I was brought up in the small town of Rourkela in Orissa (it's not a small town anymore, it's blooming into a industrial hub gradually).To outsiders , in other parts of India , Rourkela stands out for having one of independent India's first steel plants built with the help of Germans and for the fact that Ved vyas (his real name was supposedly Parasara Munda).It is at a site , on the outskirts of Rourkela that the epic Mahabharata was purported to have been put down on paper by Maharishi Vyas.
Being brought up in a colony of an industrial town is quite different to life in larger towns or metros.We had very few amenities, which one in larger towns takes for granted. I remember telephones at home was almost a status symbol.There was no public transport , every body had their own means(mainly scooters, cycles and bikes) , cycling was a part of every day life.You could get a movie ticket for Rs 10 /- (till 1994 at least , after which I have been out of touch ), vegetables were grown in house gardens,every body almost knew the other person by name.It was a small little peaceful town , really a great place to grow up.What would clearly stand out as Rourkela's export is the long list of it's academic toppers.We always had a long line of IIT-ians, every year our schools used to churn out an amazing number of students who used to make the cut to IIT's, Roorkee, REC's, AIIMS etc.When I look back ,I feel , somehow the atmosphere at Rourkela brings in you a tremendous fire to do well.Competition was always cut-throat.
Not many people know, but in our time , there was a coaching class run by Mishra Sir which most of us used to go in Std 12.His classes had a great record of producing success at JEE.His classes were held in the balcony of the temple of Gayatri Devi temple,right under a small hill.All of us used to cycle there, around 80-100 of us used to sit in one batch in his class in low wooden benches while the temple Aarti would go on and the devetional songs and chants would go on in the louspeakers.On Sundays, we had to take a written test.As space was a constraint, Sir used to bring the question papers printed and keep it on the steps of the temple, we used to take he papers and trod up the hill , sit on the ground and solve the papers.It was great, such a far cry from today's coaching classes with laptops.But what success rate he had!!!!He has honned the problem solving skills of some of us , who have gone on to become rankers at IIT and many other great places.It was a unique coaching , but certainly one of the best.
During my college days at Rec, I was a day scholar and certainly missed a part of the hostel action.I was happy, not be in hostel as I got saved from the famous ragging which a lot of my friends happlessly endured (they have written a lot about it in blogs now!!) , but I too missed a lot of fun which happens in hostel.Later in my intial work life when I lived in hostels , I had the fun of hostel life, and I strongly belive veryone should have a stint in hostels.
Many years later in 2002 , I visited Rourkela briefly ,the city was still the same,
it still had it's own charm.Most of my friends, who have left the city still hold very fond memories of that place.Most of us keep planning to have a old boys(girls included!!!) meet there, don't know if such a thing will actually materialise, but thinking about it feels nice.I have great memories of the place.Hip hip Rourkela !!!
Hip hip Hurray , St.Paul's!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Cricket, a primitive game played with tools on cricket pitches......well it has come a long way since then, with the almost war like situations on the ground, to countries like India and Pakistan coming to a halt when 22 men dressed in gentlemanly white (or rather blue and green, with warpaint greased on their faces!!!) take to the field. My tryst with cricket is slightly odd. I have always enjoyed the game, played more to enjoy than to win matches, watched more with the joy of watching the thump of wood and leather meet, the ball race towards the ropes, rather than a country winning.
I have not really been a die hard fan of a particular cricketer, bunked schools and colleges or stayed awake at nights to cheer India (although I have done my share of it, back in school days, but not much after that). What I have really enjoyed in cricket is the the deadly thrill of Malcolm Marshall bowling a bouncer to the cricket's little champion Gavaskar at the other end, the great Sir Vivian Richards truly cricket's greatest king sending the ball to every corner of the ground he pleases with the ease as if he was squatting a fly. Of course, some memories will always be etched in my memory - the Prudential win at Lords with Kapil and his team waving from the balcony, Gavaskar running that 10000th run in Ahmedabad, Sachin the schoolboy facing the music of Pakistani greats - Imran and Akram.
Cricket is a game that truly combines the best of both mind and body, it has it's share of strategy much like the chess and the outdoor thrill of soccer and may I say very few games have that, and thus it's popularity will always remain.
Cricket is the heart and soul of a few million people across the globe, who would be there to watch every ball being delivered, come what may. That's where I feel the agony of the present state of game lies. For years, most of us who have watched cricket, have always considered it be the best, which very few games could rival not something as cruel as kick boxing or as esoteric as golf. It has the best of everything. It had art (you had see a cover drive played by Gower or a square cut by Vishwanth). It had it's share of strategy, heart stopping thrills (tied test, one run wins!!!) and mass hysteria(the roar at Eden Gardens!!!), what more could a game be???
Alas, I feel that was what it was it's undoing. It was too perfect to go on undiluted for ever, and then came in the BETTING. Betting is something which in one stroke destroyed what cricket has always stood for - fairplay! We have always said - "It's just not cricket"!!! The saying seems to have lost some of it's shine after a lot of money kept exchanging hands and the players pre-determined outcomes of matches.
Match fixing came as the deadliest blow to the game, and however much one is a die-hard fan after every match in some corner of the mind there is that lingering feeling of whether the match was played in the right spirit or was it stage managed. The feeling of watching a nail biting finish will never be the same as like in pre-match fixing days.
When you follow a test match bowl by bowl for the five days, not doing every work that comes in your way and at the end of it you come to know that those 22 jokers were actually enacting a scripted drama with the outcome already known to them. It comes to you as if somebody has kicked your stomach after a full meal!! It now seems to me that when the players fix the outcome of a game and money changes hands, they must be laughing at the sight of a billion people cheering foolishly!
The match fixing episode tarnished the game........ left a few of us utterly disillusioned but a large majority of the following still remained. Cricket's greatest scandal did not have the ripple it deserved. People continued to bunk schools and work, watch matches, and more or less exhibit the same amount of enthusiaism there was earlier. In this process the game never got completly cleansed of the evil and the parasite remained (it is like a dormant volcano which sometimes billows smoke but could well throw up lava again)...we should have boycotted cricket let those cricketers lose popularity (as well as their endorsement fees, drop them from being demi-Gods to the average Joe), totally give up on the game for a few years. The shock would have been too great for the cricket establishment the world over (they would have lost billions and really worked hard at cleansing the system which now they have not done enough).
We have let this rot remain....... not cleaned it enough, scratched the surface superficially and allowed the parasite to flourish underneath.
The game is not cleaned of match fixing ....tell me one in the audience in any match who can bet that the match was not fixed with a finger on his heart...nobody can!!
We are letting this rot continue, it keeps throwing up some cricketers as the villians whom we abandon, and continue to hero worship the others...till one among them also falls. It is like if you have played for your country you are assured of hero worship till you have been naive or foolish enough to get caught!!!
Make match fixing a punishable offence, ask the cricketer to be tried in court, take back his fees from the day if he has been proven to be cheating (take back his endorsement fees too)....... if you really want to cleanse the system. Nobody who plays for the country will dare cheat again.
Only then we can cheer a square cut to the ropes and a drive off cover with the joy it deserves!!!
Saturday, November 15, 2008
It’s slightly weird, but I think once I start writing I myself would be able to find some answers which I have not found. My views on organized religion and God have found very few takers till date, probably because I have not been able to articulate it well. Well, what then is religion and God to me? I am not a great enthusiast of organized religion although I do enjoy the pluses religion gives to me - some festivals to bond and enjoy with friends and relatives. On the other side, I have never really believed in the rules religion forces upon you without a chance to counter-argue.
Most parents teach children several religious customs as a matter of fact (something to be taken as sacrosanct and not to be argued or questioned about). This is what I believe turns some of us from forced believers…… to atheist (I would like to call them anti-believers). Most parents do not teach their children that they have a freedom, to choose the way they may practice religion – whether very religiously, casually or not at all.) The greater fact which one should be able to teach and imbibe is that there is something beyond this system which moves the world. That force or whatever one chooses to call it does not need to be worshipped or prayed to, given enormous amounts of food and offerings (while people nearby stand begging). I think it more important to acknowledge the force, know that it exists, kind of creates equilibrium, ensures that good and bad are balanced; things which seem bad will come to an end, good things happen to good people and so on.
I know that to make the concept of religion understood and seem vivid…….God is a creation …May I quote …if there was no God it would have been necessary to invent one. A lot of us view religion and God very differently (some pray as a matter of duty, some don’t, some don’t know what to do and merely follow others). I believe, in my own way that if I do not disturb this equilibrium and make things better in my own small way, I have done a small bit of service to God. Even if Mother Teresa had not been religious and not propagated religion and done this enormous service to poor and needy, has she not done a great service to god? What I am trying to say is, do good and gently pass off …is a much greater service and being true to one’s faith than chanting hymns.
To me Gandhi bringing untouchables into the social fold , mother Teresa extending that hand which no one else did, Nelson Mandela making a whole mass of people realize that they are no inferior to anyone else…… is religion. Religion to me in plain and simple terms should be good social work. Religion should only have one single motto—make the world a better place. You, I or that saint sitting on a hillock should be small facilitators of this.
When you inherit the earth take it upon you, to enrich it..….make it slightly better and pass on the baton to somebody else…this should be the only objective of religion. Okay , you may color it with a religious or social events but the message which should go out always and every time is “DO GOOD”. If this is something which enters the bloodstream of people I think the very purpose why God was invented is done.
Non-believers or anti-believers who are do-gooders are doing a much greater service according to me , than people who are zealots and chanting strange sound they hardly know. In most cases people who fight over religious issues are the ones who have hardly been religious themselves or have taken pains to study what different faiths claim to preach. We should reach a stage where people are broad minded enough not to identify themselves by their religion or their religious practices but can traverse that line and imbibe something good in others.
I have asked many people around me, what praying gives. I have got varied answers from improving concentration, peace of mind to calmness, to happiness. But then again is not a very individual experience, if it so varied?? No two people on the face of this earth will give you an identical answer to this question, I can bet on that. I have asked back if it gives calmness, it could be playing a guitar also then what difference praying give when in most cases the words are also unfamiliar……… No satisfactory argument yet….but yeah I do know that at times sitting calmly does give you peace, it helps you relax , calm down your thoughts makes you realize what you are. But then why are people so hypothetical to cloak it as a prayer?? A visit to a religious place does soothe you most of the time simply because people come there with much cleaner thoughts. The aura is much better. I think we need to be more open discussing religion, its merits and otherwise and be open to arguments.
There are great pluses of organized religion and definitely the easy way to calm oneself down and look inside, but there could be other ways which should not be looked down upon or not accepted. We should be sensible enough to accept people with very divergent views on religion into our fold and give him the same kind of respect and not sneer at. We should be able to argue about every aspect of religion, see where it needs a change …nothing is permanent….why should religion be????
We need people who can talk religion threadbare…..have an open mind…… not be burdened by what their grandmother has taught them and be able to choose how one wishes to follow religion and what importance one wants to give in one’s life?
Religion needs to give us that religious freedom!!
Friday, November 14, 2008
I am sitting in a rare creative mood today, planning to spruce up my blog. I am not sure what to write on, a myriad ensemble of topics is crowding my head, but if I plan to de-clutter, the one thing that stands out is “MARRIAGE”. I do not know why, but I have always felt that marriage is the one significant step any person takes consciously. One has no hand in one’s own birth or death (unless it is euthanasia), or probably of one’s child’s birth (in most cases it is not so well planned, and could be an accident), but marriage is one thing everybody has plans and dreams of, good bad or ugly.
Marriage is made very much on earth, by people who could make mistakes and grave mistakes that too. However, I have always felt every marriage can be worked upon if both man and wife wish. If both see a small hint of separation at the corner of their eye, every time they have a fight, believe me, the lawyer would be laughing all the way to the bank.
World over, different cultures view or rather permit marriages differently. Marriage could be an orthodox institution, more to bear children and keep continuity, it could be a great friendship, it could absolutely open like room mates sharing the same roof or somewhere in between all this. I think the successful ones are those who clearly understand where they stand (both partners included) and where they want to take it. If Ramesh and Vandana want an open marriage and have one, at the end of the day, they had a great marriage. If both can put a finger on their hearts and say, nothing better could have happened to them, that’s it!!!
A great marriage simply means, both have been good to what they have committed themselves to (Great friends, roommates, soul mates or whatever.) I do not mean here the Vedic chants one goes through ritually without even the priest himself understanding a word of it. It’s probably at the autumn of your life when you look back and see what a magnificent journey it’s been holding each others hand, when you realize that nothing better could have happened.
I see and understand that our country is in the throes of a transition where a hundred million people are exposed to various cultures of the world partially, which they try to lap up. In most cases, different aspirations from life lead to both partners seeing the prism differently and that’s where the first crack appears. It is very important to be able to impartially sense the first crack and glue it (if both want to, or if both want the crack to widen it is a different story). Ours is a generation much the like the Beatles where the previous one has had the benefit of a stable family infrastructure and the new one upcoming is talking of concepts absolutely new to mankind. We should tread as much we think we can. Most of us do not live with joint families nor have a long distance relationship. It’s some where in between, mostly a nuclear nest that one has sown oneself. It’s always a great feeling of the man and wife buying the groceries together for the first time, saving up money to buy the refrigerator. Over time, it is this small brick by brick setting up one’s combined life, yet retaining that small piece of individuality which makes the relationship fonder and lasting.
I am not a marriage counselor although it I think it must be great being one, stitching back hope in people’s lives where there is none. I do not want to sound too philosophical and quote clichéd sentences , but at the end of the day, do things which both enjoy and live life …there is nothing else which can make a marriage. Walk down the beach, cook a meal together, read out a book, glance through old photographs, do things your heart says….and you will go to bed being a contended man. It’s much more than what a six figure bonus or that trip to some funky corner of the globe will give you. It’s a high you can live every single day of your life and enjoy it….truly!!!