Friday, 1 June 2012


I had penned my musings down on the night before Rahul Dravid formally announced his retirement from all forms of International cricket. For some reason or other, I had not posted them here.  Here they are now.


Ever wonder how it has always been the fruit and flowers who get all the attention, and not the roots of the tree that quietly go about doing their job of being the life-support system of it ? Who ever gives a thought to the steel and concrete that went into the  foundation when one is busy marveling at the towering elevation and the façade of a sky-scrapper? If only they could speak, the tree and the sky-scrapper would be the first to thank their benefactors.

How often does it happen that a great personality decides to call it a day and the news evokes emotions bordering on grief that is normally associated with someone’s death ? Very seldom indeed,  because most of us relate only to the public persona that had been on display for a reasonable length of time, spanning a spectacularly successful career, be it in the field of  showbiz, sport, Art , Music, Politics or any other field that inherently thrives on mass following. A day full of accolades and thanks, and then the  celebrity moves on with his/her life just as the fans move on with theirs.

With Dravid’s retirement, though, the emotions seem a touch more real than this customary and stereotypical reaction when a hero walks out into the sunset.  The eulogies are coming thick and fast from the fans, the media, and the team-mates and opponents alike.    

A great man hung up his boots yesterday, and even the great Sachin Tendulkar had to admit he owed nothing less than a third of his test hundreds to the partnerships he had with the man at the other end. Take a bow Rahul Dravid.

A man as tough as nails when out in the middle and as serenely calm and articulate as a sage when off the field, Rahul Dravid’s place in history is as hard-earned and as well-deserved as that of any of the greats of the game. Its only in a team sport that the greatness of a player is measured not only in terms of his individual skills , but also in terms of what he brings to the table as a team-man. And this is where even the most ardent of Sachins fans would not begrudge Rahul  the highest rank possible.

The celebration  of his glorious career spanning over almost two decades would be terribly lopsided if we addressed to only one of its two dimensions , i.e. Rahul the batsman, and Rahul the person. While the Tendulkars, Gangulys and Laxmans , and Sehwags enthralled the cricket-lovers with their sheer artistry, and charisma , Rahul chose to quietly be the rock around which perhaps the greatest era of Indian batting revolved. A technician par excellence, the man all the strokes straight out of the coaching manual, and he could play them all with great aplomb, but like a shrewd banker he always chose to invest them in long term ventures even if it meant shutting out some tantalizingly lucrative short term deals, and the beneficiary turned out to be the Indian team, always.

Never again will we see him striding purposefully out in the middle for the rescue act that he had made all his own.

Never again will the bowlers the world over, run into the wall that had a grim, determined look in its eyes.

Never again will we see those jaw-muscles clench in steely resolve, and that calmness   which came  from “  fire in belly and  ice on mind”.

Never again will we hear that loud and extremely masculine bellow of ‘NONONONO’ aimed at the non-striker.

Never again will those beautiful hands pluck catches out of thin air in the slips and make it all look so nonchalantly cool. He had once said he rued forever, every catch that he dropped than every ton he missed.

Never again will the grounds the world over be drenched in the sweat that poured in bucketfuls from his body, for he always seemed to battle more than he batted.

Never again will the  gentleman’s game be played as it should be played. Because, with Rahul Dravid’s batch of cricketers fading away from the scene, the current crop doesn’t look too keen to put their stock in the sporting spirit either.

And never again will we feel that hope we felt when the scoreboard read 11/3.

Rahul Dravid was the greatest model the Raymonds commercial never had for "The Complete Man”

Thursday, 5 April 2012


Here is a beautiful Marathi poem that I am sure all my likeminded Marathi friends know by heart. It has inspired and revived countless broken spirits with the indefatigable hope that it speaks about. Not that i am on a spirits-mending mission, nor do i see a plethora of sagging spirits around, but just wanted as many people to enjoy this poem as possible. Here it is in Marathi.

    कणा ( THE BACKBONE )

" ओळखलत का सर मला ?" पावसात आला कोणी
कपडे होते कर्दमलेले , केसांवरती पाणी
क्षणभर बसला, नंतर हसला, बोलला वरती पाहून,
गंगामाई पाहुणी आली , गेली घरट्यात राहून.
माहेरवाशीण मुलीसारखी चार भिंतीत नाचली
मोकळ्या  हाती जाईल कशी, बायको तेवढी वाचली
भिंत खचली, चूल विझली, होते नव्हते नेले
प्रसाद म्हणून पापण्यांमध्ये पाणी थोडे ठेवले
कारभारणीला घेऊन संगे, सर आता लढतो आहे
खचली भिंत बांधतो आहे, चिखल गाळ काढतो आहे
खिशाकडे हात जाताच, हसत हसत उठला
" पैसे नकोत सर , जरा एकटेपणा वाटला"
मोडून पडला संसार, तरी मोडला नाही कणा
पाठीवरती हात ठेवून फक्त "लढ" म्हणा .

Whether we care to admit it or not, and no matter how strong and courageous we are, we all have, at least once in our lives, felt completely done in by circumstances. We have felt hurt seemingly beyond our endurance, faced odds seemingly insurmountable,   and that elusive silver lining has seemed a cruel joke too practical to laugh at.  But survive we did, didn’t we ? We are still here and breathing, smiling, laughing and generally doing everything that once seemed impossible. Whether the suffering was  physical, or mental is immaterial because suffering of any kind is inherently insufferable.           

We can now look back on those days, and on those moments and say “Gosh, that was a close one, but I did it, I survived, it didn’t lick me , but I licked it”.  This is the moment that belongs to gratitude. The gratitude to the forces seen or unseen, known or unknown, that were on the ball for us in those times, carrying it for us till we got over the line and home. We remember a mere look from someone that was as comforting as any act can be. We recall a helping hand, a hand around our shoulder, a hand that wiped away a tear, a hand that just held ours and conveyed more than volumes of words ever could. A hand of a parent, a hand of a friend, a hand of a doctor, or a teacher . . ..  lets just call it the divine hand that turned the right key for us and found within us exactly what was needed to prod and fuel our own fighting spirit and give us hope.

This Marathi poem, “Kana” ( The backbone)  by V.V. Shirwadkar ( Kusumagraj ) that I have attempted to  translate, pays homage to, and humbly celebrates one such hand that empowered the two toiling hands of the protagonist who happens to be an ex-student of a teacher he has grown up admiring and looking up to .    The student is fighting the aftermath of the flood that  all but wiped out his home, all his earthly belongings, and also a child  that appears only by implication in one of the lines. I have taken the liberty of not translating it verbatim,  and of doing away with the  rhyming,  for two very valid reasons. One is that I am hopelessly incapable of operating within the limits of  meter and  rhyming.  And secondly, I did not want to lose the essence of this great work of art , in an effort to fit it within those parameters. So if this synopsis of a beautifully constructed poem sounds like a passage of prose, the idea was to ensure that the goods reached  you intact , no matter how crude the packing looked. This had to be something that  not only  expressed my gratitude to the great poet for giving us the poem , but also to introduce it to those  who hadn't  come across it for whatever reasons. It will have served its purpose if it also works as a gentle reminder for us all to maintain the attitude of gratitude no matter where we are at in life  .

“ Hello Sir ! Remember me ?”  a voice spoke over the sound of rains.
Clothes disheveled, almost in tatters, hair as wet as the rains.
He sat a while, caught his breath, then looked up and smiled.

“River Ganga blessed my home with a visit, Sir, for a few days.
 Like a happy, homecoming daughter, she danced within the four walls .
 Not one to go empty-handed , she left only my wife behind .
 Walls collapsed, the kitchen fire doused, she washed away all we had . 
 And left tears in our eyes as a token of her blessings..
 Toiling away now, Sir, I and my wife are.
 Rebuilding  the walls, clearing away the ruins and the mud.”

As I started to reach for my purse, he got up smiling and said. . .

“This is not about money, Sir, just felt a little lonely, that’s all .
 My whole life, though it appears to be broken, my backbone is still intact .
 Like the good old days, just pat me on the back and say “ fight on, Son, don’t give up”


Its the loneliness that the student spoke of , that saps  the will to fight and makes one want to throw in the towel. You aren’t  lonely every time  you are alone, but you are alone  every single time you are lonely.  And then  comes a time when seeking help, even refuge becomes imperative in order to live another day and fight. That is when a divine hand on a strong backbone works its miracle and hope is restored, the way it did for the brave student.

As I am about to conclude, I am reminded of an old saying. “The hands that help are holier than the lips that pray” . There was a time when I agreed with this logic far too easily and wholeheartedly and would even sneer derisively at the idea of the praying lips when direct action was required. I don't anymore, because i think the quotation is as unfair as it sounds beautiful . Of course there is no substitute for the hands that help. But, I have come to realize that while it’s impossible for all your friends and well-wishers to be directly involved in a situation, its their sincere and heartfelt prayers that help tilt the scales in your favor with whatever they are worth. Those encouraging words from the teacher were nothing short of a prayer that the student needed to reassure himself that he was not alone in his battle.

Here is wishing all of us a divine hand on our backs, such as the one that the student found on his back.      But, should the tables turn someday , may our  attitude of gratitude empower our own hand with a touch of divinity that might help someone get their hope back.  


Monday, 27 February 2012

ONE LIFE TO RIDE - बाईकवरचं बिऱ्हाड

“One life to ride” is a story of a bike-trip from Pune to Ladakh. The biker/writer with the wanderlust is Mr. Ajit Harisinghani, a speech therapist by profession . I happened to randomly pick up a marathi translation of the book by Sujata Deshmukh , titled “ Bikewarcha Birhad”, which loosely translated would mean “A home on the bike”  
I enjoyed the translation immensely and just wondered what the read would be like in English, but as far as books go, i am not one to die wondering, so have already ordered one online.

There is a passage during the writers’ journey that really caught my imagination with its mystic, poetic quality that was lent to it by a chance encounter the biker had with a Sufi Baba. I want to share it with you all.

Of course you would think it weird to be reading a translation of a translation into the very language it was written in originally. But, its not really a translation. Its just the gist of that encounter and what the biker got out of it. The idea is to give you all a glimpse of something that I really loved reading and get it to vet your appetites enough to pick up the book, in either language. Here goes…

“ As I was getting my bike a fill, I saw an old Sufi Baba pedaling on his extremely old , dilapidated bicycle in the same direction I was headed to. I paid the attendant,     kick-started my Enfield 350 and in a few seconds overtook the baba .

Blame it on the hot and humid afternoon, or on the loneliness that goes with a long journey on a bike, but for some reason I felt like stopping and letting the baba catch up with me. I pulled up and sat on a wall,  as the green-robed baba with his long white beard blowing with the wind,  came pedaling towards me. Probably for the same reasons as mine , he too decided to get off his bicycle and join me on the wall, as I was inexplicably confident he would.  In what felt like a silent communion lasting about 15 minutes between us, we just sat and stared at nothing in particular. I felt we both shared the kinship that must exist in two people for whom the clocks have ceased to hold any importance.  Then I reached for my pack of cigarettes and drew one out. As if on cue, the baba fished out a beedi and I lit up for both of us, still not a word out of either of us . We smoked in silence, enjoying the smoke and the hot, quiet afternoon.

After my last puff, I stubbed out my cigarette, tossed it away and introduced myself and also the purpose of my journey that had no purpose at all. He told me about his journey that very definitely had a purpose and a very clear destination too. He had set out for Mecca, the holy pilgrimage for almost all the branches of Islam. Upon hearing this, I was as flabbergasted as my sister was when I had told her of my bike-trip to Ladakh.

“But baba, Mecca is in Saudi Arabia ! How can you even hope to make it there on your bicycle at your age ?” I asked him. I could clearly see from his age and the state of his bicycle, which was sure to be as old as him, that it was a close race between the two. Who was going to  kick the bucket first, the baba, or his bicycle ? I wouldn’t bet on either of them. Confident as I was of completing my own trip on schedule with the fast and well oiled machine I had with me, I probably had a cocky, even derisive look on my face when  I asked him this question.

He gave me a warm, kind smile in return. The kind of a smile that an indulgent Grandpa gives his grandchild, and said “ Son, my Mecca would be right where my body lays down for the last, final  sleep. How does it matter whether my body reaches the real Mecca or not ? As for my soul, it has reached Mecca the day I started out on my journey !”

After this profound rejoinder, nothing but a quiet, contemplative smoke would have been in order and that’s exactly what we had. After a while I asked him how did he manage his meals, accommodations etc. Again his answer made me feel like the materialistic worm that I was. He said he had complete faith in the benevolence and providence of his creator who provides food for every hungry stomach one way or other, and as for sleep, how much space does a human body need to stretch itself after a long day of pedaling?

Offering some money to him as a token of my respect and good wishes seemed  the only recourse I had to appease my ego and give myself a bit of a glow that a giver subconsciously expects. But I guess it just wasn’t my afternoon, because the baba gracefully accepted only a small part of the amount I offered him. He then proceeded to tell me a story as an answer to the unasked question he saw on my face.

“ Many many years ago, there lived a great master.  In his monastery, he used to teach and live with his students. The monastery was strategically situated in the caves so far away from any human habitation that the minds of the students were without any distractions or disturbance. The students would learn as much from the nature as from the great master himself. There was a very young student whom the master was particularly fond of because of his inherently brilliant mind and a grasping capacity second only to the master himself. A day came when the master felt convinced that his protégé has come of age and was ready to go into the world that existed out there, to test himself as well as to get an education about the worldly matters. With his blessings and a great ceremony, he bid his favorite student goodbye. The student , with the strict discipline taught by his master started his life, adhering to the ways and rules he had learned. In the mornings he would go from door to door asking  for raw grains in alms , so that he could cook them himself, eat and spend the rest of his day studying the scriptures he was given by his master. One day, he found himself at the door of a particularly wealthy landlord in his morning forays for alms. One look at him and the landlord sensed something that told him this was no ordinary alms-seeker. He respectfully invited the young man into his house, and called his young daughter out to give some grains to the guest. This was the first time the young man was seeing  a human being of his opposite sex , and was obviously impressed with what he saw when the young girl respectfully emptied a sack of grains in his pot, and retreated with folded hands. Quite taken in by her beauty, the young man pointed at her and asked her father “What is that ?” . The landlord, once having being a man of the book himself , was appreciative of the innocence behind this question, and answered kindly “ This is a girl, and she is my daughter”. Still mesmerized by the first glimpse of feminine beauty, the young man could not help pointing at the girls bosom now and asking “ What is that?” No matter how innocent, this still was a delicate question for a father to answer about his own daughter, and in her presence too. But his kind heart and wise head enabled the father to come up with an answer that was correct and in decorum too. He said “ That, sir, is the organ that will enable her to feed milk to her child with, when it is born in a few years time!” . Upon hearing this answer, the young man looked wonderstruck and a with a self-deprecating smile emptied his pot back in the sack, keeping for himself only as much as would suffice for his evening meal. Now it was the turn of both the landlord and his daughter to be perplexed as to why an alms-begging scholar would return their respectful offering like this. The landlord asked this to him in as many words and with a sheepish smile the young man answered “I thank you both for reminding me a discipline my master had taught me, which was to accept only as much as I would need for a day. Your answer now reveals the lesson my master wanted me to learn. If the creator of this universe had enough foresight to provide your daughter with an organ at birth which years after would ensure her child’s meals , why should I worry about where my next day’s meal is coming from ?”

The Sufi baba and I then wished each other well for the rest of our journey, and parted. He, on his bicycle, already assured of his destination, and I , on my Enfield 350, still a touch worried about the equation of my fuel-gauge and the distance to the next petrol pump.

But I know I am richer from this encounter than I was before.
Ah, my India ! My incredible India !

Go get that book guys ! It’s the next best thing there is to actually getting on your bike and setting off to nowhere in particular. You might want to visit Mr. Harisinghani’s website too. Here is the link