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Why Rafa is the G.OA.T

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Remembering Sholay, the greatest Bollywood story ever told!

Sholay, when I think of this movie, it produces an electric feeling inside my veins. The movie, arguably the greatest Bollywood masala movie ever made, is truly a phenomenon in itself. Even almost four decades after initially hitting the theatres in 1975, the movie’s dialogues and characters are still fresh in public’s minds. What made the movie such a big hit?

The best thing which created the massive appeal for this movie amongst the audiences was the strong characters in the story. Every major character was unique and had a story to tell. The dialogues in the movie were dramatic and penetrating. Even today, many of the dialogues are used in many ways in Indian acting spheres.

The movie was also very fast moving, with not a second of dullness or stagnation at any point. You would feel energetic and charged throughout the course of the three and a half hour marathon. It had great comedy, great dialogues, great acting, great songs, the extreme dramatism synonymous with Bollywood movies. All this touched a chord with the Indian public. And in what way!

Undoutedly the greatest Bollywood movie ever made, with no close second. There will never be another Sholay!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Fighting anxiety and mental demons!

This is the story of George. A simple young boy, who can be anyone of you. It was 2000. High school time. George was having a torrid time with life. Constant pestering and bullying by his classmates was making life hard. His physique had become a matter of joke for most of his classmates. There were frequent uncharitable comments about his body.

George had a hormonal condition, where due to excess of female hormones in the body, adolescent boys develop breasts like girls. Add to that the sensitivity and low self esteem, genetic gifts from his parents worsened the situation even further. He was a butt of jokes in his society where he lived and his only relief from mental torture was sports viewing and his Maths coaching classes, two things he was good at.

The beginning of all this mental abuse started with relatives, as it happens in most cases of mental health abuses.  On an early village trip when he was a mere teenager, his cousins, the combined IQ of whom would not touch one-tenth of his intelligence, made fun of his body and amused themselves. George being sensitive and lacking in confidence, was shaken by that. Being a catastrophizer (one who fears the worst in all normal situations), like his parents again, it really shook up the guy bad. No one tried to help me, and mental health being a taboo subject in society, he was left alone to fight his demons.

Things improved a bit in college with few close friends in life. However the constant fear and negative self body image made social life tough. There was constant bullying, as people tried to take advantage of the situation and show him down. The lack of sensitivity to and awareness about mental health and ways to improve that meant George kept all the fear, anxiety and the anger within himself. Add to that stupid teachings of religion and the sky daddy, which propagate happenings as a result of past actions, guilt took the place of what should have been common sense.

However George deep within himself had a strong urge to win. He was a dreamer, and fantasized better things for him, though the present looked bleak. No amount of fear could lead him to give up on trying to make things better. He wanted to be a champion, he loved champions and those fellows don’t have the word “give up” in their dictionary. Despite all the fear and anxieties, George saw excellence in tough competition as a way to enhance his fragile self esteem. He made it to the best professional colleges in the country.  Bullying at college and work made him realize that simple fact that one needs to be strong and avoid showing any weakness, as they would definitely be preyed upon. He better get strong for the society will not be easy on him.

 Things finally got better when he sought professional help and exercises to take control of his mind and the demons inside that. George is doing much better now, and things are looking up for him. He is a good friend and I wish him only good things ahead.

 However as I finish this story, I was going through the suicide figures for India and the world in 2013. Over 1.35 lakh people in India and around 8 lakh people globally commit suicide every year. The lack of societal awareness about mental health and social support to people who are mentally weak, are big issues for any country and the world as a whole. It is time mental health is taught in schools and children are equipped to deal with stress and anxiety issues. Not everyone can be strong like George, as these figures show. We need to show more empathy towards those who are suffering and help them. After all, the success of any society hinges on how it treats those who are the weakest or need the most help. Hopefully we can see these figures go down in the future, and mental health become a subject of logical discussion, rather than a stupid taboo.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Recollections of a wee hours metro travel, back from the office

I was returning back from work. Was a bad bad day power in the office since morning (first such day in work life) and had to take back to back classes from 10 am to 1 pm, 1 pm to 3 pm and 3:30 pm to 05:30 pm.....i was literally feeling like stink at the end of the ordeal....only solace was the company of young students who were willing to share with me in the ordeal....After returning from office, caught the nearby metro at Maidan station for my destination. In the metro, it felt like heaven again after the hellish day at office.

In metro, I decided to spend some time at observing fellow passengers, most of whom were home bound after work. I observed the faces standing around me. Most of the faces looked weary and lost, not having a dint of enthusiasm or love left for life....I had a faint laugh at this sight. I mean humans, supposedly the most evolved of all species on this planet and how most of them spend their days, working at some jobs they don't time, working for ungodly hours......Psychology being my study specialization for UPSC, i have recently developed a thing for observation....(my own case study gives me a lot for observation :P).

However one thing the fallen faces at the metro told me that for all our development, humans still remained slaves primarily. Slaves to big organisations, slaves to imaginary masters (Gods), slaves to a societal structure where you work 6 days a week to relax for 1 day....Was it meant this, or better to ask is: Is this the most intelligent way to live our lives.

Next up, as I was indulged in these thoughts, a hot lady came up at one station, and everyone started peeking at her(including yours truly). The soft, stealthy stares reminded me about the extent of sexual repression and frustations in our society...As I looked upon a middle aged guy staring lustly at the lady, I felt strangely bad for the guy. The fellow seemed funless, tired and lacking any great enthusiasm for life. His sexual life didn't seem that great either.

The metro came to a stop at the next station and my thoughts were intercepted. Time to catch some cricket next.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Rafa Nadal is a deserving year end no. 1 for 2013

Rafa Nadal has confirmed the year end no. 1 ranking with his victory over Wawrinka in the World Tour Finals.

Rafa had the 2 biggest periods of dominance this year, where he won many big titles in a row, including 2 Grand Slam titles.

The first one started in Barcelona in April 2013 and it continued till Roland Garros finals in June. During this period, he won 22 matches in a row, including two Masters 1000 titles at Rome and Madrid and topped it with the French Open crown.

His 2nd period of dominance was surprisingly on the North American hard courts where he had struggled in the past. He won back to back titles in the masters events at Montreal and Cincinati. Rafa continued that momentum to defeat Djokovic in the US Open finals. Thus he remained undefeated on the North American hard court swing.

During these two periods of dominance, he beat all the top players in the world, and most notably his biggest rival Djokovic in both the French Open as well as the U S Open.

Djokovic, it can be argued had an equally great year. He had a great start to the season: (17-0) till he first lost in Miami, as well as a great end streak from October 2013 where he has won 19 matches in a row including two masters titles at Shanghai and Paris.

However, between them, it was clearly Nadal who won the most important battles and beat Djokovic in their 2 Grand Slam battles of the year. For winning those , and for winning a record 5 masters titles for the season, it would be right to say that Nadal truly deserves the year end no. 1 ranking. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Analyzing the draw at the ATP World Tour Finals

The draw for the ATP World Tour Finals is bound to leave its impressions on the fight for the year end no.1 ranking between Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

The draw has put Rafa in the same half with Ferrer, Wawrinka and Berdych. Against these players, he has an overall record of 47-8. This makes it highly likely that Rafa would easily sail through to the semis from this half of the draw, with the remaining spot being evenly contested between the other three.

The other half of the draw is the tougher one, with six time champion Federer, the defending champion and the hot on heels Novak Djokovic, and the resurgent Del Potro all in same group. Considering Djokovic’s current form, he should most likely make it to the semis. However Del Potro and Federer both have huge serves and on the fast indoor courts of London, they may cause an upset or two.

Rafa needs to win 2 of his matches in the league stage to ensure he ends the year ranked no. 1 in the world. That is assuming Novak wins all of his matches in the tournament, which won’t be an easy task considering the level of competition. All this indicates that Rafa would create history by becoming the first man to regain the year end no. 1 ranking twice after losing it.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Analyzing the draw at the Paris Masters

The draw at the Paris Masters  is out and has ramifications for the field at World Tour Finals as well as the year end no. 1 fight between Nadal and Djokovic.

The draw has not been kind on home grown players Tsonga and Gasquet who are currently in the race for a spot in the World Tour Finals at London. They have been scheduled to meet in the 3rd round at Paris, implying one of them would most likely miss out on a London ticket. It also increases Federer’s chances of qualifying, should he win at Basel this week.

The draw for Nadal has increased his chances of confirming the year end no.1 ranking. In his quarter are Tsonga and Gasquet against whom he should sail through based on his past record against them and his current form. He could meet Ferrer or Raonic in the semis and again these players would not pose much trouble for him. 

Djokovic on the other hand has a tough draw. He is drawn to meet the big servig American Isner in the 3rd round, followed by Warinka in the quarters and Del Potro/Federer in the semis. These all players have had some degree of success against him in the last 2-3 years and have troubled and beat him on occasions.

All this suggests that by this tournament end, Nadal might confirm the year end no. 1 ranking, while Federer would make another trip to London for the World Tour finals.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Ranking Sachin Tendulkar’s 5 best test innings

Sachin Tendulkar has been one of the biggest icons in the 60 years of India’s independence. A whole generation of Indians has grown up watching him bat and almost singlehandedly carry the burden of our batting in the 90s. He was a pure genius who waved his bat like a magic wand and delivered time and again for India. As he goes into the sunset, let us revisit some of his best performances in test matches in the last 2 decades.
The criteria for ranking his 5 best test innings have been the following:
  •          Quality of the bowling attack
  •          The nature of the pitch
  •          Situation of the match and the series
  •          The entertainment value of the innings
  •          Impact of the innings on the outcome of the match

No. 5: 169 vs South Africa at Capetown, 1997
This innings scores very high for me on 3 of the above mentioned factors, i.e. entertainment value, quality of the attack and the situation of the match. India had been bowled out in the 1st test of the series for a paltry 100 and 66 in both the innings and lost miserably. The South African bowlers were all in their prime with Donald, Pollock and MC Millan all breathing fire.In the 2nd test at Capetown, South Africa scored a mammoth 529 in the first innings and India were immediately under the gun in their 1st innings. Sachin arrived with the score at 25/3 and India were soon 58/5 with Sachin and Azhar at the crease. It was then that these two launched a brilliant counter attack and smashed the world class South African quickies to all corners of the ground.220 runs were scored by them in 40 overs. It was amongst the most amazing counter attacks ever launched by Indian batsmen on foreign soil. Tendulkar scored 169 at a strike rate of 66 and hit 26 boundaries in the innings. He was the last man out.

No.4: 114 vs Australia at Perth, 1992
This innings of Sachin scores high on 3 of the above mentioned factors, i.e. quality of the bowling attack, nature of the pitch and entertainment value of the innings. On a fast bouncy WACA pitch, all the other Indian batsmen struggled against a good pace attack in Australian conditions, comprising McDermott, Merv Hughes and Paul Reifell. Sachin displayed his great talent for facing fast bowling in help conditions for the 1st time in test cricket. Not only he scored 114 runs, but he looked completely at ease during his stay and scored the runs at a fast clip too. His innings included 16 boundaries and was pure entertainment for a cricket fan. Even today many people rate that innings as his finest innings on a bouncy track.

No. 3: 155 vs Australia at Chennai, 1998
Shane Warne once famously remarked that he had nightmares of Sachin Tendulkar hitting him for sixes. This innings was may be the biggest reason why. It was the first test match of the 1998 series. Australia had taken a 1st innings lead, and India were under some pressure when Sachin came out to bat in the 2nd innings. He then launched a massive counter attack, and especially tore into Shane Warne on a turning track. He repeatedly used his feet to attack his leg spinner and smacked it straight down the ground for 6s and 4s. The world had never seen Warne being attacked in such a manner. Sachin hit 4 6s and 14 boundaries in his whirlwind knock of 155 not out in a mere 191 balls, and his innings was like a knockout punch that completely put Australia out. Australia never recovered from this knockout punch, and lost the series 1-2.

No. 2: 116 vs Australia at Melbourne, 2000
Against an all team great bowling attack comprising McGrath, Warne, Lee and Fleming, Sachin scored 116 on a very lively Melbourne pitch. All the other Indian batsmen struggled against the accuracy of McGrath and the pace of a young Bret Lee bowling at 150+ kmph. What makes this innings rank this high is the combination of the lively pitch conditions, with enough bounce and movement for all the fast bowlers, and the great Aussie attack, which was near to unplayable for all the other Indian batsmen. Apart from Sachin, who also scored a fifty in the 2nd innings, no other Indian batsman crossed 45 in either innings.

No. 1: 136 vs Pakistan at Chennai, 1999

This was undoubtedly Sachin’s greatest test innings. Against another all time great bowling attack comprising Akram, Waqar Younis and Saqlain Mustaq, Sachin almost single handedly took India to the brink of victory. The pitch was a tough one to bat on in the 4th innings, with prodigious reverse swing and spin both happening. Chasing a target of 271 runs to win, India were reduced to 82 for 5 at a stage. It was almost like the match would end soon. Sachin then launched a terrific counter attack in very tough conditions. It looked like he would single handedly take India to victory. Disaster struck a mere 17 runs before victory. Sachin misread a Saqlain Mustaq doosra and got out, with 3 wickets remaining. The tail failed to resist against the hot Pakistan attack and India lost by 12 runs. Had India won this test match, this innings would have ranked in the Wisden Top 10 test innings of all time.