopped there. It didn't. You ended up inspiring the next generation as well. And as she starts her seamless transition from the world of Muggles to that of magic, I see (and dread) very familiar traits.

She follows.

She revises.

She discusses. With me.

She thinks.

She's a bit scared to go to Hogwarts if an owl actually turns up in 2015 because there might be more three-headed dogs or basilisks lurking around. But at the same time, you can see the gleam of hope in her eyes.

You had spoiled me about a decade back. You are spoiling the next generation now. It's just not right.

Why, Joanne? Why did you have to do this to the two of us?

Abhishek.

PS: You must have noticed that I haven't mentioned writing. She might end up doing the same, though. But that doesn't mean she hasn't been pursuing other avenues. You can see an example below (yes, I know it's not called a Sniff, and there are grammatical errors).
© Bidyunmala Mukherjee 2012

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Fury 3

My sincere apologies if my words do not form properly. I am furious. And I do not blame myself.

I am not a boxing connoisseur. I have never been. I don't know the rule-book inside out like some of my acquaintances. I do stay up, though, to watch India compete. I still do not know what results in a point and what does not. What I know is that things are rather less well-defined in boxing than in most sports.

All I know is:
Event 1: Sumit Sangwan had a howler the other day. That's what everyone told me. People who do understand the sport and its rules. We had appealed. It was overturned.
Event 2: Vikas Krishan Yadav possibly should have lost anyway. That's what everyone told me. People who do understand the sport and its rules. They had appealed. It was accepted.

I repeat, I do not know the rules of boxing. All I know is that they are very subjective. I do not intend to know, either. All I know is that both the events should not have happened. One of them happening is a heartbreak, but can still be accepted, since umpiring errors happen in all kinds of sports.

Twice is not acceptable. It simply does not sound right. No, I'm not furious because the opponent was an American. Or because the jury was British.

My fury comes from the fact that there is no way out of this. If you win fairly, the decision goes against you and the protests go down the drain. If you win unfairly, the protests are upheld immediately.

Is there a way that we will be allowed to win in a sport that's not this subjective?

How are our boxers supposed to motivate themselves if this is how their dreams are going to end after four years of toil?

BCCI have been right all along, actually. They have actually been successful in bringing down the unfair decision count against the Indian cricket team by the sheer flex of muscles. My sincere apologies to them for being sarcastic all along.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Leander

I stayed up to watch Leander Paes and Vishnu Vardhan (or J Vishnuvardhan) bow out of Olympics 2012 today. I normally avoid tennis discussions (with the rather cool excuse that tennis-ball sports do not interest me). I wasn't watching tennis today anyway. I was watching India in action. Leander in action. Till half-past one in the morning.

They've been knocked out today by Llodra, and more importantly, Tsonga: people who are ranked way, way above. It was almost a case of Sharman Joshi taking on Arnold Schwarzenegger. For Leander there might not be another chance either (well, he can still have a stab at it with Sania Mirza).

Much as I have respected and admired Indian sportspeople over the years and their commitment towards the country, I have never thought that any of them would be prepared to die for the country.

Leander Paes might. He might have as well been at Kargil instead of Wimbledon tonight, taking bullets instead.

He's that relentless. We have produced many masters across multiple sports. Cricketers, lots of them. Anand. Dhyan Chand. Geet Sethi. Prakash Padukone. Saina Nehwal in the making. Shooters and archers and wrestlers in the pipeline as well.

Almost all of them have been more talented sportspeople than Leander Paes. However, there have been one aspect where he has outdone them all.

Patriotism and pluck.

Some people use their sports equipments as paintbrushes. Some other as chisels. Some as tools. Some as pens. Some merely as a means to earn their bread.

I've seen Leander Paes use it as a bayonet time and again. Even tonight. At thirty-nine.

Followers