Nightwatchman, for a Night

BISW

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.

For he was at the crease.

………

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Whaddaman

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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.

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Come home to papa…

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“Hanging on in quiet desperation

 Is the English way”

Perusing match reports at the end of the first day’s play in Nagpur, it appeared that this tune was suddenly en vogue again. What a coincidence I thought, since my mind had been mulling over a modified version of it. Modified, you know, to reflect the fact that the hapless souls clinging on by their fingernails whilst dangling over the edge of the precipice weren’t the English. Yes, the temptation to sing it aloud having swapped out the identities of the two countries playing out the Test match was strong. But I kept balking at the bit.

It was that word desperation. That didn’t fit.

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Bird on the wire

Excerpt from a book review published in Mint Lounge, November 9, 2012
Cohen

“I suppose it’s violating some Socratic imperative to know thyself, if that’s who it was, but I’ve always found that examination extremely tedious…. I don’t find it compelling at all.”

We can consider ourselves fortunate that Sylvie Simmons paid no heed to this professed ambivalence and apathy towards self-examination. Perhaps the master of the elliptical and the sly wit was just putting her on. But she didn’t bite.

I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen, the new sprawling, generous and ultimately exquisite portrait of the life of the Canadian master of words, is the result of her persistence.

YYZ

College Street in central Toronto cuts through the neighborhood known locally as Little Italy (the big one is a ways up north). Oh yeah, it has its share of mouth-watering Italian foodie alcoves scattered along it, but now the hipsters have encroached. Of late it has turned trendy with martini bars and retro dance clubs jostling with chi-chi bistros. One evening some years ago, I had walked up the natty thoroughfare. No, not to sample any ooh-la-la lychee martinis or organic tiramisu – I had just music on my mind.

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Those mythical 100 meters…

The earth splatters off their feet like chunks of dark chocolate. Their dirt-stained shoes and legs pumping, they glide into view; lungs straining against the prim white garments encasing their heaving chests, faces contorted with effort. Right at the edge of the cinder track, the milieu is startlingly bucolic. Green grass, heather and bramble adorned countryside stretches into the distance behind the dainty ladies and distinguished looking gentlemen lining the ropes. Grey clouds complete the picture, as if rendered meticulously by an artist’s brush than by nature. The runners advance languidly and loom larger, a pulsating symphony of strained muscles, limbs and torsos in cinematic slow motion. And oh, the music….

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Napoleon

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“The iPhone is a piece of shit. I never got sucked into that hype. Never. It would never work for me. I would go crazy if my fingertips couldn’t feel the keyboard. No brother, I have always been a Blackberry man. A loyalist you could even call me. Three Blackberry Pearls is what I used to pack. Back in 2007, when I was at Gieves and Hawkes for a fitting, I ordered them to provide me with four mobile phone pockets. Two on each side. They stared at me like I was mad. Well screw those Saville Row cocks! So what if their royal clientele had never asked for that! Never did use the fourth pocket though. But my suits used to be cocked and loaded with my three Pearls. It has all gone to shit now, but I still do love my Torch. Using its keyboard still gives me a feeling of control. Of power. The whole world may have gone mad for those shit phones but they will have to pry my fingers off this Blackberry before I give it up.”
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