The Value of money  

Posted by Praveen in , ,

It was the 20th of this month and I had just 600 rupees in my hand, to spend for the rest of the month. No, It was not a result of some hi-fi spending spree. I had some investment commintments for which I didn't plan out well last month. I was thinking of various possible ways in which I can survive the rest of the month. Thats when, someone send me one of the best forwards I got in recent times. Its a simple video titled "Value of 500 rupees". A select set of people from almost all strata of the soceity is asked one simple question "If I give you 500 bucks, how will you spend it?" You can see the common answers from the Gen-X crowd-Movies, booze, smoke, party. And then there are the downtrodden, the unprivileged class. A lady tells she'll spend it on education for her children and rest she'll save for future. In the next frame you see a man uttering "You can do nothing with 500 rupees". And then a poor kid says "I can take care of our home's expenses, clothes, food etc". See, how perceptions vary. And see, how we take things for granted. We have even someone saying he'll go for a branded underwear. The video ends with a masterclass statement "The price of someone's haircut=The price of someone else's school fees". It says poverty forces 70% of India's children to drop out of school before the secondary level. Aren't we lucky to be among that 30%. Still, why we crib? why we find fault in everything even after life being so kind to us?

This video inspired me no end and gave me the belief that I could safely survive the remaining 10 days of the month with 600 rupees. I realised how much money I wud've wasted if I had more on my hand. Now as I write this on the 27th of Nov, I have 180 rupees left with me, more than enough for me to survive this month. Who said forwards are a waste of time? I just learned a big lesson in life with the help of one.

PS-Wrote this just before the terrorists went on rampage in Mumbai. Was not in a mood to post this for the last 2 days. And yes, as I received my salary yesterday, I still had 40 rupees left with me.

Now tell me friends, what will you do if you get 500 rupees?

Mumbai Meri Jaan: Terrorism Unleashed  

Posted by Praveen in , , ,

Lets play politics
Lets play the blame game
Lets spend time in classifying Hindu and Muslim terrorists
Lets fight our neighbouring states
Lets stand for our Manoos
Lets fight for the in'human' terrorist's 'human' rights
Lets cry foul against the army
Lets call the brave, dead policeman a 'fake encounter specialist'
Lets be hungry for more 'breaking' news
Lets cry and crib as they strike
Lets condemn and then give a damn
Lets be proud that we are 'soft' on our enemies
Lets forget it at all the next day hailing it as the 'spirit'
Lets be responsible journalists giving tips to terrorists
Lets play the politics foul
Lets let the terrorists rule
Lets keep the public fools
Lets close our eyes to the teary pools.

Another day. Another terrorist attack. They've now come in a new avatar. Showing their faces and telling us, "We are not afraid of you". To think that these guys just came coolly in a boat, alighted at the gateway of India and strode through the busy roads before the attack just shock me. Its an irony that the Gateway of India ended up as a gateway for these bloody terrorists. Tomorrow it can happen in my own backyard. The last few days the media as well as the government was focussing on the homegrown terrorists. Political parties were vying with each other to brand them as Hindu and muslim terrorists. Now, today, we saw the faces of terrorism. Who the hell cares if he's a Hindu or Muslim, who the hell cares if he targeted a hindu or muslim. We only know they are inhuman and those who are targeted are mere humans, not the face of any religion.
As I type this, the ordeal in Mumbai's Taj hotel, Nariman house and Oberoi hotel are not yet over. There are explosions being reported every other minute from one of these places. We already have lost some of our finest cops like ATS chief Hemant Karkare, encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar and additional commissioner Ashok Kamte. More than 100 other innocent lives were lost. The sight of the terrorists(am trying hard to keep out the obscene words that are coming to my mouth now) hijacking a police van and driving around terrorizing the maximum city was shocking to say the least. I wonder how these people could carry out this attack so precisely without the intelligence agencies ever getting a clue about this. The amount of the ammunition they possess is just unimaginable. They underlined their lack of humanity with that attack on the hospital.
My heart goes out to the brave men who laid down their lives in defending our nation. Now I really do hope our hallowed 'human rights' activists dont call them fake encounters like they did after the death of Inspector Sharma in the Batla house encounter. Please don't talk again on behalf of the men who took the life of our own brothers and sisters. And atleast give some respect to the men who defend us. My prayers goes out to the families of the 100 human lives which were taken out by these barbarians. Atleast now, yes, atleast now, the Government should show the balls to strike out hard and kill off the terrorists without the farce called a 'fair trail'. Only the fair deserve fairness. The cleaning up has to start now and if some special people taking the high moral ground tries to disrupt this cleansing, we have to wipe them off too. Lets stop being soft. Who cares for the useless "we are a peaceful nation" tag when we have our citizens dying everyday on the road? Burn the tag, stop condemning and do the damn thing.

PS- Where is the caretaker of Mumbai ,Raj thackerey today? Does he and his men act only when people speak hindi in Mumbai? Wont they raise their swords even if 100 Mumbaikars are killed? Where is the 'son of a regionalistic barbarian'? Hiding under his bed? Shivsainiks and MNS guys, if ever one of you happen to read this, this question is for you- why don't you guys just go and hang yourself? Now, you have no right to talk of Mumbai or Mumbaikars.


your crusader Praveen

Free Spirited and Independent blogger award  

Posted by Praveen in ,

Oh God! Another award. This time "Free Spirited and Independent" blogger award presented to me by the ever brilliant english teacher and plogger(poet blogger, a word I coined just now:D ), Usha Pisharody. Thanks a lot for considering me for this prestigious award.
And as with all other awards am supposed to give it to my own favourites. Am giving it to the same set of people to whom I gave the brilliant blogger award and butterfly award earlier. Congo Rats to the winners!

your crusader Praveen

Strawberry Fields-Fields of Sound  

Posted by Praveen in , ,

Sunday afternoon, I was in a dilemma. The cricket match was going on in TV and the finals of strawberry fields rock fest was to start in a couple of hours. Then, Sachin got out and my last reason to watch the match was also gone. And so I headed straight to National Law School(NLS), Nagarbhavi more than 25 km from my place. I reached there in a breeze, slightly drenched ofcourse. I was surprised to see a college amidst lush greenery. The venue of the fest was still down the road. Honestly it looked like a big clearance in the middle of a forest. It was completely different from the image of the famed strawberry fields that I had formed in my mind. I could hear Pentagram's songs from outside itself. I walked straight in. Thats when the security guys stopped me for some frisking. I emptied all my pockets. And lo! there is a suspicious item. A vicks inhaler key chain that I attached to my house key. They insisted that this cant be allowed inside. Yes, they suspected that I was a drug addict carrying 'the stuff' in an inhaler. I asked one of the guys to just smell and check it. I could see a frightened "No way" look. Then, another brave guy came in, smelled it at an arm's length and confirmed that am clean. The guy who checked me said "sorry mate" with a smile. Well, I did really enjoy that incident.

Once inside, I saw Vishal Dadlani & Co. from Pentagram doing the sound check. There were only a handful of guys at the grounds then. We were treated to 'its electric', 'rock n roll' etc. After that, it was a long excruciating wait for the real show as all the competing bands proceeded with their sound check. I was also waiting for my friends to arrive. This was the 3rd and final day of the 12th edition of 'Strawberry Fields'. The first 2 days had close to 50 bands from all over India playing all day long. 5 bands came out on top. The judging for the prelims was said to be a farce with deserving bands like 'Inner Sanctum' losing out. And this allegation did have some truth as evident from the quality of some of the qualified bands. The concert started 1 hour late at 6 'O' Clock. The first band up was 'Blood and Iron'. Only the drummer Manu was the saving grace of this band. He was at his beastly best behind the not so pretty kit. One song into their show, there was a heavy outpour and half the crowd ran for cover. The rest were seen dancing and headbanging in the rain. Next up was Mumbai band 'Rosemary'. Hearing the name being announced me and my friends looked each other wondering 'what the hell that was?'. But, names do deceive. This band did kick some serious ass with their Nirvana-esque originals. Their sound did really stand out in the evening. Besides their originals, there was a great cover of the Beatles's classic 'Come together'. The audience did come together in singing along the lyrics.
Greyshack-My fav band of the evening

After this fabulous show came in 'Metal Messiah', another bunch of rockers from Mumbai. The guitarists's hairdo was weirdo at best. Another band whose name deceived us. I was wondering how these guys made it to the finals. They had little or no lyrics from what I could make out. The vocals reminded me of a 'seldom biting barking dog'. We spent this unexpected spare time at the 'Rolling stone' magazine stall, where I bought an old issue that I had missed. By that time, the Bangalore band 'Chilli Potato' had taken centrestage. Another band which failed to impress. So we headed to the food stall searching for something to eat, something better than 'chilli potato'. They played a cover of Kannada superstar Rajkumar's classic english song 'If you come today'. The original one was atleast funny but surprisingly this one got some support from the crowd. So, it was time for the last band 'Greyshack'. A bunch of guys sans the metalhead look strode in. The vocalist had the crowd in his pockets from the word go. The guy's energy was infectious and soon the whole crowd joined in jumping and singing. Their original songs were a treat as was the medley of 'beatles' covers like 'Day tripper' and 'Hey Jude'.
Its electric-Pentagram

So, it was time for the big acts of the day to take stage. First up was 'extramentals' from Chennai. They took a long time to set things up. And when it started it was pure mental torture with a girl crooning like pop singers britney, aguilera etc. But the crowd was supporting her just because she made some sexy moves up front. I felt pity for those guitarists and the drummer for having teamed up with this girl. Later, I came to know that this girl was none other than Kamal Haasan's daughter Shruthi Haasan. I just thought of the rave reviews she got in 'rolling stone' mag and other newspapers. I wonder whats the special talent all of them saw in her. So, after being given that extra torture to our whole mental setup, we were craving for 'Pentagram'. But sadly due to some technical glitch, their electronica set couldn't be unleashed yesterday. So, it was Pentagram minus all the loops, stripped down to the basics. So, all of us waiting for the electronica laden 'Its electric' and 'Animal' were a little disappointed. But once the show started it was pure ecstasy. Vishal was attitude personified not letting the technical errors mar the show. There was this sing along thing he came up with "There's no party like the Bangalore party....". About 6 songs into their concert, the police came to play spoilsport. They asked to stop the show at the time was past 10 30. Still, Pentagram sang one more song, the classic anti-reservation anthem 'voice'. It turned out to be a song fitting the moment with lines like 'There are words that must be said, there are words that must be heard....I need a voice now' turning out to be a voice against the negative spirit of the policemen. Once the song was over, the crowd was crying for more but they had to bid goodbye because of the men in khaki. An image that came to my then was of a whole army of policemen watching last week's violence at Chennai law college with hands tied up. Its a pity that they raise their voice and lathis at the wrong place almost all the time.
I need a voice now...Pentagram

The winners pf the competition were announced in the end. Thankfully, the judges picked the best of the evening unlike the prelims. 'Rosemary' walked away with the prize for the best band although I think 'Greyshack' deserved it more. The individual awards were also shared by these 2 bands. Altogether, Strawberry Fields 2008 was a nice experience, though I really expected 'Motherjane' to make an appearance considering the fact that their new song 'Fields of sound' is a tribute to this very festival. This is the place from where India's biggest bands like Motherjane, Junkyard Groove etc began their quest for glory. This indeed is a special festival.

your crusader Praveen

Butterfly Award  

Posted by Praveen in ,

I've been conferred with an award- The Butterfly Award for the coolest blogger by Richa as well as Kartz. Thanks a lot to both of you. Its a pleasant surprise and also gave me something to fill up in the blog at this time of a bad writer's block.

I've to pass this award on to my favourite bloggers. Now the rules for passing on this award are:

1. Put the logo on your blog.
2. Add a link to the person who awarded it to you.
3. Link the bloggers whom you wanted to share this award to.

I would like to give this award to all those whom I had previously given the Brilliant blog award.
To that list I would like to add some more names.

1. Usha Pisharody- The english teacher who's making waves in blogosphere with her amazing poetry. And recently she has started writing prose in a separate blog too. More than that she helps me a lot in proof reading my blog and pointing out the mistakes.

2. Chriz- The chronic writer as well as the chronic comedian. He enthralled us all with his awesome witticism. Be it his Marilyn Monroe act or his videos featuring those kids, he has never ceased to entertain.

3. Aayushi- Writings of real depth coming from a young heart.

4. The Army Guy- A really different blogger out there. A battle hardened army guy with his take on life in the battlefield. I wouldn't miss this for even a bullet.

5. Tara - A budding photographer and future film maker.

6. PJ - This is not your normal PJ. This is Priya Joyce, who always brings a smile to everyone's face with some cute real life experiences.

7. Sashu- A blog I started to read quite recently. Checkout some shockingly good poems as well as writeups on both her blogs.

8. Nivedita- Started reading this blog just 2 days back. And the first one I read 'Consistency, thy name is woman', had me hooked that I went on to read some of her old posts also. A really good one there.

Thats enough for now. Congrats to all winners

your crusader Praveen

Pick This Flick 9- Home Run  

Posted by Praveen in ,

Its not often that u get to see films as sweet and simple as the Singaporean film 'Homerun'. The film is in chinese language. Its an adaptation of Majid Majidi's Iranian classic 'Children of Heaven'. Am still in search of the Majidi original. Most of the critics have not given a favourable review for 'Homerun'. Its because of the simple fact that its compared to the original. The story revolves around a brother and sister, their shoes and their friends.

Chew Kiat Kun(Shawn Lee) takes his sister Seow Fang's(Megan Zheng) shoes to repair but he loses it. They keep it a secret as their family is suffering from poverty and there's no money to buy new shoes. She can't go to school without wearing shoes. To get around this problem, they devise a plan. She'll wear his shoes to school in the morning and then run back home in the afternoon, when he can wear it and go to school. Kun's shoes are too big for Seow. She has a hard time in school wearing it and then running back home. This also creates problems for Kun as he's late at school. At school, Kun and his friends get football shoes in exchange for doing homework to their wealthy mate Beng soon and his friends. But, because of some petty quarrels, they split and there are no more shoes to play football. Once Kun and Seow find out their shoes in the legs of one of her classmate. But when they find out that her father is a poor blind man, they decide not to ask for the shoes. Its at this bleak juncture that a Primary school cross country competition is announced. And the third prize is a pair of shoes. AM stopping the story here. See the little that is left for yourself.

'Homerun' is a touching account of sibling love, friendship and poverty. The scenes between the brother and sister are just too cute. Seeing it, I wished I had such a sweet adorable little sister. One funny thing I noticed was the headmaster who was played by a Keralite. I found this out from his looks and that unmistakable malayali accent. Am still wondering how this guy ended up in this film. His name is listed in IMDB as Sivaji Raja. Coming to the direction, though Jack Neo has overdid the emotion part in some of the scenes, you won't feel it that way most of the times mainly because of the kids. The scenes involving Kun and his friends are just fabulous and make you wanna go back to school. The last dialogue from Beng soon to Kun is my fav- "I never knew what it is like without a shoe." Guys, try to get the original 'Children of heaven'. If you are unsuccessful, go for this. And if anybody has the original, please do let me know.

PS- 'Children of Heaven' is being remade in Hindi with our own TZP wunderkid Darsheel Safary. The role of his sister is still not filled up. [Cute little girls out here can apply] Am waiting to watch this movie.

your crusader Praveen

The Elysian fields-IV  

Posted by Praveen in ,

Read Parts I, II, III, if you haven't already

Part IV-The end

After 7 months...

Am still looking at that portrait of Jay on the wall. A train of thoughts had taken me 20 years back in time. I realise it was a life in which the unpleasant things weighed a little bit more than the pleasant ones. And the final nail on that was hit today evening when I saw the news on the TV that Sammy had brought in last year. It showed images of the dead bodies of 3 young men covered with a white cloth. I went numb when a photo of the 3rd man was displayed. I was too shocked to scream out. I dont know how long I stood there staring at the screen. I heard the news anchor uttering words like 'educated','terrorist' etc and in between a name called 'Sam' too. Thats when I realised that the word 'service' meant something different to him. I began thinking on where it all went wrong. A little boy who was proud of his father and his country wouldn't get transformed into a cold-blooded criminal overnight. Its not possible to wipe away all that feeling of nationalism in one single moment. I somehow felt that I had failed as a mother and as a citizen of this country.

Having seen many such images in recent times, I was almost sure my son had ended up in a place where he was least expected. Then itself I made the decision to disown him. I didn't want a terrorist's body to be buried in the same land where Jay was laid to rest. I was more angry than sad. If I had one more chance to see Sam, I would've asked him the question, "Why?". At this moment, all my affection for my little Sammy vanished without a trace. I cursed myself for having borne him in my stomach for 9 months and for being his mother for 25 long years. I hanged my head in shame at having played a part in letting down my motherland, for which my beloved Jay had laid down his life. He might be watching from heavens and wondering if he's slipping into illusions even there. Still, even after all this, I would be lying if I said I didn't have even a bit of sadness. Which mother can hate her son with all her heart, whatever be the intensity of the crime he has done?

The next morning, I was startled by the sound of the gate opening. I saw a long line of school kids streaming in, all of them familiar to me from Sam's tuition class. They all had roses in hand. Two of them held a banner which read "We salute you, Sam". I was confused. Why would they hail a terrorist like that or are they just showing their love for their teacher? Thats when I saw the newspaper lying there at my doorstep. The headline read..

"Students storm terrorrist's lair"- '3 art students carried out an attack on a secret camp of terrorists near Anantnag in Kashmir. About 14 terrorists were killed in the attack carried out with grenades and country pistols. In the process, the 3 of them ended up losing their lives. The amateurishness of the attack signifies the fact that this is a sign of common men taking it upon themselves to do a clean up act rather than expect the Government to do something about the growing incidents of terrorism. This incident has struck a chord with lots of youngsters, raising a possibility of more such incidents....."

Before I knew how to react, I saw the kids placing the red rose flowers in front of the tuition room just to the left of our house. I saw tears in some of their eyes and a sense of respect in some others. I cursed myself again for all those thoughts of disowning Sam. How could I, in a fit of confusion and without knowing the facts, brand my Sammy a terrorist? How could I think that of my child who used to say proudly "My father is a soldier. He protects our nation." Why didn't I even give a second thought? As questions started piling up in my mind, a crowd was building up outside our home. As I sat there, I was reminded of that day 20 years back, when we waited for that ambulance. Then, I had little Sammy to fall back on. He was the hope which kept me alive all these years. Now, I have no one to wipe my tears. And I don't have to wipe anyone's tears too. I just have to wipe the dust from two portraits instead of one. They say, 'Every father is a hero to his son'. Jay was more than a hero to his son. When he died, a part of his soul stayed back inside Sam, without leaving earth. Through him, Jay fought on and also kept me company.

I was confused whether my life is a blessing or a curse. A blessing for having a husband and son who sacrificed their lives for the country. A curse for having to live a lonely life after the premature death of my husand and son. But, whatever be the case, I decided then and there to live on rather than to succumb to the lure of a suicide. Jay and Sam will never forgive me if I surrender my life so meekly. I will live on to see more Jays and Sams doing selfless service to their country. I will live on to keep their memories alive. I will live on to tell others "Never quit living". And I'll live on to tell the story of my husband and my son...A father and son who went on to stay alive even in death. As I walk inside, I hear one of those kids asking to his friend "How many enemies did he kill?". Yes, the same question that Sammy asked his Daddy, 20 years back...

PS- So, that was the end of my first story writing endeavour. A big thanks to all those who encouraged me with words of appreciation as well as to those who gave me some constructive criticism. I got the idea of this story after I read the news about a mother in Kerala who said "I don't want his dead body" after her terrorist son was shot dead in Kashmir. I was deeply touched by the courage of that mother who saw the country above her own son. But I didn't want this story to end in such a negative note of a patriotic child turning into a terrorist. So, I built up a fictional story of a father and a son with this plot weaved in between. I dedicate this story to that mother, her courage and her patriotism.


your crusader Praveen

The Elysian fields-III  

Posted by Praveen in ,

Read Parts I and II, if you haven't

Part III
Though its been many years since Jay's last journey, I can still hear the gunshots after the ceremonial guard of honour reverberating in my ears. Sometimes, I see him sitting beside me and playing with Sam, only to wake up from sleep with a start. Sammy has grown into a handsome young man. He joined college last year. He joined an arts college and is specialising in English literature. The reason for him choosing this course is still unknown to me. After that tragedy, he has always kept to himself. In school, he had very few friends and talked only when it was necessary. Things didn't change much even as he entered college. I never asked him any questions on his behaviour as I thought this will only add fuel to the fire. I decided to play the waiting game and let things happen when they have to. He always spent his time with his books. He talked more to those pages than to me, though I knew I still had a high place in his heart through some of his words. Its just that he chose not to express his affection externally. I am sure that he has some parts of that sweet little Sammy left in him somewhere. I hope one day he lets him out.

Sam funded his college education by taking tuitions at home. I loved it when all those chirpy school kids came to study at his class. I think he was reconnecting with his happy childhood through them. We lived a decent life with the pension amount of Jay's service. Though, I sometimes wonder whether we are receiving the price of his life every month. The nation and all those who came to the funeral that day may have forgotten him. But, for us, who lost something precious that day, there's still not a day which passes without his thoughts. During that time, Sam got some new friends. Some of them used to frequent our house. They kept on talking for hours over the coffee and snacks which I served them from time to time. Because of my not so great educational background, I never understood what they were talking about. All I could grasp was something about an organisation they all were working in, which aims to do some service to the public. A portable computer, which they called the 'laptop' was their constant companion. All day they were drawing plans, studying about certain localities and discussing on various issues related to it. I was happy that at last my son has got into something that seems to capture his whole interest. He has begun talking to me more these days.

Last Sunday, while I was cooking, he came into the kitchen and told me-
"Mamma, atlast I found my destiny. For the first time in my life, I've a feeling that am making good use of my life. Am a lot more happier now that I've found many friends who happens to have identical thoughts as mine. I guess am coming back to life."

Should I say, I was happy to hear this? With a heart filled with joy, after many years, I told him,
"Sammy, This was the moment I waited for all these years, to hear words like this from your side. Your daddy's blessings will be with you all the time. I want that Sammy of old back."

He just smiled and left without saying anything. Only later would I realise that it was the last time I would ever see of him.

Final part coming up morrow...

Read on here

your crusader Praveen

The Elysian fields-II  

Posted by Praveen in ,

1st Part here
Part 2
Its been a month since Jay left home after he got an urgent call as usual. Last week, we couldn' talk to him as he was out for some emergency work. Sam has grown increasingly grumpy this week. He always had that strange sulky look on his face these days. He was evidently sad at not having talked to his dad in more than 10 days. Many times, he refused to eat anything. Atlast to make him eat, I had to promise him that I'll let him talk to his daddy for a longer time this week. But, what to say, it didn't happen this week also. He was still held up with some emergency, according to the officer who attended the phone. I had this tinge of uneasiness somewhere inside me but had to project my cheerful self before Sam. But, as if reading my mind, he asked me one day.

'Mamma, Won't daddy ever talk to me again'?

The pain in his voice almost made me burst into tears then. But, I held on with all my strength and told him,

'No sammy, He has gone to the mountains to buy you a gift from a yogi'.

He gave me a deceptive smile, from which I was not sure what to make out.

One more week went by with no news from Jay. The next tuesday morning, a burly gentleman was seen opening our gate and walking in. He had a small cover in his hand with that unmistakable insignia of the Indian army on it. I think Jay has delivered a letter through a messenger as he was not able to contact us for long. My heart leapt with joy. Sam will be back to his happy self today, I hope. Then, for the first time, I looked at the man's face. I could read a sign of discomfort there. He came to the door, held out the letter and uttered those dreadful words-
"I am sorry".

The first thing I saw in my mind then was a disturbing image of those castles that Sammy used to build in sand, crashing down. I slowly opened the cover and straightened the white paper. The words didn't quiet register and I still don't know what I read that day. I only remember that man telling me after sometime-

"The ambulance will be here in half an hour".

Thats when I saw Sam walking in slowly. I guess he saw that teardrop falling from eyes. He suddenly ran to me and asked-

"Mamma, why are you crying? I've never sen you crying. Who is this uncle?"

I heard myself blurting out-
"Sammy, your Daddy won't talk to us again. And he would never come back again. He's gone with the yogi to the heavens."

I was shocked to hear such dispassionate words being spoken by myself. And I wondered why I talked so straight rather than sugar-coating the fact to make it digestable to a 5 year old. Maybe, I didn't want to give him a rude shock when the ambulance came. So, I wanted to steel his heart to take it. To my surprise and dismay, He didn't utter a word after that. He just stood there with tears streaming down endlessly. I pulled him close to me and he came to me as if he were a lifeless being. We stood like that waiting for our long waited guest to come one last time. The man just stood there watching a small bird making its nest in a nearby tree. I knew his eyes were not actually looking at it.

The wait didn't last long. The ambulance came and with it a stream of neighbourhood residents. As the tricolor cladded box was lowered to the ground, I felt sam pushing away from me. He ran along with it as it was carried into our drawing room. The men accompanying it kept it down and neatly folded the tricolour. As I ran towards the box, I could see his face through the glass that covered it. He still had that glow and a proud expression on his face. A part of the letter came to my mind now, "He fought on till his last breath and even carried his superior officer to safety before succumbing to his wounds". The nation must be proud of him. But, I just couldn't play the part of that brave wife whom we see often in stories as the one who never sheds a tear. I wailed uncontrollably. Thats when I thought of dear Sammy. I looked around. There was a huge crowd already, known as well as unknown people, gathered there to pay respect to the nation's latest hero. I saw him standing just behind me with a passive face. I couldn't read even a tinge of expression of any kind in his face. And, I couldn't find a single tear too..

To be Continued..
Read on here

your crusader Praveen

The Elysian fields-I  

Posted by Praveen in ,

This is my first attempt at story writing...Read on..

It is a particularly cold evening today. Being alone in a big house in such a weather would've been impossible for me some years back. My amma had a hard time consoling me in those thundery dark nights when I used to howl like a new born. Being alone also means I have nothing much to do. So most of my time is spend in conversing with nature. Looking at the white lillies swaying in the garden and gently reflecting the moonlight filled my heart with some unknown sense of happiness. But that is short lived as my gaze falls on those eyes looking at me from the worn out photograph on the wall. The flower garland on the photograph needs to be changed tomorrow.

My mind races back to the day on which that garland was put on that portrait for the first time, 20 years back. Sam was a cute boy of just 5 years then. Though he clung on to my fingertips all the time, he always used to cry wanting to see his daddy. He was very proud of his daddy. I once overheard him asking his classmate-

"What is your father doing?"
"He's an engineer. He builds our nation. And whats your father doing"

"My father is a soldier. He protects our nation"

I was struck by such high sounding words from my little son and his friend. But, the way he said that showed how much he respected his daddy and his profession. I don't know if am right to call that a profession. Its a life. Me and Sam used to walk 15 minutes to the nearby STD booth once in a week to hear Jay's voice. He used to prepare for this phone call from the morning itself. He could be seen sitting in that swing hanging from the Mahagony tree in the courtyard. But he would be motionless and staring at a distance, probably preparing questions to ask his dad in the
evening. He reserved his best dress for those days, as if his daddy could see it from miles away. It always filled my heart to see my boy smiling to himself all day. Even while walking to the STD booth, the usually chirpy Sam wouldn't utter a word. Once I dialled the number, he would get impatient tugging at my saree to give him the phone. I would barely get 5 minutes to talk to Jay. Then, it would start between father and son..

"Daddy, Is it cold there? Are you doing well"
"Yes. My dear. Your warm voice makes all the cold run away."
"Daddy, Daddy, How many enemies did you kill this week?"

Controlling his laughter, Jay would tell Sam- "10"
The more the number, the more happier Sam was.

Such questions went on for about 10 minutes until I snatched away the phone from him, which used to lead to a lengthy protest from Sam's side. Jay's holidays were a cause of celebration at home. On the morning of his arrival, Sam would get up early and would sit near the door with his eyes firmly set on the big gate. Even if there was some small sound near the gate, he would run towards it expecting his daddy. And, when the big moment arrives, its pure heaven. Sam would run and jump straight to his daddy's hands giving him the world's biggest hug. Jay's first day at home is spent in such expressions of love. The serious talking would start from second day only. The weeks he spent at home usually flew by in a matter of minutes. And most of the times, he would get the call to get back to duty urgently. Then, the blissful holiday has to be cut short. As cliched as it may sound, I have to say, "for a soldier, country comes first".

to be continued..
Read On here

Pic courtesy-

your crusader Praveen

Ganguly: Our own Dada  

Posted by Praveen in , ,

Dada's dressing down in the den of the well-dressed

After Kumble's retirement, I thought I'll bid goodbye to goodbye posts till Sachin hangs up his boots. But, yesterday after watching India's second innings, during which Ganguly got out for a golden duck, that thought changed completely. He slowly walked back, before which he was seen looking up to the heavens, which no one was sure whether it was a thank you gesture or asking God "why not one last chance?". Then for about 30 minutes, he sat there in the pavilion with a face that conveyed myriad emotions and with his pads still on. He has certainly mellowed with age. And certainly he has become more mature compared to his aggressive earlier days. Nobody knows what he was thinking then. He might've been reliving his glory days on the field, of which this was not one. Or he might've been thinking about the tomorrow when he won't wear the Indian cap any more. But whatever he was thinking then, the average Indian cricket fan had only one thought in mind, a thought of gratitude to a man who gave a new direction to the sport in India.
King of offside

Indian cricket been a bastion of well-behaved gentlemen for whom 'aggression' was a word related to the world war. We always took sledging in its stride and chose not to hit back except in a few rare cases like Sunil Gavaskar. Then came the arrogant brat, who as a captain of his school cricket team was complained against by his own teammates for his arrogance. Even in 1992, he was dropped for the same reasons. Then, came 1996 and that test debut at Lords, where he along with Dravid grinded the England attack to submission. The Sahara cup against Pakistan was an one man series where Sourav gave India victory after victory with both his bat and ball. I became a fan of him during that knock of 124 against Pakistan in the Independence cup finals. India-Pak matches in those days were a matter of life and death. A score above 300 was a rarity and a sure guarantee for a win. That was when Ganguly turned the tables with that sublime knock. Further down the road came a stunner in the world cup game against Sri Lanka when the ball spend more time out of the stadium than inside. That image of him dancing down the track and hitting the spinners to oblivion is an enduring memory. That was the time when I loved watching him as much as I loved to watch my idol Sachin.

After the era of Azhar and Sachin's not so great experience with captaincy, the mantle fell on Ganguly. He brought in several youngsters like Yuvraj, Harbhajan, Sehwag etc and started building a team for the future. He guided them in such a way that he instilled in them some of his own qualities. This change was evident in that epochal series against Australia when India, playing in Ganguly's home ground, made an improbable comeback and went on to win the series. That was when the legend of Dada was born. He really became the big brother to his team mates as well as to millions of young Indian cricket fans. He taught them to meet 'sword with sword' and not with your bare hands. He once famously made the great Steve Waugh wait for the toss, a kind of giving back in the same coin to the Aussies. The culmination of all his aggression was seen at the Lord's balcony, the sacred place where englishmen won't appear without his hat and coat. And thats exactly where he removed his shirt and swung it wildly, a fitting reply to Flintoff's antics some weeks before in India. More than that, it symbolised the new spirit of the team which was ready to hit back at any opponent. The dream run in the 2003 world cup re-affirmed Dada's status as India's best ever captain. The Australian series in the same year, when he set the tone for the series with a remarkable century on the first day saw him grow in stature. The win in Pakistan in 2004 was another high point.
Thats when the decline started. A batsman who was second only to the great Sachin in the number of one day centuries was soon found wanting for form. The 'old man who spoiled Indian cricket' Greg Chappel played a stellar role in spoiling his career too. The same man who was brought to coach the Indian team because of Dada's recommendation played the role of a man lacking gratitude to perfection. As a result, Dada lost his captaincy as well as a place in the team. Men like Kiran More, whose contribution to Indian cricket can be compared to a beggar's contribution to India's GDP, began toying with his career. They made comments such as "In my tenure as selector, he wont see the door of the national side". But no one could keep him and his bat silent for too long. He made his comeback in South Africa by playing a role in India's historic win at Johannesburg. For the next two years, till his retirement he batted like a dream. But, the selectors in India again proved their stupidity and biased attitude by throwing him out of the ODI team, in an year in which he scored in excess of 1000 runs. Immense pressure was put on him to retain his test spot even when he was performing really well. Atlast, he decided enough was enough before this series against Australia. He played his part well in almost all the innings except that last one where he did a Bradman with that first ball duck. A career had come full circle. Dhoni's gesture of letting him to captain the side during the later part of the Aussie innings is worth applauding.

Dada, on being asked what he likes to be remembered for, said "I would like to be remembered as one who gave Indian cricket a new direction. And thats exactly what he'll be remembered for. Behind that aggressive exterior, he was a soft spoken man who always remained loyal to his team. He had this deep belief in his abilities and his tactics that he was able to influence his team mates more than anyone else. His aggression was one of subtlety. Though removing your shirt on the field won't come anywhere near to being subtle, there was some method in his madness. All those instances of aggression were to convey a point. It was not the brand of blind aggression shown by some of the new Indian players of the ilk of Sreesanth. What he did was art, while what some of these guys are doing is pure sacrilege. He was the king of the offside. He had a particularly bad weakness to the short pitched balls which he worked on and solved somewhat towards the end of his career. In Bengal, he's a demigod who's worshipped by everyone. That was evident from the backlashes that were seen from the Bengali people each of the time injustice was meted out to him.
His legacy-that famous shirt. The symbol of aggression

More than any of this, what he'll be remembered for is his fighting spirit and his 'never say die' attitude. Each time he was out of the team, he clawed back with increased vigour, hell bent on proving his detractors wrong. The image that I'll forever remember of him is not one on the cricket field. But, its from that pepsi commercial when he was out of the team. He was shown sitting in an empty stadium. And this was what he said in that "Hi, mera naam sourav Ganguly hai. Bhoole tho Nahin? Jo hua, kyoon hua, kaise hua, yeh sab sochke dukh bhi hota tha aur gussa bhi aatha tha. Par ab nahin. Mein team mein vaapas aane keliye bohat bohat practise kar rahaan hoon. Kya maloom? Hawa mein shirt ghumaane ke mujhe aur ek moka mil jaaye. Jo bhi ho, team ke andhar yaa baahar, mein chup baitnewaala nahin. Hooha India, Aaya India. India ke har match ko mein aisi hi chillaaoonga. aap bhi chillaaye. Mere team ko achha lagega. Apni dada ke baat sunege na?". I would say no one, just no one would have the guts to do such a commercial when he's out of the team. But not dada. Those words pained a lot of us at that time. And seeing that again today on youtube, somewhere it pains a lot to think that this big brother wont be there anymore to thrill us and guide our youngsters on the cricket field. That smile, that dancing down the pitch for that sixer and that shirt swinging in the air will forever be missed. But his legacy will live on in those aggressive cricketers who don India's colours in the future. And that is Dada's lasting gift to Indian cricket.

PS- I dedicate this post to my friend Kartoos, the biggest Dada fan I've ever seen. Read this old post by her, U'll know why am telling that.

your crusader Praveen

The Evolution Tag  

Posted by Praveen in ,

Tagged by Mathew and Thomman. Here it goes

The Tag

Two questions from the past, present and future. Answer them and then tag your friends from the blog-o-sphere. Leave a comment on their blog letting them know they have been tagged and you are all set.

-Your oldest memories
Me, The biker kid

The life in Kolkata as a kid. I was the terror of the neighbourhood Bengali uncles. Our owner,a Bengali himself, used to stay upstairs. Whenever he had to come down, he would do so with utmost care because he never knew when a big stone or plate would strike him from nowhere. I used to chase him with sticks all around the compound and he was seriously scared. I guess, he was the only owner in the world who was scared of his own tenant. The first thing he asked me was "Keekkochi", which in Bengali means "whats your name"(I think so. Atleast, thats what my dad told me). And I thought he was telling me his name. From that day, I called him "keekkochi maaman"(keekkochi uncle). Another memory of those days was when I buried my grandfather's watch hoping that a tree bearing 1000 watches will spring up.

-What were you doing ten years ago?
I was in 8th standard, going through the worst year in school ever. I found it hard to pass in maths, often bugging sir to give me some grace marks and some how make me pass. Sometimes, I thought this is the end of my education. But, all this didn't stop me from enjoying my life with music(those were the cheesy boy band days), hanging out with friends etc. And yeah, that was the year in which I wrote my first poem, a malayalam one. That was a mushy romantic 16 liner describing a girl's beauty and my love for her, obviously one of my classmates whom I wanted to impress. Needless to say, it didn't find a place even in her dustbin.

Stuck in a 5 day job, where blogs, friends, ipod and chat are the only solace. Though I do enjoy the work with my head banging slightly to the heavy metal from my ipod. The weekends are spend movie watching, hanging out or by playing the guitar. Am now known as the biggest fool in town, a name which I earned with years of hard work. My foolishness had crossed such a level that they had opened an orkut community just for chronicling it all. And, am happy that am blogging a lot more regularly than I used to do.

Oh no! Monday! Why did you put this question? I just hate Mondays as much as the majority of you. Gonna be a boring day except for the lunch breaks, tea breaks and after hours.

What do you see yourself doing 14 years from now?
Touring the world, with my old college band(then an internationally renowned metal band), a DSLR and a beautiful and loving wife for company. Hopefully some kids too. I would like to play at that small rock fest called 'Rock in Rio', nothing less.

If you build a time capsule what would it contain?
Myself with all the things I have at present, my family, my friends, my guitar, my music collection and a back up of this blog.

Am tagging

and whoever who is interested to take it

your crusader Praveen

The nadir of mind  

Posted by Praveen in , ,

There's a high tide of unrest
Sometimes I feel like a pest
Having lost all the bloody zest
For a life that was a fest

I flew where my heart took me
I lived by what it told me
Never thought it would fail me
And leave me like a film with no reel

Negativity pervades all my thoughts
rowing in my mind like a shadowy boat
Am in a prison of my own creation
where breaking free is out of question.

I know, only I can make it or break it.
Its time to stop my mind's spoilsport.
I can't go any deeper and drown
Its time to come into my own.

Depression is a state of mind where you see negativity all around. You will lose interest in everything and you try to keep to yourself. You will talk less and keeps on thinking. Mostly this thinking will be around the same things and you wont make any progress in that too. You will find it hard to sleep. You wont understand when others advice you to see the positive side. You will feel you are useless. You will think death is near. And, more than that you'll never know that you have such a problem.

Its not to make you sad that I told all this. I was just referring to a psychological disorder that can affect anybody. Am telling this because I've seen it happening real close to me. And, I tell you its one of the worst possible states that one can get into. Suddenly, you see one of the most positive persons ever talking negatively. It affects the person as well as those around him/her. The reason can be something as big as the death of someone close or it can be as trivial as work pressure. But, once it affects you, you are in for a really bad time. The only way you can help the patient is by constantly interacting with him. You should try to distract his mind by engaging him in other activities. Also, never stop talking. Proper care from those around the person can bring him back to normalcy. Its not the end of the world. There's always a better tomorrow.

Even if you are afflicted with a serious disease, you can remain cheerful if you have a positive mind. But this one first kills that positive mind itself. I pray with all my heart to God to never ever make anyone in this state. So, always stay positive. Never let a single negative thought into your mind. It can grow as big as to swallow you completely.

PS- I started to write this about an year back. Wrote the first 8 lines then. But wanted to end this positively. And I got those last 4 lines today.

Unrelated PS- Anyone going to the Fuel Great Indian Rock Fest morrow(Friday Nov 7) at Palace grounds, Bangalore? The Norwegian black metal bands Satyricon and Sahg are gonna rock the crowd along with prominent Indian bands like Slingshot, extinct refelections etc. Be there.


your crusader Praveen

Pick this flick 8-Khuda Kay Liye  

Posted by Praveen in , , ,

I never had high opinions about the Pakistani film industry. Whatever clips I've seen in youtube from their movies looked amateurish and a pale imitation of bollywood. That was until yesterday when I watched the path breaking Pakistani film "Khuda Kay Liye". I had heard a lot about it being one of Pakistan's best movie ever. Still I didn't have much of an expectation. The only reason I found to watch the film was the presence of Nasseruddin Shah. The movie directed by Shoaib Mansoor takes you from London to Pakistan and then to USA. The film opens with a shot of a sad lady in a US hospital. Before you can understand what its all about, the action cuts to Pakistan.

In Pakistan, you get to see the story of an affluent family. Mansoor(Shaan) and Samad(Fawad Khan) are two singers who become quite popular locally. At the same time, their uncle is living a wealthy life in London, having married a British lady. His daughter Mary(Iman Ali) is in love with a British native Dave. He disapproves of their relation with such fickle reasons like "A pakistani male can marry anybody, but if a female marries from outside, it will create problems within the community". But, all of a sudden he agrees to her marriage and takes her to a visit to her home country before her marriage. There, Samad is on his way to become a religious fanatic, having quit singing and grown a beard after some ill advice by an Islami Mullah. The Mullah talks at length on how music is just another vice like drinking which should be avoided by true followers of the religion. Samad even asks his mother to wear a burqha. Mansoor is shattered and he leaves for US to study music. Meanwhile, Mary's father fools her into marrying Samad after taking her to a village near Afghanistan. The scene where she is forced to marry him will have you seething with anger. Mansoor joins a music school in Chicago where he falls in love with Janie. They get married soon. Thats when tragedy strikes in the form of 9/11 and he's arrested as a suspect just because he was having a muslim name.

The scenes of Mansoor's torture are well-shot. He is made to write his feelings on the wall after the torture. Still, he writes "I love USA". But, after a point he realises that they just want him to confess as a terrorist and won't believe whatever he says, even if its the truth. Thats when he changes "I love USA" to "I love USAMA". Its a poignant scene when he says "afterall, USA started it". The writer has indeed got his history right. Mary tries to run away from Samad but she's caught. But she writes a letter to Dave about her plight and as a result the British government rescues her from the hell hole. She takes her father and her husband to court. Thats where the best part of the movie happens. A Maulana(a brilliant cameo by Naserruddin Shah) delivers a speech on how the principles of Islam are twisted by the so-called learned scholars and clerics to their own advantage and spread hatred around. He convincigly disproves the notion of Islam's disapproval of music with some brilliant examples. He also talks on the inequality of women and such matters. In the end, you'll feel like standing up from your seat and clapping. After winning the case, Mary going back to the village to teach the illiterate young girls is a master stroke. She could've chose to go to London and live a luxurious life. But, she wants to set an example. The transformation of Samad back to his old self is also heartening. You will have a smile on your lip when he comes with his modern outfits and a cap turned backwards to sing "allahu akbar" at the local mosque.

The film works at various levels conveying a flurry of messages. Many might not have forgotten the news of Lal Masjid closing all music shops and banning all music education in Pakistan. These kind of retrograde steps are due to some twisted notion of the religious texts. The scene where a tortured Mansoor says that he doesn't know a single word of the arabic writings in his locket tells a story. He says he can read it but doesn't understand the language. And this is the case with many other people. In such a scenario, getting misguided by elder religious clerics who are hell-bent on spreading hatred is relatively easy. Another one important aspect of the film is how the plight of women are filmed. Women are considered unequal to men in Pakistan, most evident from the dialogue of Mary's father that I mentioned above. The Pakistani women are mostly uneducated and even those who are educated are not allowed to cross the boundaries of their house to interact with the soceity. At the end of the movie, Mansoor's lover Janie reads a letter that he wrote while he was in jail. The letter ends with the words "I can't hate all Americans because some of them have done injustice to me. In the same way, please don't hate all muslims because some of them have done have to your country". A superb movie! Must watch! The movie also has a great soundtrack with some chart topping songs like "Bandya" and "alla hu".

Quick 3 Recos
3 more recommended movies
1. V For Vendetta- A political commentary scripted by the Matrix makers, Wachowski brothers. Set in a futuristic England, it tells the story of 'V' who single handedly fights against the totalitarian regime. He wears a Guy Fawkes mask to cover his face that got a bad burn as a result of a Government purging experiment gone awry. Hugo Weaving gives an amazing performance without ever showing his face.

2. Infernal Affairs- Cantonese language film which inspired Martin Scorcese to make 'Departed'. You will see scenes straight out of this one in Departed. It has the same plot. But, somehow I liked this more than Departed.

3. Good Morning, Night- An Italian film directed by Marco Bellochio which chronicles the kidnap and murder of Aldo Moro, the former prime minister of Italy by the terrorist group 'Red brigades'. Watch out for an awesome performance by Maya Sansa, the female member of the group. Also, Roberto Herlitzka playing Aldo Moro evokes a lot of sympathy. Beware, this is a real slow movie.


your crusader Praveen

Anil Kumble:India's own smiling assassin  

Posted by Praveen in , ,

It came as a bolt in the blue. And it was the shortest interval between a retirement announcement and the actual retirement. Kumble, India's greatest ever test bowler bid adieu to the stage which he has graced for 18 long years. His debut against England at old Trafford coincided with Sachin's maiden test hundred. From that day, he has grown in stature to such a level that he can safely be called "the Sachin of bowling". The critics, whose job most of the time is to concentrate on the negative side of anything, haven't been too kind to him when they accused him of not being a genuine spinner. His straight deliveries lacking spin won him the name 'a spinner who doesn't spin the ball'. But most of them conveniently forget that its these very own straighter ones that scalped 100s of rival wickets and won India many a test match. Infact, he has singlehandedly won more tests for India than any other player ever to have worn the blue cap.

Today, the day started for me with a disgusting comment on Kumble by another retired cricketer craving for the limelight, Dilip Vengsarkar. "Kumble's time is up", thats what he had to say. Also he was accused of having underbowled Amit Mishra. The same man said after the Bangalore test that "An unfit Kumble is letting the team down". That was only the 3rd occasion in his 132 tests that Kumble went wicketless. Vengsarkar would do well to dust up his old records and check in how many matches he was out for nought. He should also check in how many matches he scored a century(equivalent to a 5-wicket haul) and then use his fingers to count the number of matches he won singlehandedly. You can't expect him to take 10 tickets in every other test match. When you have a long career, off days are bound to happen.
A test century at last-in his 118th test..a perfect picture for the slogan "Never give up"

Its poetic justice that he bids goodbye in the very own ground where he scripted one of the Golden chapters of Indian cricket taking all 10 wickets in an innnings. Ferozshah Kotla is his own ground, even more than his home ground Chinnaswamy. But it was sad that in his last match he didn't shine as expected. The last ball he bowled, a low full toss which was promptly despatched to the boundary by Hayden, was not quite a fitting end to a glorious career. When he announced his retirement this afternoon, the whole cricketing fraternity expressed its shock. He was expected to carry on atleast till the series against England. No one expected him to announce his retirement on the last day of a test match. But the injury to his finger made sure that he won't play the Nagpur test. And Kumble decided it was time to take the decision. Its a heartening fact that we've a great captain in Dhoni to take us to the future. But, we'll miss a match winning bowler, the void left by whom will be hard to fill. Amit Mishra is a good prospect as was evident in the previous test at Mohali but these are still early days for him to be compared with 'the smiling assassin'.
Kumble bowling with a broken jaw in West Indies

Nicknamed 'Jumbo' for his over sized feet and his deliveries which are too fast for a spinner, Kumble was a great statesman who conducted well on the field and never got into a spat with anybody on field. His calm comment "only one team played in the right spirit of the game", after the infamous Sydney test match is an example of this man's character. Any other captain would've lashed out with harsh words but this simple sentence was enough to convey the message. He played with great determination and had a 'jumbo size' heart. And it is this very heart that enabled him to work on his batting and score a century in his 118th test. Now, no one has scored his first century as late in his career as Kumble. And last week he completed 2500 runs in test cricket too. No mean achievement that. His 6 for 12 against West Indies at home, about 15 years back, is still unsurpassed in Indian cricket. The look on his eyes as he closes in to deliver the ball can pierce through any batsman. We all stood up and applauded when he came on to bowl with a broken jaw bounded with a big bandage against West Indies, some summers back. That one incident encapsulates what Kumble is. A sportsperson par excellence, an epitome of determination and an icon of fairplay. Kumble, Indian cricket and its diehard fans like will miss you. Take a bow, one final time...
one from my cam-when Kumble visited our campus

PS-I make it a point never to write 2 consecutive posts related to the same subject. But this time I had to do it as this was unexpected. More posts on this subjectt will come soon with most of my favourite cricketers set to retire in the coming days.


your crusader Praveen