Meta Olympia was a dream hatched to get some crazy and incredibly talented people to plot away and create something special while all the way having a whale of a time. A project that aimed to bring art, science and sports together in a very unique way. In a meticulously constructed world far off in space, where science skewed sport, sport became art and stories emerged from the mix. It was a free thinking evolution of an idea that germinated in the fertile imagination of a very close friend of mine and developed into a gorgeous and fun exercise for everyone involved in it.
For me too.
This book is an anthology, a primer, a historical record, a wild rambling exposition, a portfolio of the gorgeous artwork and a chronicle of the contests and stories it provided. An attempt to capture the narrative and art that ran through Meta Olympia and the stories in it and behind it. In 300 stunningly laid out pages, it attempts to tell the story as it happened and what transpired.
I was lucky to be involved in it. And am honestly astonished at the gorgeous package that this book has turned out to be.
Here is an excerpt from the Introduction to the book by me:
As with a lot of what Chris did and does, it was with the the infectious sense of collective creativity that he drew me in. With the gorgeous visuals and artwork adding to the excitement of it all. Meta Olympia screams of the fun every single one of us involved with it were having in that nether-worldly sports league on Mars. Artists, writers, sports nuts, fans and science freaks all scheming, plotting and conceptualizing as we worked furiously on bits and pieces of the narrative. And relishing pushing the limits of our own creativity. And having shitloads of fun.
“Years have gone by and I’ve finally learned to accept myself for who I am: a beggar for good soccer. I go about the world, hand outstretched, and in the stadiums, I plead: ‘A pretty move, for the love of God.’ And when good soccer happens, I give thanks for the miracle and I don’t give a damn which team or country performs it.”
-Eduardo Galeano – poet, philosopher, artiste and raconteur of soccer.
The pages that follow will show you how much fun we had. Not giving a damn which planet it was all happening on. And how pretty every single move made in Meta Olympia was.
Take a few steps off the edge of the cliff and enjoy the ride as much as we all did.
The behemoth that the MCG is as a private and bespoke performance art venue. Its scale simultaneously magnified, yet distilled into a crucible for a supine form’s languid view. The roar of the 100,000 plus trapped below in the cauldron as he lies in the sun, head propped by the crocked elbow, a trail of discarded clothing tracing the path to the edge of the roof. And you can leave your socks on…
Ticketbastard is what we called them. Vermin renowned for pilfering meaty percentages of the price of tickets they sold as “convenience charges”. But their thieving ways were a hazy afterthought as I sprinted up a bustling thoroughfare in downtown Toronto one morning in 1996 to get tickets to the first Sahara Friendship Cup. I had always stuck to a principled stand that Indo-Pakistani “friendship” beamed in from neutral venues was an abomination (possibly it was to do with the trauma inflicted by Javed Miandad in 1986) – principles you couldn’t sniff a trace of as I arrived breathless at the deserted ticket outlet. Convenience charge be damned, I could have kissed the Ticketbastard lady when she handed over a sheaf of tickets for the upcoming five matches. I stood in a daze staring at them. Could she ever comprehend what it meant?
The call always arrived after dinner. Located in the living room, the telephone offered little privacy. Pesky and nosy busybodies (siblings and parents) were always hovering and any spilling of the beans now that half the school day had been kissed goodbye would create mayhem. Poker face and minimalist was the way to go.
The voice never wasted time on pleasantries; straight to the point:
“Did you go?”
“Two flicks. One cover drive. A leg glance. Two back-foot cuts behind point. Later than God. Where were you rotting away?”
“Had a chemistry lab report to finish, dude. That son-of-Hitler professor would have killed me if I didn’t.”
As I stood on my porch on the morning of 16, November, nothing seemed right with the world. The entire milieu was off kilter. The skies were a swathe of startling blue and the sun shone brightly. It was ridiculously warm. Chilly November in these parts is usually the time to look back fondly on the smells and vibrant colors of the season just passed and forcibly banish thoughts of the looming cold months. But the grass on lawns that should have long retreated into hibernation was lush green and still growing. And I spotted a neighbor mowing his lawn across the street! The sound of its motor on a mid-November morning should have added a stark discordant aural note to the surreal state I was already in. Continue reading →
Are you such a dreamer
To put the world to rights?
I’ll stay home forever
Where two and two always makes a five
So, not much of a dreamer are you? Not when it comes to matters of cricket? Well, heed my advice and start. Right about now. Now that this gong show on Indian pitches – the one originally conceived by the unholy ménage a trios betwixt the oligarchs of the BCCI, CA and CSA – has meandered to its manufactured cacophonous, yet vacuous end. This is the time to start. For there is no putting this world to right. Over the next few months, you can stay home all you want. And be cursed with ruing and mulling over the sad fact that all two and two actually amounts to is not five, but a big fat zero. Nada. Zilch.
They looked like a sequestered jury. The eleven of them congregated; eyes flicking nervously at each other, submerged up to their tense shoulders in a solution of equal parts anticipation, hope and prayer. In reality, they weren’t the jury. But the prosecution. The defendant stood behind them a ways off, staring poker-faced at his youthful accomplice, jaws gnawing away at a fossil of gum in his mouth. A mouth now dry as the hide of a bedouin’s camel. They waited together, yet separately. For the verdict to be handed out. Beamed down in fact from the glass-fronted judge’s chamber up in the sky.
“Not really. It is hard to find any real cricket on it these days” he said quietly this morning. And impassively. I decided not to pursue it any further as I looked at his expressionless face. For I knew too well what he was implying with his reply to my “Did you check out cricinfo today?” And what was being left unsaid. And it really burned me inside. Badly. Continue reading →
An excerpt from “Nightwatchman, for a Night”, published in “The Best of Indian Sports Writing“, an anthology of Indian sports writing:
The K.S.C.A stadium had materialized magically – almost overnight – in my life. Growing up in South Bangalore, the part of the city it is located in was almost an alternate universe to us back then. Mahatma Gandhi Road only played cameo roles in a child’s mind – Brigade Road, Christmas lights and store window Santas knee-deep in white cotton snow. Visits to movie theatres like Lido, Rex, Plaza and Galaxy – the magical screens that shimmered with epic movies like The Sound of Music, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Guns of Navarone, The Day of the Jackal and Enter the Dragon. These visits culminated – most of the time – in mouth-watering ice-cream specials at Lakeview. Aah, the Cassata, the Merry Widow special…
Those were the wondrous days.
Cricket was just budding in the imagination. Devoid of television imagery, it was embroiled in a web of incomplete stories, myths, rants, theories and smorgasbords of opinion inflicted on us by fathers, uncles and grandfathers. You always found them clustered around giant glowing contraptions that served as radios, faces knotted up in concentration, ears cocked at the crackly signals being beamed in from god knows where. Sometimes, things got scary – people snarled, shouted and bared their teeth. These were divided families – divided by the tactics and strategies they espoused and dispensed to the hapless captain, who was fortunate to escape the cacophony. They stood united in their support of the state and national team, but were willing to disown each other in a flash over a bowling change or field placement.
But in Bangalore, there was no risk of familial bonds fracturing amidst the stress of these cricket matches. None whatsoever. For, peace was always lurking around the corner. When fathers, uncles and grandfathers united; faces softened, understanding and reassuring smiles broke out. Their voices turned gentle and conciliatory. Even the mothers and grandmothers looking on exasperatedly at the hordes in front of the radio would sit back and smile affectionately.
He will forever be granted the last bit of affection, like that mussed up candy bar fished out of the nether regions of a coat pocket for a child. Once you star as a gallant hero in childhood’s sepia freeze-frame, you endure like none other. And once you overtly and unabashedly burrow your way into a kid’s heart with a blatant gesture of chivalry at the impressionable age, you reserve your spot in the collage for life.