Archive for November, 2009

Singing in the Rain…

Posted by on Nov-28-2009

The first poem I ever wrote in my life is —

“Rain, rain, go away,
Come again some other day,
Little Freddy wants to play.

Rain, rain, go to Spain,
Never show your face again.”

Mother Goose… yes, you are right. But I loved rain right from my child hood. It was fun releasing paper boats in the pond by the ‘Summer Palace’ (another guy I know who paper boats is Vinay. He eloquently spoke of going to the school in the rain.).

But my sister was afraid of rain. Not rain but the thunder and lightning that happens with it. Whenever lightning pierced through the French windows she closed her eyes and ears tight.

For a mariner there is another rhyme to sing when it’s raining.

“The rain is raining all around,
it falls on field and tree.
It rains on the umbrellas here,
And on the ships at sea.”

Man, that’s a sight when Heaven opens into the sea! Rain drops block your vision, you hear the thundering sound, the rhythm of rain.

I remember Raziya quoting Charlie Chaplin “I Love walking in the rain because Nobody can see me crying…”

In one voyage, when it was raining outside she recalled the first rain of the season, the fragrance from earth after the rain. We are all under the same rain.

What followed was her favorite lines.

Pablo Neruda saying that “we are made of earth and rain.”  and “In what language does rain fall over tormented cities?”

Tagore saying that “the rain-water is running in rills through the narrow lanes like a laughing boy who has run away from his mother to tease her.”

Kobayashi Issa’s Hiku-

“In spring rain
a pretty girl

Little Red Riding Hood

Posted by on Nov-21-2009

Vinay was contemplating on unexpressed love once. That reminded me of how love was expressed to me, in return, of course.

Raziya has this ability to talk through allegories. She always loved stories and story tellers. She enjoys digging deep into the world of story telling and come up with something new… something refreshingly original and thought provoking.

She admires Vishnusharma who was believed to have lived in Varanasi, India, in the third century B.C, and who wrote the ‘Panchatantra’, a collection of animal fables. The legend goes like this- King Amarasakti appointed the wise old sage Vishnusharma to educate his threes sons so that they will have the maturity and knowledge to run the kingdom on their own in the future. He promised the King to make them wise.

He said – “More important than knowledge is the knowledge of how to use it. I will teach this to your sons. They will learn how to think, not what to think. Then they will be ready to rule the world.”

He created stories for them and tied them in five parts called ‘Tantras’. Thus ‘The Panchatantra’ or ‘The Five Wise Lessons’ took birth. They were entertaining and educative and each had a moral/philosophical undertone. There were stories within stories. And at the end Vishnusharma met his goal’

Those stories are being told and retold several time and followed many children to their sleep.

But my favorite one, the one I was talking about, emerges from a different source.

We were studying in the Marine campus then. Beneath the shadow of the tree I was sitting beside Raziya, unable to take my eyes off her face. When she smiled it was like spring in the valley. Her voice was music to my ears. Admiring her beauty I told her that she looks like a goddess.  Pretty smart stuff, but a cliché. But no other wise comment came to my mind then.

She brushed it off and said- “No… not goddess. I would better be Little Red Riding Hood… and you… the Wolf!”

For those who don’t know the story or don’t remember-

Once upon a time lived a little girl called Little Red Riding Hood, named after the red riding cloak she wears, in the village near the forest. One fine morning the girl took permission from her mother to visit her grandmother. The girl had to cross the woods to reach her house. Forgetting her mother’s advice she spent time collecting beautiful wild flowers. A wolf appeared before her and asked what she is doing. Little Red Riding Hood honestly told him about her destination. The wolf took a shortcut and reached the grandmother’s house. The grandmother, waiting for Little Red Riding Hood, opened the door to the wolf and (this is funny) the wolf gobbled her at once! He wore her cloth to disguise and soon enough the girl knocked on the door. When she entered the house she could scarcely recognize her Grandmother who was lying on the bed all covered.

“But Grandmother!  What big ears you have!” said Little Red Riding Hood as she came closer to the bed.

“The better to hear you with, my dear.” replied the wolf.

“But Grandmother!  What big eyes you have!” said the girl.

“The better to see you with, my dear.” replied the wolf.

“But Grandmother!  What big teeth you have!” said the girl, her voice quivering slightly.

“The better to eat you with, my dear.” roared the wolf and he leapt out of the bed and gobbled the poor little girl.

A haunter happened to hear her cry. He entered the house, found the wolf, now taking a nap. He cut open his stomach and rescued the girl and her grandmother.

They must have lived happily ever after.

End of story. The moral – ‘don’t talk to strangers’.

I was speechless hearing Raziya calling me the Wolf. I said “Wait a minute… I could be the hunter.”

On a second thought, through a fable she was telling me that “we are not strangers anymore”. I got the message, loud and clear, inside my head. What a way to express her love!

Now I remember those good old days. Memories are like wine, they get better with time.

She always told me that I’m good at telling stories, could be because I cooking up stories, that I should take writing seriously.  And hear I am, writing a blog, waiting for your comment.

It’s all thanks to her.

Raziya… my muse…

6 feet 9 inches…

Posted by on Nov-14-2009

After writing about Dhyan Chand I think I should write about another one of my idols.

There is something else that makes me nostalgic other than ‘Summer Palace’, my home. It’s the basketball ground at the Marine Institute. If someone asks me what I would become if I weren’t a mariner I would answer ‘a basketball player’. When my classmates filled the walls of their hostel rooms with posters of screen divas, I just had one- that of a basketball player (Raziya says I removed the females after I fell in love with her. Don’t listen).

At the bottom of that poster a quote by him was written– “You’re the only one who can make the difference. Whatever your dream is, go for it.”

He rocked the ground much before I started playing the game. He played at a position reserved for smaller player, at point guard. Amazed watching his passing, his dribbling skills and ball-handling technique the world of sports added the world ‘Magic’ to his name. Thus Earvin Johnson became Magic Johnson.

He was born in 1959 in Michigan, US.  He first played organized basketball at Everett High School. He led Michigan State University to the collegiate championship in 1979 and led the NBA Los Angeles Lakers to five championships in the 1980s.

At 6′ 9″, he was the biggest point guard in the NBA. He used his height to rebound and score inside. He was best known for his creative passing and expert floor leadership. In his career he scored 17,707 points, retrieved 6,559 rebounds and made 10,141 assists.  He was a member of the USA’s “Dream Team,” gold medalists in the 1992 Olympics. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002. He was named Most Valuable Player three times (1987, 1989, 1990). His enthusiasm for basketball and flashy play made him a crowd favorite and one of the most popular faces of the NBA.

But this post is not about the statistics of a player, or the trophies and medals he had kissed.

In November 1991, during a routine physical examination Johnson found out that he was a carrier of the HIV virus, that he is an AIDS patient. His carefree lifestyle and celebrity status had betrayed him.  The Lakers team physician advised Johnson to quit basketball immediately in order to safeguard his threatened immune system. Johnson shocked not just the American people but the entire sports world by publicly announcing that he is HIV-positive.

But he became a spokesman for AIDS awareness. “I want kids to understand that safe sex is the way to go” he said in an interview. “Sometimes we think only gay people can get HIV, or that it’s not going to happen to me. Here I am. And I’m saying it can happen to anybody, even Magic Johnson.”

In the year 1991, when AIDS was not considered as a serious threat, his revelations helped spread awareness about the health condition. In a press conference he made a public announcement that he would retire immediately. He stated that his wife Cookie and their unborn child did not have HIV, and that he would dedicate his life to “battle this deadly disease”. A hero was born out of a sports star overnight.

President George Bush appointed Johnson to the National Commission on AIDS, but he resigned to protesting against the lack of support for AIDS research. Johnson continued to speak out and literally raised millions for research to combat the disease. He founded the Magic Johnson Foundation for HIV/AIDS education and coauthored What You Can Do To Prevent AIDS.

Though Johnson announced his retirement from the game, he returned in 1992 and again in 1996. In 1992, Johnson went to Barcelona, Spain, as a member of the United States’ basketball team in the 25th Summer Olympics. Dubbed the “Dream Team,” by sports journalists, the American entry also included NBA stars like Michael Jordan and Larry Bird. Winning the gold medal was cake walk for them. He received standing ovations from the crowd, and used the opportunity to inspire HIV-positive people. But Johnson cited the other players’ concerns about the possibility of being infected while playing and his desire to stay healthy for his family.

In 1996 Magic Johnson came back to the L. A. Lakers, this time as a power forward and not a point guard. But soon he announced his retirement, this time for ever.

Johan turned his enthusiasm and leadership skills to business and built his own business empire. He endorsed products, licensed use of his name, gave corporate speeches for big fees and the team owned by him played exhibition games against foreign basketball. He also hosted TV shows. Among his successes, he developed movie theaters and shopping malls in poor and neglected sections of large cities where no one else would invest. Johnson partnered with Sony to open the 12-screen Magic Theatres multiplex in a predominantly black section of Los Angeles and the project became a huge success. His company, Johnson Development went on to buy entire shopping centers in poor communties in Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

He was optimism personified. Johnson believed that the right combination of medicine, diet, and exercise would help him to survive until a cure for AIDS was found.

“Magic is who I am on the basketball court. Earvin is who I am.” – Magic Johnson

The height of a man…

The Man with Four Hands

Posted by on Nov-8-2009

The ­clues first…

He is considered as world’s greatest player ever to play the game.

His country conferred upon him the third highest civilian honour.

A foreign country honoured him by setting up a statue of him with four hands, which epitomized his wizardry over the game.

Adolf Hitler was very much impressed by his performance that purportedly offered him the post of Field Marshal in the German army, so that he will play at Germany’s side.

No idea yet? Read on…

I believe that there is music in sports. We have heard it from Sachin Tendulkar’s willow. Diego Maradona conducted symphony with his legs. His constant thumping of the ball on the ground made Magic Johnson a good drummer. Viswanathan Anand meditated on intricate Ragas with sixty four squares and with an ensemble of 16 people.

The man I’m talking about was their predecessor.

His name is Dhyan ‘Chand’ Sing (1905-1979) and he played his country’s national game – Hocky.

Dhyan Chand was born to in Uttar Pradesh    During his days in the Army, Subedar Major Tiwari – noticed his mastery over the game, his dribbling skills and knack for scoring goals. Major Tiwari taught him the basics of the game. His coach Pankaj Gupta prophetically called him Chand, which means ‘Moon’ in Hindi, saying that he will shine in the field like a moon one day.

In 1926 Dhyan Chand was selected for the Indian Army Hockey team going for a New Zealand tour. The Indian team scored 20 goals in a match played at Dannkerke, and Dhyan Chand’s contribution was 10 goals. In the 21 matches on the tour- out of which India won 18, lost 1 and drew 2- the team scored 192 goals and Dhyan Chand alone had scored over 100 of them. After his return to India he was promoted to the post of Lance Nayak in the Army. At the London Folkstone Festival in 1927, he scored 36 goals out of India’s total 72 goals, in 10 matches played at the event.

In 1928  Dyan Chand was selected to the Summer Olympics team. Chand helped India to win the gold medal by beating the host team Netherlands for 3-0, by playing in the centre-forward position. Chand was the top scorer of the tournament by a large margin, scoring 14 goals in 5 matches. A newspaper report about India’s triumph said,

“This is not a game of hockey, but magic. Dhyan Chand is in fact the magician of hockey.”

In the 1932 Summer Olympics held at Los Angeles Indian retained the title. The team expelled the United States hockey team by 23-1, which was a world record until 2003. In that year he had scored 133 goals out of India`s 338 goals.

Dhyan Chand scored 201 out of the teams’s 584 in 43 matches during a 1935 tour of New Zealand and Australia.  He met the legendary batsman Don Bradman at Adelaide. This was Don Bradman’s comment on Dhyan Chand after watching the match –“He scores goals like runs in cricket”.

Dhyan Chand was the captain of the team for the 1936 Summer Olympics. In the final against Germany , India was leading  1-0 till half-time. The ground was wet. Although his teammates and opposition were wearing spiked shoes Chand removed his shoes and played barefoot. India scored seven goals in the second half. The Germans resorted to foul play and Dhyan Chand broke one of his teeth in an accident with the German goalkeeper, but was soon back to the field. India won the match 8-1, Dhyan Chand scored 3 goals.

A news paper described Dhyan Chand`s performance-

“With a flick of the wrist, a quick glance of his eyes, a sharp turn and then another turn, and Dhyan Chand was through.”

Adolf Hitler supposedly offered Dhyan Chand the position of Field Marshal in the German army, which he politely declined.

Dhyan Chand continued to play till the age 42, even after World War II. In 3 Olympic tournaments, Chand had scored 33 goals in 12 matches. In 1948 he retired from the game. In 1956 he retired from the army with the Rank of Major. Indian Govt. conferred upon him the Padma Bhushan.

The residents of Vienna, Austria, honored him by erecting a statue of him with four hands and four sticks. His statues can be found near the National Stadium, New Delhi, in Jhansi, his home town and at Medak, Andhra Pradesh.

But the Nation ignored him in his last days. He was short of money and receive a meager pension. He developed cancer and was sent to a general ward at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi. He died on the 3rd of December 1979.

Dhyan Chand was very sad to see India at the Montreal Olympics, 1976 where they finished seventh. According to reports on his death bed he told a doctor that ‘Indian hockey is dying’.

His birthday, 29 August, is celebrated in India as the National Sports Day. The President of India gives away awards related to sports – like arjuna Award and Dronacharya Award- on that day. The Govt. also established Dhyan Chand Award which is confronted each year to the sportspersons who not only bestow a quality through their performance but also encourage to the sport after their retirement.

Dhyan Chand was a legend in his own life time. He was named ‘the Wizard of Hockey’. He maintained complete control over the ball, in the field it looked like ball is glued on to his stick. Once the officials in Tokyo broke his hockey stick searching for a magnet inside.

After the patrician of India, Dhyan Chand was at the Lahore Railway Station waiting for his train to Peshawar. To catch a glimpse of the wizard thousands of his Pakistani fans rushed to the station. Krishan Kumar Kakar, one of the members of the Indian team recollected- “Such was the scene on all stations right up to Peshawar where the train reached more than four hours behind the schedule.”

The classic style of hockey is lost in oblivion. Now they play to win. Dhyan Chand belonged to an era when winning was not everything and the success lied in the beauty of the game you played.

The roars of the crowds in those stadiums have subsided in the pages of history. But the legend lives on.