Tuesday, January 31, 2006

When Cricket lost to Patriotism

The ongoing India Pakistan cricket series was touted to be the mother of all rivalries. The media spared no stone unturned in cashing in on the hype. The Indian and Pakistani scribes went gung-ho glorifying their respective team's credentials and analyzing the rival team's weaknesses. They went overboard putting the tournament at the top of cricket's pyramid while relegating the Ashes to a second rate competition. Reviews, previews, talk-shows and in-depth analysis gave some long-forgotten-heroes and some not-so-successful cricketers a second chance to recognition. On the ground, the two teams are arch-rivals; outside of it, the two nations are sworn enemies. Cricket thus becomes a virtual war as bats and balls replace F-16s and Sukhois.

A much-abused cliché calls cricket a second religion in the subcontinent, a religion very unkind to losers. History is a proof that the losers in India Pakistan matches pay heavily. At times players' careers were ended; they felt unsafe returning to their own countries and hometowns after their teams lost. A win in these matches could put you on the peak of fame and adulation while a loss would take you to the depth of lifelong ignominy. Ask Chetan Sharma and Javed Miandad to describe what it means to be on either side. The sword of job-loss swings tantalizingly close on top of everyone - from the pitch curator to the coach. The mentality is thus to be safe than sorry. So the captain would rather be safe and not lose than go for the kill and invite public wrath if the plan fails.

A look at the statistics reveals how brazenly biased the wickets were in favour of the batsmen in the first two tests. 1089 runs were scored for the loss of only 8 wickets – a whopping 136 runs per wicket – an ignominious world record. In the second test both the captains delayed their declarations until they made sure that the other team can't even hope to win, an ample evidence of their defensive attitudes. Batsmen broke world records; captains saved their resumes from smudges of defeat, but cricket was the loser. Their focus is how not to lose and not how to win.

Compare and contrast this to the recently concluded Ashes series. England beat Australia after 18 years; nail biting test match finishes brought a lot of lost fans back to cricket. South Africa's Captain Graeme Smith surprised Australia by his sudden declaration and brought the dead test and the lost series to life. Can this be expected from either of India-Pakistan captains? Not until we give them the freedom to lose following a daring gamble to win.

A deeper look at the evolution of sports would help separate sports from its misguided connection with patriotism. The evolution of sports lies in man’s need for entertainment. All the sports started of as simple fun acts and evolved into community events before businessmen saw opportunities and expanded the scope of these sports. As the earning potential through sports grew along with the fame factor, more and more sports personalities emerged. But playing a sport is still a personal thing. A player is happier if his team wins because of his pivotal contribution than when his performance is forgettable in his team’s win. The sport is his means of livelihood no less than our work is for us. And we don’t go around doing our daily job with a streak of patriotism running in our veins right? Nor do we always succeed in doing our job. And when we fail, we don’t fear a public backlash. So why should a cricketer’s inability to do his job invite crowd demonstrations and violence against him?

What happens when a simple act of playing a game is wrongly associated with patriotism? Losing a match makes you a traitor who deserves to be lynched. Let cricket between the arch-rivals be played like a sport. Cricket was meant to entertain; so let us allow our cricketers to be players and refrain from making gladiators out of them. Only then we’ll see test matches between these two nations yielding results and drawing crowd due to their result producing ability and not just the hype. Let us not dump our brand of patriotism on their shoulders. Let us give them the freedom to win or lose. For as Walter Reuther once told, “If you’re not big enough to lose, you’re not big enough to win.”

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

An Ode to Failure

In success, others discover me.
In failure, I discover myself.

I party in success.
I introspect in failure.

When I succeed, I discover my limits.
When I fail, I stretch my limits.

I relax when I succeed.
I toil when I fail.

Success makes me happier.
Failure makes me tougher.

With success, I cross a milestone.
With failure, I build a stepping stone.

Success is sweet, when I simply succeed.
Success is sweeter, when I fail and succeed.

Success tests my boundaries of happiness.
Failure tests my limits of resilience.

I forget God in success.
I remember God in failure.

My success is my failure if it goes to my head.
My failure is my success if I learn from it.

Friday, January 06, 2006

New Year Bash in Dubai

It took me five shirts, ten pants and quite a few hairstyles to be satisfied with how I looked that night. The sigh of chilling breeze at 10 pm unnerved us when we friends left for our New Year party at a hall close to the World Trade Center in Dubai. That night all roads led to Dubai, an oasis of forward and broad minded atmosphere in the desert of conservative Gulf countries. Murphy’s Law was working at its best then; the normally ubiquitous Dubai taxi was suddenly the rarest thing on earth. We had to go far and there was no vacant taxi in sight. After a long anxious wait and some forced but sincere prayers, we found two unoccupied taxis and latched onto them as a hungry predator would on its prey.

We reached the discotheque soon thereafter but not before 11 pm. The make-shift hall was turned into a disco for the musical extravaganza on the New Year eve. Some of the biggest DJs of India namely Aqeel, Suketu, Nasha and others were invited to enthrall the crowd and usher in the year 2006. Our pulse went up as we reached closer to the entrance of the hall and heard the faint foot tapping remix music through the well guarded walls of the hall. The crowd gathered outside the entrance could compete with the best in the fashion world. My heart skipped a few beats as I saw quite a few exquisitely beautiful girls dressed to kill. One of the best dressed girls we saw outside was a fair girl in complete black. She wore a seductively low-waist skirt, a backless top that was tantalizingly low even from the front – all to our ‘lusty’ delight. This only got better as we went inside the main entrance.

We had started dancing even before we entered the hall. We just couldn’t stop the dance bug from taking over. Hard and soft drinks flowed in the air. People were guzzling them while dancing with their partners and making the most of the moment. The disco lights, the laser beams and the sound system worked in tandem to mesmerize us. In between our dancing, we went around to survey the crowd (read gals). And what we saw simply left us dazed. Gurrrlzz were dressed in their glamourous best. I’d never seen so many scantily clad ladies under one roof, grooving to the dance beats. Girls and guys here have an amazing dressing sense and they carry it all off quite well. Guys shined in ‘Eminem’isque trousers and T-shirts combinations and dance steps that matched their sartorial skills. Girls wearing Capri pants, camisoles, tank tops and minis with competitive hemlines were gyrating sensuously to the beat of the music. One girl in particular had forced everyone dancing around her to stop and simply watch her in awe. She started dancing very slowly and yet suggestively. And by the time she hit the peak, she had a lot of us gasping for breath. She danced like a professional stripper gyrating on the pole. She left us as awestruck and wanting for more as a stripper would. And she did that without taking off a single piece of clothing from her curvaceous body. Anyway, there weren’t many of those to be removed.

I took a break from dancing to catch my breath and observe the whole crowd from a distance in the intermittent darkness. As it often happens with me, I started thinking about the whole event that was unfolding in front of my eyes and a thought crossed my mind. I was observing the big screen showing DJ Suketu totally engrossed in music, changing his CDs and enthralling the crowd, the crowd that was lapping it all up. The crowd was his slave that night. I started wondering what it takes to reach a stage where people would be ready to pay even a penny to come and watch what you do. The DJs of the night had reached a stage that probably none other in the crowd did. And that is why, we were the crowd and they ruled the crowd. Think about any famous personality in the world of sports, music or movies and you’ll realize that the ones we pay for have really paid with their lives to reach there. Success and fame doesn’t come easy. You’ve to pay with your life through single minded devotion before you command a crowd that pays to see you perform; a wonderful thought to begin the New Year with and to follow if one wants to rise above the crowd.

The New Year had arrived long before and we were still dancing. Exhaustion was setting in and we could see more people on the sidelines now grooving slowly with their dancing partners. They hugged and danced in loving embrace, mumbling sweet nothings in each other’s ears, cuddling and kissing in the winking lights, looking into the partner’s eyes with kinky and lovelorn smile on their faces. Call it the effect of drinking binge or whatever, the temperatures were rising as the couples slowly forgot they were in public. Mild and short kisses turned into prolonged ones and progressed to deep smooching. These loving couples turned to love-making couples and promoted us from mere observers to voyeurs.

Our New Year party began with excitement, only to end up with s-excitement. We all came out satisfied and yet exasperated; for we got more than what we had bargained for and yet we were disgusted at being single.

This article is a tribute to the indefatigable spirit of ‘stag’hood. For had we not been there as stags, we would never have surveyed the crowd to find the best of the lot. And being a stag is like being in an eternal state of hope; hope that we will someday have someone for us. And we, the stags, keep trying – irrespective of umpteen setbacks – to reach to the hearts of that special lady who we envisage dancing with us. It is this hope that keeps us afloat; the hope that we will someday cross over to set our feet on the grass that is on the other side of the fence.

Three cheers to the spirit of the stags wherein you’re for all and all are for you. How close you’re to divinity when you’re for all than when you’re for only one and that only one is for you! ;-)