Tuesday, September 25, 2007


For 0.42 seconds... I swear the heart stood still

The final of the Twenty 20 world cup. And the world got its cup of emotions filled to the brim. As far as the subcontinent was concerned, the cup overflowed. What a match! What an unbelievably brilliant cliffhanger. You couldn’t have asked for a better ending to a tournament, written off as ‘circus cricket’ by pundits, which had captured the heart of all its viewers. In a packed canteen, with more than 300 pairs of eyes riveted on the huge projector, and the sweat flowing free, I realized what being ‘drained of all emotion’ truly meant (no indirect reference to the sweaty masses here).

17th over. Harbhajan Singh. India poised for a maiden Twenty 20 victory thanks to some intense and inspirational play over the past one week. A young team waiting on the threshold of history. Pakistan down. Almost out. With the entire hopes of a nation, albeit a chaotic failed one, on one man- Misbah. And boy, did he deliver. You got to hand it to the gutsy guy and the other young team from across the border. They knew what resilience meant. For much of the match, India had had the upper hand, however slight, but unlike another team in green, they preferred not to choke. And in that 17th over, a billion plus people switched from celebration mode to God-help-us mode. 4 sixes off the 2001 India-Australia series hero. 4 lusty blows clearing the ropes and denting the morale of every Indian watching. 4 maximums making what was increasingly becoming an impossibility, a very probable outcome.

18th over. Sreesanth. 2 effortless sixes by the no. 9 batsman. 2 more steps towards the cup. 2 more cracks in India’s armour. The young man fell to the other young man but the damage it seemed, had been done.

19th over. RP Singh. The bowler of the tournament (Lefty’s modest opinion). Overshadowed by Irfan Pathan in the final, but nevertheless the bowler who delivered under pressure. 20 to win. A score for the Score. And yet again, with a billion hopes weighing upon his young shoulders, the young gun delivered, 18.4 ball. The stumps knocked down and Umar Gul walked back. 9 wickets down now. 1 more and the match would be ours. Asif faced the last ball with the sole aim of surviving it. The result was more than he could have asked for. An edge to the boundary, leaving Pakistan with a very gettable 13 to win off the last over, with Misbah, the Messiah, on strike.

20th over. Joginder Sharma. Wide on the first ball. 12 to win. 2 a ball. Next one fully tossed. Misbah charged down the pitch and sent the ball to the hysteric crowd. A billion hopes had fallen now. The canteen stood still. Horrified looks everywhere, the famed 300 stunned to numbness. This couldn’t be happening. But after all, the valiant Spartans had also lost. Only 6 to win off the last 5 balls.

20.2 ball. Full. The shot pre-decided. Skillfully skied toward fine leg. And as it began its ascent to the heavens, my heart rose, stopped and a chill of dread engulfed me. These shots are generally sixes, if not fours. The background of the white version of the cherry changed rapidly. 0.42 seconds. The sky… The grandstand… The crowd… and then… Sreesanth. The ball had not yet reached the safety of his cupped hands before the 300 came alive. Before a billion burst into celebration. Before the young Team India, having played just one T20 prior to the tournament, claimed its place in history. In the musty dusty canteen in a long-forgotten town, all hell broke loose. Bodies fell upon each other in glee. My joy our joy. My sweat our sweat. The shouts almost brought the roof down and mad uncoordinated victory jigs were started. The ground shook ever so slightly, acknowledging the effort of the 11 valiant runners up and congratulating the 11 heroes.

Jeet gaye.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Morning's here

The quintessential morning begins with the crow of the rooster. Rather rummy, the crow of a rooster. If it’s a rooster, shouldn’t it leave crowing to the crows and spend its time roosting? But then English was never the most logical of languages. Check out what Old Man Poochie has to say about it. Crowing and roosting aside, the point that I’m trying to put across, in my own verbose way, is that morning’s here. Here, I must pause and remember fondly one of the greatest FRIENDS episodes- The One Where they bet the apartment. It begins with the neighbour singing, “Morning’s here” much to Rachel’s chagrin. Or does it begin with Joey’s and Chandler’s rooster crowing? I think it does. That’s when they realize that the chick is actually a rooster. Which brings me back to the rooster.

This morning, I heard a rooster crow for possibly the first time in my life. At least the first time at the crack of dawn. Faithful readers who’ve read Ding Dong Clock will wonder what Lefty was doing up and about at the crack of dawn. You guessed it. I didn’t sleep tonight. A great pity really. For sleep is one of the greatest things a man can ask for. For me, the entire process begins sometime between 11 and 2. There are times when, like the proverbial hard-working honest soul, I hit the pillow and drift into a peaceful slumber. But those times are rare, very rare indeed. Generally, I spend anything between half an hour to indefinitely trying to coerce myself into sleeping. I count sheep, try not to think of anything, put on soothing music, anything for those 8 hours of bliss. Advocates of “6 hours is substantial sleep, 7 is luxury and 8 is vice” can go watch Jhoom Barabar Jhoom for all I care.

Once the unthinkable has been achieved however, I am in paradise. My head and the pillow, my shoulders and the mattress, all rejoice in tacit joy at their union. I plunge headlong into the deepest fathoms of sleep, content and at peace with the world. Sleep enmeshes me into her loving arms, caressing me as I cherish the moments spent with her. Dreams occasionally interrupt this lover’s rendezvous, trying to lure me away by showing me quixotic visions of myself as a plenipotentiary, a Croesus, an Adonis or even as a champion general of my AoE forces. I resist, but there are times when I have to give in. I am human after all, and entitled at least one Achilles’ heel.

The first rays of the sun are supposed to be one of the greatest sights mankind can behold. These rays, a mere glimpse of which is coveted by thousands, find me blissfully unaware in my ground-floor room at the Farmhouse. They peep in through the tiny window and illuminate the content and occasionally vacuous expression, on my visage. These rays must be beautiful, everyone says so. If there’s a heaven on earth, then as long as its prepared to let me sleep in peace, I’m prepared to accept that it exists.

The cry of the rooster is greeted by Raps hanging his washed clothes on the clothesline. What he does before that is something that no one knows. Its slated to appear on History’s Mysteries on the History Channel any day now. All that is known is that Raps, like Tolkien’s Tom Bombadil, like the Bible’s Adam and like our Manu, is the First. The First who hangs clothes on the clothesline. Once he’s done though, he walks past the 11 doors that separate his spic and span room from my not-so-spic and span one and bangs the door open. It is then that the mother of all battles begins. Sleep continues to hold me tight in her arms, enchanting me into believing that she and I are inextricable. Raps uses clear logic and the threat of attendance backs to convince me that we better not be. Sleep is magniloquent, whispering to me that this disturbance is ephemeral, and should I let it pass, we shall be One once more. Raps adroitly puts on the light, shakes me by the shoulder and shouts, “One more cross on the Bunk-O-Meter.” Occasionally, he is joined by Good Boy, who lends him a helping had in this mammoth uphill battle, the Newspaper-waala, who shows the same look of saturnine indifference at this epic everyday battle and dutifully drops the morning’s copy of HT and ET, and the Dhobi, who still calls me Bhaiya (Refer: That Ubiquitous Relative).

Having got me to open my eyes, they mutter threats and move out, letting me know how much time I have to get myself to class in a presentable manner. Sleep exults at the retreat of her foes and tempts me into her arms again. New, hitherto unexplored adventures are offered for the next couple of hours, titillating each nerve of mine. I find myself succumbing to these wiles. My eyelids begin to droop. The pillow gets softer and the mattress more comfortable. A hundred reasons explaining why missing class wouldn’t make any difference flash before my heavy eyes. A thousand promises saying that I will go to class the following day, week and month are made to myself. My eyelids droop further, eyelashes looking to meet the cheeks with the touch of finality.

Somehow, denying sleep her victory, I groggily get up, reach out for my spects, curse anything and everything and move towards my toothbrush. Morning’s here and another day in the life of Lefty has just begun.

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