Monday, November 24, 2008

Yaa Ali Maasoom

Hairat kun maasoom
Yaaaaa... Ali

Taajubana tabassum
Yaaaaa... Ali

Mere dil mein hai tu
Meri jind mein bhi tu
Yaa Ali Yaaaa Ali

Har khwab mein tu
Har iradon mein tu
Yaa Ali Yaaaa Ali

Hai tu yaaron ka yaar
Deewanon ka bahaar
Yaa Ali Yaaaa Ali

Jiski raunaq na ho gum
Hai woh tera mazaar
Yaa Ali Yaaaa Ali

Hairat kun maasoom, Yaaaaa Aliii...

Taajubana tabassum, Yaaaaa Aliii...

Hairat kun - astonishing
Maasoom - innocent, untainted
Tajubana - wondrous
Tabassum - smile
Jind - life (its Punjabi)
Bahaar - happiness, spring
Raunaq - lustre, shine, elegance
Mazaar - sacred shrine, tomb

Ali was son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad, highly revered in Sufi traditions for his upright character, honesty and high mindedness.

This composition actually came in my mind as a spiritual music (however I am music-handicapped)....the words Maasoom and Yaa Ali were central in this music, later on I put down rest of the appropriate words searching through an Urdu glossary for the words I wanted (please dont be under the impression that I know Urdu very well...though I do have some knowledge to find out the words I want)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Quatrains of Truth

The wise if given choice
Do not in birth rejoice
Death follows the borned
Tis the truth unadorned

Those who think they live
will surely one day die
The reality exists
Just remove the cover of lie

Monday, November 10, 2008

My Dada

This blog reflects the many miles traveled by an itinerant mind, yet it has not yet stopped by two important stations for my life, cornerstones if I may call them so - history and cricket (or to be specific Test cricket). It is just a quirk of how things happened, but the time has come to express my thoughts on Test cricket and the Test cricketer whom I adore the most.

Whatever I write here is completely from memory - I am purposely not Googling to confirm any of these facts - its a testament to myself how much this great figure means to me - Dada aka Sourav Ganguly

This will be a long article...I will write everything I can, its really a catharsis. So those who are already bored may part with me here.

This article would have been written irrespective of whether India won, drew or lost the final Test match with Australia in Nagpur, irrespective of how the series ended, irrespective of how Sourav performed in his last match. As it happened he scored a significant 85 in the first innings. With great expectations he came out in the second innings, but was out on the very first ball for a duck, a rather tame caught and bowled affair to end a career glorious in many ways than one. A speculative look of disbelief towards the bowler, who was being congratulated by his teammates, a wry glance to the sky perhaps asking God if it could not have ended better, and the stunned silence of the entire crowd before they stood up as one and applauded a master walking off the field one last time. Such was the way Ganguly's international career ended. It start however was unheralded.

Sometime in mid 1996, a few months after we had crashed out of the World Cup Semi Finals in a disastrous defeat to believe it or not (at least we couldn't believe it then) Sri Lanka, the Indian Cricket team was playing a non-descript ODI series in Singapore! BCCI's voracious appetite for money was strong even then, perhaps stronger.

A few unknown young players were being tried out in this sideshow of a series - names that became big names later on - Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly. In one of the interesting matches of that series, India took on Australia, batting first and were reeling at 88 for 5 at one stage with more than half of the overs to be bowled. If I am not wrong Rahul Dravid was run out for 3 runs, but he looked good in his stay (at least thats what the learned commentators said).

The young batsman at crease was Sourav Chandidas Ganguly who had been unceremoniously booted out from the Indian team after a disastrous Australia tour, four years earlier He was joined in the middle by Sunil Joshi a left arm spinner but also a southpaw with handy bat, another untested player. This greenhorn pair surprisingly put up a stiff fight against one of the top teams in the world, the runners up in the World Cup. All those who expected a tame give-in (those youngsters who don't believe that an Indian team doesn't give in tamely, well you don't know of those times and you cant begin to understand how much these times gives us joy), were in for a pleasant shock. The pair hung in for more than 20 overs and put up a partnership of a hundred runs. I think Sourav made a well deserved half century. India finally put up a fighting score of 201, something for the bowlers to bowl at. We made the Australians slog till the very end before being beaten, mainly due to the heroics of Michael Bevan, that giant of ODIs in the previous decade.

Despite India's defeat people took heart and took notice of this young gritty player. Unsurprisingly he got a nod for the Test Series due in England the next month. So did Rahul Dravid. Thus after waiting in the wings for over four years, Sourav finally got a crack at Test cricket and boy what a debut series he had. Cracking two consecutive hundreds in his first two matches and scored 66 in the third, missing out on a record of 3 hundreds on debut like his captain Azharuddin had achieved, by only 34 runs. Incidentally Rahul Dravid to debuted in the same match as Sourav and in that innings he scored a patient 95, in the manner we soon came to acknowledge as that of the "Wall".

The lingering memory of that series is Sourav Ganguly gently, gracefully timing a beautifully bowled delivery on perfect off-stump line, and caressing it through the covers piercing a well-packed off-side field with impeccable precision. It had a romance of its own like caressing one's lover and sweeping her off the feet, just as Sourav would stun the connoisseurs with his old-world charm, all grace and style. Soon Dravid, his usual partner at the other end could not help but remark - "On the offside there is God, and then there is Ganguly"...he was the God of offside cover drives. It became a myth, a fascination and sometimes somewhat of a joke. In our colony cricket, if some guy suddenly became rather aggressive and fluent on the offside, we would ask "yeh kya Ganguly ban gaya kya?" (has he become like Ganguly?)

Soon, as it happens in international sports, bowlers spotted his weaknesses - primarily his discomfort with short pitched bowling into the body and his rather limited leg side cricket. It seemed as if Ganguly was brought up in grounds where there was only off-side. It is a testament to the resolve and determination of this man that in his last series now, his fluent innings at Mohali and Nagpur were uncharacteristically characterized by shots all around the ground. In fact the predominance of those off-side cover drives was conspicuous by its absence, though it was very much there. He can pull reasonably well now and for balls bowled at his legs, he would go on his backfoot and punch it through mid on or cover leg. This is what makes a successful Test cricketer, someone who can play for more than a decade with more than 100 caps, the willingness to go back to the basics, iron out one's flows, identifying one's weaknesses and seeking out ways to counter them and understanding the most important mantra, in Ponting's words "the learning never stops, even if you have played 120 odd matches"

In late 90s, there was a huge demand for India-Pakistan matches, but with continued political stand-off between India and Pakistan, it was impossible to stage matches in either of these countries. Thats how Sharjah became the site of an annual fest celebrating the Indo-Pak rivalry on cricket field - a contest in true gladiatorial style with the considerable immigrant population from both India and Pakistan in the middle east baying for blood. However another venue emerged in 1996 with Sahara staging an India-Pakistan tournament in the politically uncharged, cool, rather cold climes of distant Canada. In these tournaments Ganguly created a mark, especially with a stellar performance in 1997-98. In one of the editions he captained the side for the series with Azhar, Sachin and even Jadeja unavailable. He captained admirably well with a young inexperienced bowling attack of unheralded Debasis Mohanty and Harvinder Singh. He himself led from the front with both the bat and ball picking five wickets for sixteen with his military medium pace in one match, trapping the batsmen with his beguiling swing. India won the series with nearly half the team populated by unknown names. It showed the Ganguly had a special touch in leadership, which went on to fascinate an entire nation later.

Over the next three years, from the time of his debut till the '99 World Cup, Ganguly grew in stature, especially in the ODIs. He cemented his place as Sachin Tendulkar's opening partner and the pair went on to become one of the most successful ODI opening pair, smashing many records along the way. By '99, both Ganguly and Dravid had stabilized their position in the Test team, though Dravid struggled to break into the ODI team with his paltry striking rate. It was only later when he reinvented his game, playing with soft hands, did he become a successful ODI batsman.

Some would be surprised as to the frequency of reference to Dravid in an article on Ganguly, but with regards to cricket, they were much like Siamese twins, having started off in Test Cricket at the same time, coming into prominence and establishing their positions at the same time. Yet there was and there is a difference. Though it is a different difference now. At the end of their careers Dravid will certainly be counted as a better batsman than Ganguly, but after the first 4 years of cricket it was Ganguly who was far ahead with well secured position in both forms of cricket. In fact in '99 WC, Geoffrey Boycott didnt rate Dravid anywhere close to Ganguly. Besides this striking difference is immensely positive role each of them played during the other's captaincy. Dravid's standout performances, the 180 odd in Kolkata, the 270 in Adelaide, both match winning knocks came under Ganguly, while Ganguly's fairytale comeback (which I shall talk later about), when he surprisingly became India's batting mainstay, his highest knock of 239 against Pakistan in Chennai came under Dravid's leadership.

But I must confess there is one more reason to hyphenate them, because Dravid was my favorite cricketer then, even though Ganguly seemed to have been a better, more fluent batsman than Dravid then. What impressed one was Dravid's "Wall" like character. His doughtiness, and seeming lack of was all sheer hard work and professionalism, hours of application and unending lack of resolve in reserves. I rejoiced his first Test century in Johannesburg against South Africa as if it was a personal achievement for me, so inspiring it was to look at.

In those times Ganguly came across as the flamboyant chap, the Maharajah or as Boycott would call him fondly in his Yorkshire accent, "Moy Prince of Kolkata". He was the rebel both within and outside his family. He had married his childhood sweetheart Dona defying age old enmity between their two families. He was supposed to be arrogant, aloof, almost regally dismissive of others.

Till the tour of Australia at the dawn of the new century, Ganguly had a Test average above 50 and along with Tendulkar and Dravid was already being touted as the Big Three of Indian cricket. But in that horrible tour under Tendulkar's jinxed captaincy, where we were whitewashed three nil undid all the reputation that Ganguly had earned. His average slipped below 50 and never again it came close to that mark afterwards. The Australian team that drubbed us, the emerging powerhouse, the roller-coaster was lead by a ruthless, tough-minded veteran known as Steve Waugh and our 3-0 defeat was the start of a juggernaut that claimed an unprecedented sixteen Test victories in a row. Ganguly, himself as astute student of the game, who relied much on intuition would have noted Waugh's inspirational leadership even then and must have already started having some ideas of how to deal with it. This is just my conjecture.

The horror Down Under was just the beginning of a larger nightmare - the spectre of which had loomed cricket world for a long time, always spoken in hushed tones - Match fixing - but it all came out into the open in early 2000. Many well known heads were rolled and the cricketing world went into a frenzy - Azhar, Jadeja, Cronje, Gibbs and many Pakistani cricketers. It was one the most difficult period in the history of cricket. Many hard core fans were totally pissed off with cricket and had decided to totally stop following it. I like many others was disenchanted with no interest left in this game. Adding to my disillusionment was the uncertainty of leadership of the Indian national team. Azhar was old and tainted, Tendulkar - the bright future of India's cricket was a disaster as far as captaincy was concerned and had almost tearfully resigned from his job after a shocking two nil defeat against South Africa at home! I mean imagining being defeated in home itself was a shock and that against South Africa, who hardly had any well known spinners and were not the best players of spin on spinning tracks was like rubbing salt over wounds. Besides this was the larger 'lions at home, lambs abroad' syndrome and our lambs were usually ruthlessly slaughtered. The Indian team in crunch situation just didn't have any bloody spine to it. It just sunk like a Titanic with all its big names going like puff.

When Tendulkar resigned from captaincy after the defeat in Ahmedabad, the selectors went in a tizzy, there was hardly anybody to look upto for this role, except for Ganguly. Dravid was even then struggling to be a consistent part of the ODI team, though he was well established in the Tests. Ganguly was the seniormost member after Srinath, Kumble and Tendulkar in the Indian team that survived the Match fixing saga.

Thus sometime in March 2000, Ganguly became the captain of India and immediately led the team into the ODI series with South Africa which followed the Test series. I dont know how come I followed this series considering that I was still very upset with India's disappointing spineless performance in the Tests. Yet as any cricket follower, when cricket happens you just end up following it. Its something like however angry you might be with your lover, you still cannot stay away from her. Well this time love really paid off. India won a very closely fought five match series with a thrilling 3-2 score. But what impressed more was there was something more in this Indian team. They appear charged, keener, aggressive almost primal and I do not exaggerate. What surprised even more was that this was the same team which just a week earlier suffered a horrible series defeat against the same opponent. The only difference was the captain. I don't know if people noticed, but that's when I started noticing him again in a totally different light.

Though it may seem that I am chronicling here the entire career of Sourav Ganguly, yet believe me that is not my intention. I am just putting forward facts and my personal insights which date back to before his successful captaincy for there was something already inherent over here which predicted someone who would make a mark, someone who had the potential to create difference. What happened next is well known and very fresh in public memory. The greatest ever Test series victory by an Indian team - the 2-1 defeat of Steve Waugh's neo-Invincibles, stopping their 16 straight victory juggernaut, being the black horse that unseated the all powerful, overweening champion. So on the rest of the successful captaincy tenure - reaching the finals of WC 2003, winning a Test Series for the first time in Pakistan, consistently reaching ODI finals, the bagful of Test victories away from home, holding Steve Waugh led Aussies in Australia to a grimly fought drawn series...its an impressive list and also a well known list, much discussed about. What I wish to focus is on certain essentials that threaded through all these victories binding them together, which help us understand why they happened and what they meant to us.


Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Goodnight Prayer

O Lord I pray to you
Grant me strength
Grant me resolve
So that I wake up
A more determined person on the morrow
Who shirks not in doing his duty
Who lacks not the courage to act righteously
Who doubts not the path that you show
Lead me from darkness to light

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Love is War

There's something about Urdu, where the forceful and the confident comes out in such an earthy, direct manner. After ages something came to my mind in Urdu and really enjoyed this. Of course, Urdu connoisseurs may turn their face the other way at this and rightly so, but I cant express how much joy it gives my heart, even though it may look like a B grade shayari.

Imagine a confident, brash beau who is ready to suffer anything, take on any might and has no doubt whatsoever that he will get the woman he wants.

Tumhe paana bada mushkil hai
par isi mein hai mazaa zaalim

Hame tadpaane ka lutf hain tumhe
isi ada par to marte zaalim

Aur kya kahe yeh dil e baimaan
isko to na chheena hota zaalim

Chahe tum ho khafa, ya yeh bair duniya
Ab is zulm ka meetha badla lege zaalim

Ki rafta rafta tadpa tadpa kar, tumne
akhir mein bana diya hame ishq ka aalim

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Blessing in disguise

It was winter time,
when cold bloods go into hibernation
A snake unfortunately strayed
far off from its subterranean nest

And was caught in the open,
when that unavoidable sluggishness invaded
Helpless it lay there exposed,
An easy quarry to dangerous predators

As it dwindled down into the unconscious
It perceived a sharp bite to its tail
Enraged it looked around and saw a small rat
That woebegone creature, dares to attack me!

The furious snake swung at its irritant
But the rat smartly scurried away
The snake gave a raging glare
As the rat looked on from a safe distance

Then sleep invaded yet again
And the snake tired slumped down
But ere it could drift off
There the irritating rat bit him again

The snake went mad
Such anger was aroused
That this time it slithered some distance
Pursuing that rodent

But the rat as usual
Ran away to safety
And the snake could but
be flustered in its fury

But now it was less sleepy than earlier
And was constantly on the alert
To catch the audacious rat
and teach him a fine lesson

Thus the months passed away
Every time the snake looked like drifting away
He received a biting wake up call
But soon the season of dormancy passed away
And the snake felt energy flow in back into his being

He looked around and saw vultures hovering above
Then suddenly realized what a service that rat has been
Keeping him awake through the winter months
And thus saved him from greater peril

Sometimes even rats can be
A blessing in disguise
Sometimes irritation is the
only visible sign of life
The alert action it inspires
is the reason one survives

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Web of fantasy

The usual was a bitter struggle
And there was biting pain
Making a world of his own was
The only way to remain sane

The lone spider's spin
The hero of his webbed retreat
The web - his life's outpouring
That satisfaction his worthy gain

The self appointed erudite scoffed
and dismissed this as unreal
How does this fantasy web, they said
reflect suffering of the humane

They, ensconced in their unreal comfort were
Morbidly eager to experience the ghastly reality
But he who truly knows what that means
For ages has silently suffered this pain

They glorify his reality
Deluding themselves to his bemusement
But he has lived "their" reality and
Wants no reminders of his bane

Monday, November 3, 2008

Light of my life

Fortunate I am to have seen that pristine beauty once,
If only once in my life
Your words made me come alive
And I adored your very sight
Like a luminous sylph in the night
You brought me light,
You gave me light

When you came, arrived a new dawn
But then you left - a long eclipse
And then you came again, my love
My life then shined evermore
Such brightness occurred never before
Never again

Fortunate I am to have seen that pristine beauty once,
If only once in my life

Sunday, November 2, 2008


A flower blossomed,
the rarest of yellow
Bringing a rare
Euphoria to my heart

But then it shriveled
and brought tears to eyes
It caused as much pain
As it had once given pleasure

So on many seasons passed
Flowers would come and go
Bringing joy but always
Followed by sadness

And then neither joy
nor sorrow could satisfy,
Could quench that
Insatiable desire

The desire grew to break free
of these bonds of experiences
Is there something? An existence
beyond these transitory mirages

Is not there something stable
That which always exists
The immovable platform
As trains come and go
The unshakable mountain
Even as rivers alter their courses

That which has existence
Beyond this impermanence
Where It is all One and
there are no deluding opposites

Who is He, the Knower of all
Who is He, the Cause of everything
What is That of which all this is made of
The Consciousness there at all times
When we sleep, dream or are awake

Who is He who observes everything
The Witness of all actions, the Ultimate Subject
The Changeless, Eternal, Immovable, Indeterminate
The Unknowable yet who knows all
Who is still, yet everywhere
Who permeates, Who Is
The Truth