Sunday, August 19, 2007

Chak De India!

Just got back from seeing Chak De India. And came back with many memories…

My family has always been into sports. I've grown up seeing four of my mamas (mother's brothers) play Table Tennis, of which two played for India. I remember going to the Gymkhana just to see my fave 'mama' in action. He was the youngest Junior National Champion during his time…only 13-14 then. And went on to be the National Champion in the Men's league many years later. He then represented the country in at least 5 World Championships and other international events. He used to play in a very particular style…he would lose the first round and then aggressively zoom and clinch the next two rounds so easily that the opponent never had time to realize what came into this cool, calm player. I used to watch him observe his opponent's every move with total concentration in that first round. Absolutely cool, nothing would faze him; nothing would break his concentration from his opponent.

It was then that I had decided I would be a Table Tennis Player. Never mind a lot of other people laughed saying Ping Pong was a kiddie's game, for me it was more than that. Only that, the day I was going to the YWCA to register for TT, I got put into the volleyball team and my life changed after that. My sister and I joined Volleyball for a summer camp, turned out to be good in the game and played on after that for a long time. My father being a wonderful sportsman himself, encouraged my sister, my brother and also me completely. Between us three, we have played volleyball, chess, football, cricket, tae-kwon-do and karate at school, district, inter-zonals, inter-districts and state levels. And most importantly, won.

This movie, especially Shah Rukh, reminded me of my mama. Especially of the time, when despite him being seeded 4th (despite being in his 30s which is considered an old age in TT), he was not taken for one of the World Championships. There was uproar in the TT Federation camp but none could withstand the might of politics that reached the Sports Ministry. Also of the times when the Federation had recommended only his name more than once for the Arjuna Award, but it was declined because of politics. Which acts in a funny way at times, because my other mama luckily was not as talented and was untouched by the politics that most Indian ministers play with our Sports. So he not only got the Arjuna Award, he was also the manager of the National TT Team till last year.

I used to hear a lot of stories of how players were treated. National level players that too. They would go to play for their country, but the new sports kits would never reach them. Instead the middlemen like the selection committee and also the ministers would embezzle that money or sell the kits. The staying conditions used to be deplorable. (They still are…look what the National Hockey Team had to go thru recently!). And bribery was the way to get into the game. The players who would not get 'gifts' like music players, expensive gadgets, perfumes, etc for these middlemen would be harassed or not taken for the next few games. The Sports Ministry was in cahoots with them. And didn't care a damn about the players or the country. Which is what happened to my uncle too. And I saw India losing one of the finest TT players of his time. I knew he had the capacity to win like no one else could and I'm not saying this because he's my uncle, but as a fellow sports person. And I saw that spirit being killed like slow poison. And I felt ashamed then of being part of this country.

I remember my Volleyball coach, who made us run the four floors of our school as exercise, apart from the ground. And who fought for every girl in his team more than a father could. He would personally go and visit every girl's house and talk to the parents, especially those who wanted their girls to concentrate more on their studies than sports. "One can not make a career out of sports, especially those that are not popular!" And he would say, "Let your daughter play and win, and it will be popular!" This movie reminded me of my sir too. And I felt pride like never before. Because with every smash of the ball, and hurt of your body as you fell or got hit and bled, the win became that much more sweeter! And this is something that no corporate boardroom game can match…or even understand!

This movie, not only made me relive my past, but it gave me a new life too. It made worthwhile every drop of sweat; blood and tears of all those sports persons who played for their country (in sports apart from the so coveted cricket that Indians are obsessed with). It gave the dignity to those whose lives have been ruined because of 'one mistake'. It showed what team spirit and force can be. And it gave a renewed hope…to the future of sports in this country. And I truly hope that more parents encourage their kids to play for India.

So, Chak De India! (and thank you too.)


(ps: If we are talking of the movie- I think it was one of the best roles Shah Rukh has ever played and each of the girls were absolutely wonderful! A salut to them all!)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Mahatma Gandhi's quote.

August 15, 2007

"I believe in equality for everyone, except reporters and photographers."

Gandhi's this particular comment got me thinking....why would someone say that, especially at a time when democracy was being sought after and papers/press/media most wanted?! Then again, maybe it was because a lot of his life and of those he knew, was misconstrued by the press! A lot of those speculations are apparantly being said as the truth, but let that be...

It could also be that Gandhi believed in the total freedom of reporters and photographers. And wanted them above the law. We'll never know what he really meant, and can only guess.

Coming back to the Media and Press of the present. Today most media reporters, be it journalists or TV reporters, are insensitive to what they really do. Which does not make them disbelieve in their cause. Only that the cause has changed now, and differs from paper to paper. Ditto for the channels. Right now, I feel, with media houses, the only cause they have is to show themselves as better than the others. So a lil sensationalism does not matter much. The 'truth' be given to the world has its own version here. Three versions or sides, to quote something I had read sometime ago. The first side is that of the reporter. The second of the channel/paper he/she represents and third of what really happened. The witnesses or victims notwithstanding.
For example, the recent train blasts in Mumbai. People had died, were injured, needed attention and help, others were searching for their loved ones. Bodies were scattered, blood everywhere. And during that too, one saw mikes being thrust in front of relatives sobbing, cameras plundering their helplessness and people just talking incessantly of the ghastly way people died...the truth had to be told in all its glory,right? Maybe the country does really want to know, I wanted to know what happened too...because Mumbai is my city too, my family and friends still live there and also travel that way....but at what cost the truth be told? At the cost of a acidic break thru a numbness of grief and confusion? And more than being informative, we could only see the one oneupmanship between the tv channels who dug deeper in the melee of raw emotions as they sought to find out who really died and how.

I'm not saying all reporters are the same. I have friends who write, but like it or not, a job is a job is a job. And this when backed by the belief that the channel or paper should get the 'best news', often drives a person to do what he/she would not otherwise want to do. I'm hoping I'm right here. Then again, I often wonder, do they not have a choice? Or at least the decency to know when and what to ask.

In 1993, a series of bomb blasts rocked Mumbai. I remember being stuck between three of them, the one in Plaza, other in Shivaji Park and the one in Worli; and distinctly hearing all three. Passed damaged buildings, speeding ambulances and mayhem. Gaping holes were where people used to be. These bomb blasts had been preceded by the Hindu-Muslim riots that took place just few months earlier. Again, times when one was left wondering if we'd see any of our Muslim friends again. Families were displaced, people we knew disappeared. Yes, it was personal. For all of us.

Today, when after 14 years, 'justice' is supposedly being meted out to those involved in the bomb blasts, the media again has made a mockery of all the people who died then. Did any of us actually look back and see those families? No. All we saw was a certain Bollywood actor's sob story, his act then and punishment now. This became the 'real news'...taking precedence over the actual matter. All newspapers, journals, tv channels, websites and more only talked about him. Even now, on the 60th anniversary of this nation's Independence, papers are wondering how 'Baba' will celebrate the day at the Yerawada Jail !

I personally like the colour yellow. To me it represents light, happiness, warmth, goodness...seen in turmeric we use, the rays of the sun, the sweetness of flowers, the fondness of yellowed pages of a book and more... But unfortunately, this colour is more synonymous with a shade that rules our country the most- cowardice. And sadly no one seems to want to report it.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Rediscovering me.

One should never sort out or clean the cupboard that one has not touched for some time now- especially if one's not prepared for what lies ahead... A busy day saw me clearing my old study table, since was transferring stuff from the old house to the new. And of course, since it was to be done asap, and I had no time really, I was thinking of just dumping the stuff in my bag.

Just then I chanced by old photographs. And couldn't help myself after that.

Thoughts tumbled out, memories peeked and laughed, faces smiled at me, time just stood still. Sat and smiled through some, felt saddened by others and many brought a misty look and few a wistful moment. Realised how many people have come in and walked out of my present life. And with 'present life' I mean the moment I am in. Old schools friends...I wonder where they are...junior college groups...why did the madness disappear? Architecture college group- boy, am I glad I still have them and their mad, sweet selves still as much a part of my present as my past. Work place colleagues... crazy times with crazier people those! Was seeing myself with my family...gosh how I've changed from that bubbly, carefree child to being a responsible, more 'wiser' person that I've become... all those birthday parties and cakes and fun times... some of the best parts of my life.

What was to be a ten minute activity, took an hour to say the least. With the photos came out old letters and cards, some notes, few postcards...things that I had collected and other stuff that I had been given and cherished... so much love and warmth! I rediscovered myself. And quite liked who I am. :)

We don't realise how lucky we are or have been unless we take a step backwards and really look at what we had and have. I am thankful for all those moments and the people who made those times special! And to you too, who've been on my journey of blogging and sharing my nonsense and some more.