Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Palio 1.6 Sport

Full clutch, shift to first, inch ahead slowly, turn the wheel all the way to the right, carefully ease out of the slot. Stay in first, move ahead slowly crossing the bumps, one, two, three, then up the slope, slow left out of the gates, shift to second, accelerate as you turn right and straighten back on to the main road. This is where you floor the gas pedal. 20 to 40 in two seconds, shift up, 60 in another two seconds, shift to fourth, up to 80, shift one up again, and saturate out at a peak speed, others are getting a little jittery as the red needle threatens to cross into three digits! Straight, straight, straight, down the underpass, up again beyond the railway tracks, the needle steady at 100, then slow down into second, cross a bump, repeat the whole exercise.

My house is on the Outer Ring Road. If you like to drive, and are in Bangalore, Outer Ring Road is exactly where you should be. Of course I have done the track, I mean road, hundreds of times on my Thunderbird. The Fiat Palio 1.6 Sport is a whole new experience altogether!

Sporting a 100bhp engine, the Palio 1.6 Sport is just the car I used to dream of. And of course, since it is a sports model, it has to be red. The Sales executive at the showroom boasted that this was the only car which came in Formula Red, supposedly the colour of Michael Schumacher's car. I looked over the car, then bent down and inspected the tyres. Bridgestone. Perfect.

Swapna cribs about the mileage. I agree that the FiaT Palio is not exactly known to give the largest number of miles per gallon of fuel, but then, I don't really care. Nor do I care about the fact that the rear windows cannot be lowered all the way. It's a FIAT, and FIATs worldwide sport this feature. Not that I would have cared much anyway, I am never going to sit in the back seat!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

United Champions Trophy 2006 - A Report

United Champions Trophy 2006 - A Report

Day 1 - Report by Somshubhra Paul

With HTMT pulling out of the tournament, TI had to play 3 matches in the group leagues, against HSBC, GE Healthcare & Times of India . All matches for TI were scheduled for day One. Two of the four teams were to qualify for the knock-out stages.


Match 1: Against HSBC

Fielding Clifford, Gavin, Mahit, Sujoy and Ashwani (Goalie) and with a bench consisting of Ashish & Som, TI started on a promising note. The first half consisted of some hard football, with Clifford hitting the post several times, Gavin getting angry with the opponents’ rough tactics, Gavin and Som replacing each other and Ashish coming in sometime later. The first half was dominated by TI almost till the end. Then HSBC struck and TI was down 0-1 at half-time.

The second half was not so good for TI as we conceded once again, and then Ashwani was fouled upon, to be taken out with a swollen hand. Again the referee chose to ignore the foul against TI. Ashish put on the gloves to replace Ashwani. One more goal was scored near the end of play, and TI went down 0-3 against HSBC.



Match 2: Against GE

This promised to be an easy game in TI’s favour, and turned out just as predicted. TI started scoring almost as soon as the first whistle was blown, and kept on scoring repeatedly till the long whistle at the end of the second half. Sharath started in the goal in Ashwani’s absence, with a promise from Clifford to take him off as soon as TI went up. The promise was kept after TI’s second goal, and the veteran Hemant donned his gloves to stand in front of the nets. It was Clifford’s aim to have everyone score, and he almost succeeded, with goals coming from Sujoy, Sharath, Ashish (2) and Clifford himself (4). TI won emphatically at 8-0.



Match 3: Against TOI

This was a do or die match for TI, who had to win to qualify. TOI had drawn with HSBC, which meant that they could qualify even with a draw. With that in mind, they started in a very defensive note, with TI making repeated attacks at the opponents’ goal. But against the run of play, TOI struck first (in the second half) through a mis-understanding between otherwise flawless Mahit and fill-in goalie Hemant. TI however came back strongly with a brilliant series of passes, covering both flanks, before Clifford smashed the ball in through the TOI goalies out-stretched arms. The game became very interesting at this point, with TOI trying to hold on somehow, while TI was trying to roll one ball into the opponents’ nets. After repeated accurate passing among the TI players, which didn’t result in any goals, the change of fortunes came dramatically with 30 seconds to go! A few quick passes between Clifford and Som took them near the opponents’ goal, and a sharp push from Som through the defender’s legs left Clifford with the ball in front of only the TOI goalkeeper. With the amazing calm, which only Clifford is capable of, he feigned the goalkeeper to one side, and pushed the ball in to the nets, through the other side. The final whistle came within seconds of this and TI qualified for the semis, having beaten TOI 2-1.



Day Two - Report by Anupam Roy

Semi Finals: Against TESCO

Playing against a controversial opponent TESCO, TI started the game in a defensive mood. Starting line-up included Sharath as the goal-keeper, Sujoy & Mahit in defence, Anupam in midfield & Clifford as our lone striker. Som, Amlendu & Hemant were there on the bench. Som substituted Anupam after 10 minutes which immediately changed the game, with Som & Clifford both going forward & causing quite a few problems in TESCO's defence. Amlendu then substituted Som. The first half ended scoreless.

The next half started brightly for TI. Sujoy was everywhere on the field, blocking shots, tackling players, passing the ball forward. Mahit was in superb form too. His romping runs from the defence to the other half were a treat to our eyes. The opponents looked pretty relaxed when Clifford, our super hero struck! (You must know he was a professional & has played for Churchill Brothers in Goa). TESCO realized that they had to do something but they could not beat Sharath even once. I don't remember "who" were substituted "when" in the 2nd half. TI grew in confidence as Clifford played some brilliant one-two with Som. TESCO's defence was once more in trouble but they survived as Anupam's lethal right footer could only manage to rattle the woodwork.

Then came the defining moment when Clifford struck again! The entire TI support-team (which included the wives of 3 of the players on the pitch) went crazy. TESCO tried to fight back. Their goalie made an interesting run from their goal in the dying minutes but TI coolly defended. TI won 2-0 & reached the finals!

MOM : Clifford.



Finals: Against HSBC

TI had played HSBC in the group matches. Though TI dominated the game, HSBC had won the match 3-0. Now these 2 teams have to play against each other once more! This time its a big, big clash! Time for revenge??

Starting 5 were the same as in the semis. It was a boring 1st five minutes, both sides playing very defensive. Clifford was injured but played through the pain barrier. He knew he was needed. Their attackers tried to muscle their way into TI's penalty box but as usual we were rock solid in our defence. As luck would have it, a brilliant pass from our opponent saw them score the 1st goal. A huge disappointment. We have to come back from behind! It didn't take much time before TI sparkled. A gentle touch from Som & ball was at Clifford's feet inside opponent's penalty area. Everyone knew what was to follow. The ball kissed the net & TI was level!

First half ended 1-1.

Second half was a physical encounter from the start. It was true that all the players were tired & rarely anyone tried anything new. Every individual was aware of the importance of every second & execution was simply superb. HSBC tried numerous substitutions but none worked. There were 2 incidents that forced the referee to flash yellow cards. The 1st one was shown to one of the HSBC defenders for pulling Clifford's shirt as he tried to make a run, down the left. I, personally, feel that it should have been a direct red, as he was the last defender & Clifford had gone past him. Then a similar incident occurred but this time in the heat of the moment Clifford shot the ball into the stands. A yellow card for him. The 2nd half saw no goals & we had to go for a penalty shootout.

Sadly, we had made a mistake. The last few minutes didn't include Anupam, a regular penalty taker, in the playing 5. This implies he can't shoot!

Tension was growing. Out of Som, Sujoy & Mahit, at least one of them had to shoot.

Shot 1 : HSBC scores.
Shot 2 : Clifford shoots but an extra ordinary save from their goalkeeper denies him.
TI supporters shocked!!
Shot 3 : HSBC scores again.
Shot 4 : Sharath (our goalie) shoots & scores! Excellent strike!
Hopes still alive!
Shot 5 : HSBC player shoots directly at Sharath. Jubilation for TI.
Shot 6 : Come on Sujoy! Must score. An exceptionally quiet Sujoy shoots.
It goes in! Yes it does! Sujoy regains his normal self as we can hear his voice once again. A controversial penalty, as HSBC players mob upon the referee claiming that the ball has hit the cross-bar and come out. TI players very calm, as they know that the referee has already blown his whistle for a goal. The ball HAD crossed the goal line before coming out.

Sudden death to follow!

Amlendu biting his nails, Mahit sitting on the ground helplessly (must be praying to the Almighty).

Shot 7 : HSBC No. 7 shoots, straight over the crossbar!
Shot 8 : Som steps ahead, goes for power, shoots! Believe me, it goes in!
HSBC shell-shocked. We didn't know what to do.
TI has actually won a corporate tournament!!

Celebration Details :
1) Som falls down on the horrible ground (not a glimpse of grass to be spotted anywhere!)
2) Sujoy, Clifford jump on him.
3) Others followed. (Even our heavy-weights Hemant & Sharath!)

TI, the winning team, lifts the cup!
Clap, clap, clap!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Fanaa

Fanaa...

...Stay clear of it!

If you are a hopeless Kajol fan, put an extra pin-up on your desktop instead. If you like to marvel at Amir Khan's acting skills, go see those re-runs once again.

And if you have to watch the movie, just because everyone else is, go watch it on a monday night 10:30PM show. At least that will give me the pleasure of knowing, I ain't the only sucker around!!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Dream

Sonu turned to her left and put her hand around the pillow. There was a smile on her lips and a content expression on her face. Life was good, at least in the dream that she was dreaming. Suddenly the shrill tone of the alarm bell pierced through her slumber, and brought her out into groggy wakefulness. She looked around surprised and at the alarm clock. Six AM only. Why had she put the alarm so early in the morning? Usually she never woke up before nine! As she was going back to snoozing after banging the alarm clock off, she suddenly remembered “Exam tomorrow!” She sat up suddenly, totally awake, and shouted, “Mummy!!”

The next hour and a half passed in a flurry of activities, bathing, freshening up, having breakfast, as her mother put everything in front of her. Finally, at seven thirty AM, she took out her book. A look at the fat book made her shudder. The topic was English, and she had not studied a page, yet! She made a quick calculation in her mind. Twenty four hours till the exam. Estimating about four hours for sleeping, and morning ablutions, she had twenty hours left. There were ten topics to cover. That meant that she could allow two hours per topic. She started with the first topic.

Soon she realized that all the material on that topic was not in one place. It was spread throughout the book. In dismay, she turned to the next topic. Soon she realized that all the topics were in the same state! In a state of despair, she shouted, “Mummy!!”
… …

Sonu was sitting in the examination hall. The invigilator was not yet in. She took out her pens and arranged them in a row. She tidied her desk up and got ready to write.

The last twenty four hours had been a period of frenzied activity which she could vaguely remember. Her mother had torn up the book into individual pages. Then she had put together the different topics, like Grammar in a bunch, Composition in a bunch and so on, and stapled the bunches. Her father had then taken these bunches and indexed them as per topic, and cross-referenced them with previous years’ question papers. She had taken up one chapter at a time and somehow she had managed to read all of it before stepping into the examination hall.

The invigilator came in. Everyone stood up to wish him a good morning. As everyone sat down, he went from bench to bench and distributed the question papers. Sonu took her paper and looked at it expectantly. She read the first question. She did not have any clue what it was about. She went to the next one. This one was also as unknown to her. She quickly skimmed through the rest of the question paper. Her heart started beating hard with anxiety. She did not have any idea about any of the questions. It was supposed to be an English examination, but the questions seemed to be all about the life of one person! None of it was there in the book that she had read.

The overhead speakers in the hall came to life, and an announcement was made. “In order to pay our respect to Rajkumar, who died yesterday, today’s exam will be on the life of Rajkumar. Thank you.”

- Adapted from a dream dreamt by my wife.

Rajkumar

I had posted a blog on the day Rajkumar passed away, but on further reflection, I found the post unsuitable for publication, so I removed it a day after publishing. Given the number of hits on the website in the 24 hours since I posted this article and before I removed it, several people must have read the post. So here is a brief explanation on why I removed it.

The whole incident where one person died of old age, and several thousand others, as a show of their grief, killed away 8 more, injured hundreds and damaged property worth millions, is of course ridiculous, outrageous, and many more –ous words. My feelings about the incident are still as strong at they were on the day all this happened. However, the post on the incident was more emotional than logical. And I pride myself to be a very logical person. In the same lines, I had accused a whole population of a crime which a handful had committed. So, I feel that the post does not deserve a place in this public blog.

I will post another article on the same issue, if I can get myself to type it out. This one will not have any emotional bantering and accusations.


And yes, although several people have read the post, I am removing it entirely on my own will. No one posted threatening comments, I received no threatening phone calls or sms-es, no one threatened to sue me, or burn IBM laptops in front of the IBM office, and no one promised to wipe away the Amazon rain-forest if I did not remove the post.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Football

People still ask me, “How?”

I still reply, in one word, “Football!”

They smile, grin, laugh out loud or stare incredulously. I smile back.

It has been four long weeks. Earlier, on an average fifty people used to ask me everyday. Then it became twenty. Now it is one or two per day. And I still smile and reply. I never knew I had so much patience with people!


It was four weeks ago. After a long day at work. The bus was at 7PM. There was a call at 7:30, which I had decided to take from home. As fate would have it, the call was not for me to attend.

There was still some time for the bus. We decided to do something different. We used to play football often in the evenings. We decided to shift our venue to the new sports building which is coming up near our office. It was not yet ready, work was still going on. The basketball court was almost ready. We decided to play there. It was much larger than the place where we usually play.

The game started in good spirit. Teams were distributed with the usual toss of hands! Everyone lift their arms, bring them down and hold them near waist height. Those who keep their palms facing downward are put in one team, the rest in the other. The toss is repeated till an appropriate combination is reached. We had an odd number of people that day, seven. So results were reached faster. I started in the four member team.

The game started like any other day. Subrato, Anant and Anupam were our opponents. The game was pretty even to start with. Anupam and Anant are two of our better players and in spite of being one player short, they matched us pretty evenly or more. Subrato’s extra enthusiasm more than overcame his lack of skills. I was particularly sluggish to start with that day. We also had the rookie Sachin in our team. Then there was Anand whose ventures in to the football field are about as sporadic as a solar eclipse. Santosh was of course there, but he could not match the combination of Anant and Anupam.

They scored a goal right at the beginning. A few wrong passes, total lack of any semblance of team work, and a few of the worst defense mistakes, and there we were, one goal down. This is where the memory gets a bit fuzzy. I think we scored back. Rather, I should say, I feel, we scored back. I don’t remember scoring or coming anywhere close to their goal. And then I became excited and launched into one of the better moves of my footballing career!

I trapped a ball at our defense area. I don’t remember whether it was a successful tackle or an intercept, but there I was with the ball, in our defense. The ball was bouncing, and not rolling. I had it perfectly in control. I lifted it over the head of Subrato, who was approaching me fast, rushed past him, and trapped the ball again. As I ambled along towards their goal, Subrato, incensed at being passed, charged at me. This was where the inherent snaily sluggishness of the human mind came into the picture.

If the mind could think really fast, I would have thought, “What’s the point of trying to out-run Subrato? Running fast on a hard surface is so dangerous! There is a chance of injury, and over the long run, even the knees may get over-stressed. I would be much better off if I were to slow down, let him pass, then maybe dribble past him. Of course I can dribble past him! And even if I cannot, what’s the big deal? I mean it’s only a game. It’s not like this is the end of the world! So I should slow down with the ball, maybe even stop.”

If the mind could think really fast, Subrato would have thought, “He is going really fast, probably faster than me. What can I do? Maybe I could pull his shirt and stop him? Nah! That would be unfair & unsporting. Maybe I should put my foot in front of him somehow. No, that wouldn’t do either. Whether I get the ball or not, I will bring him down. He may get injured. He is after all my friend, and more importantly, my supervisor! There is an off chance that I may just get the ball, but is it worth risking a serious impact on my career? Let alone my career, I don’t want to hurt him, he is such a nice guy! No that’s also out. Maybe, I could…”

But as my luck would have it, the human mind cannot think so fast. All I thought in those two seconds was, “Subrato! Run!!” And all Subrato thought was, “Stoppp!” So I ran, and he put a foot in front of me…

The rest happened as if in slow motion. Or perhaps the mind is capable of speeding up, but does so only at the wrong moments, just to jeer us! I saw Subrato putting his foot ahead of me. I moved the ball to my right foot and beyond his. I didn’t have enough time to change the line of motion of my left foot. It got caught in his foot. I could sense myself falling … the mind was fast, the body wasn’t. I couldn’t propel myself to a better position. I came down crashing at a hundred miles an hour, and hit the deck with my left elbow. I probably have a very strong left elbow, so not much happened to it. The force however, as Newton tells us, got transmitted through the bone, and pushed it out of the socket at the left shoulder.


It has been four long weeks. People still look at my arm in a sling, inside my shirt, and ask, “How”? At least one person asks me the same question every day. Today was no exception. I, however, changed my reply today!

I smiled and replied in one word, “Soccer!”

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Rain

Rain

On the walk back, it started to rain.

It was not a heavy deluge, as we usually encounter in our part of the world during the monsoons, it was not a light drizzle either, that one could care to not pay any attention to. The steady stream of water soaked us to the skin in a matter of minutes. Wet, shivering, teeth chattering, we trudged back along the hilly terrain, clutching each other's arms, and huddling together for warmth. The woods on both sides of the road looked fresh and green, newly washed! The smell of the wet soil mingled with the smell of the not-so-distant sea, we were on earth, but we were also in heaven.

We soon came back to the sea, and the hotel on its shores. It was still raining as hard. Through the vertical sheets of water, the sea loked strangely calm and inviting. She agreed that we could hardly be any wetter or colder than we already were! Still in each other's arms, we walked into the sea!

The greenish-blue carpet of still water was warm and comforting as we stepped in. She was afraid to go too far in. She doesn't know how to swim, and it took all my persuasive skills to walk in till we reached waist-deep water. There we sat, up to our necks under the calm sparkling surface, looking at each other, speaking softly into each others ears and laughing occasionally as one or the other would lose footing and fall. The steady torrent splashed continuously on the shimmering surface. Time was an illussion. The rest of the world was an illussion. There were only two lone, content souls in the middle of a wide green bay, and there the universe ended.

Paradise is there on earth and we had found ours. It was the perfect ending to the brief sojourn, before we were to make it back to the bustle of city life, to the hectic schedule of daily activities.