Thursday, April 10, 2014

Field of dreams

On his blog, Harsha Bhogle waxed nostalgic about Fateh Maidan.

(© Getty Images)
Harsha's memories of the stadium are from an insider's perspective, since he had access as a commentator long after he ceased visiting it as a spectator.
The Lal Bahadur Stadium was like that to us, except that nobody called it by that name. It was always the Fateh Maidan or the “stadium”. It was holy, it was the home of cricket, it was ours. I saw my first match there, played on a turf wicket there for the first time and my first commentary session was there too. Do I give the impression that the pillars spoke to me? I might have thought it was so…once.
Around that time I had first set foot in the commentary box, like the dressing room, a much hyped place made special only by the people within it. All of 19 and wearing a twenty rupee t-shirt, a pair of jeans and rubber slippers, I had done my audition there. It was where Shyam Karwande and HK Srinivas sat and talked about the “Hill Fort End”, Naubat Pahad to everyone else. In my audition I said “Hill Fort End” and felt special too.
It called me back often and I grew to like the little area, only a little bigger than a cubicle with two wide windows we looked through. It was where the first step had been taken, it was mine
My memories are more of the Fateh Maidan Club, whose Tandoori chicken and parantha are unmatched in my memory. I guess I was spoiled at a young age - I have never been able to enjoy either of those food items since then as what I have pales in significance with the FMC items. Even after all these years, I  can still taste them, if that makes sense.

I watched a few matches at Fateh Maidan. Two stand out in memory. There was a game against the Australians where RP Singh (the other one) began his international career with a maiden over and little else about his bowling was remarkable. Australia batted first, Bruce Reid read a Sidney Sheldon book (for once I had good seats in a section right next to the Australian players), and a torrential downpour forced the match to be abandoned soon after my hero, Mohammad Azharuddin, came in to bat. I walked home from there as I did not feel like fighting the crowd at the bus stop and I was already soaking wet. Back then it did not seem too far away to walk home. Those of you who know the distance will know it took me a while to do so. And it rained all the way home!

The second one against the Kiwis holds better cricketing memories for me - I got to watch Azharuddin play a sublime innings filled with boundaries, Richard Hadlee found swing where no one else did, and Arshad Ayub pleased the locals with a few wickets. That inning of Azhar's was enough to fill me with a lifetime of good memories and thoughts about the fellow, all his subsequent (alleged) shenanigans notwithstanding.

Sitting at the far end of the ground, diametrically opposite to the FMC end, I did not know then that my life would change in a few months. I have never been to an international match at a stadium since. In hindsight, I am glad that those days at Fateh Maidan remain my last memories of a day spent watching a Test match.

P.S. Here is another recollection of the glory days of Fateh Maidan from former South Zone offspinner V Ramnarayan.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A futuristic past

During my Morgantown days, my favorite mode of transportation was the Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) - an 8-seater, electric-motor driven, automatic transportation system that connects 5 different points on the West Virginia University campus.

(Michlaovic 2010)
In spite of being built in the mid-1970's, the PRT still feels like it belongs to the future. A safe, convenient way to move from one end of campus to the other, I am surprised more cities, especially smaller ones who cannot afford (or need) a full-fledged subway or train system, haven't looked at it as a viable people-mover option.

(Jae69376  2011)
If you are ever in Morgantown, take a ride on this marvel. It will be worth your time, I promise.
(If you want to see a 1977 video about the PRT, click here).

Friday, January 17, 2014

TGIF: Songs to hum - 6

On Friday afternoons, after I am done teaching for the week, I sit in my office, put my feet up on my desk, lean back in my chair and softly hum songs to myself, unwinding and releasing the built-up tension of the week so far. Youtube is a good companion during these times and I have my own version of Chitrahaar, with the songs following some unfathomable pattern, changing per my mood and wishes.  (Previous TGIF posts are here).

Note:  The links may be broken as Youtube links tend to come and go.  I apologize in advance if that happens here.

Here is today's trip through Youtube:

1) My absolute favorite song of 2013 was Tum Hi Ho from Aashiqui 2, sung by Arijit Singh.  I did not see the movie but have seen/heard this song innumerable times.

2)  By the way, if you want to hear all the songs and also find out how Aashiqui 2 starts, begins, and ends you can watch this video of all the songs and some of the dialogues.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Splash or splat?

Acrophobia (heights) and Aquaphobia (drowning) are my two biggest fears.  Later this year, in a park near where I live, I may get a chance to conquer both of them at the same time.

I present to you, without any further comment - Verr├╝ckt in Kansas City :

(In case you are wondering about the chances of me ever being on that ride: No way, no how!)

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Mad Dog and the Big Hurt

I have never really followed Major League Baseball too closely and it has been exactly 5 years since I even paid attention to the scores or highlights.  After I moved to Chicago two baseball players with connections to Chicago held my interest.  Greg Maddux, a pitcher, and Frank Thomas, a first baseman for the White Sox.

Maddux had been a Cy Young award winning pitcher for the Cubs who had been unsigned by the Cubs, paving the way for the Atlanta Braves to grab him.  Maddux would win the Cy Young for the next three years as well underscoring how badly the Cubs had misjudged his greatness.  Frank Thomas was a huge (6' 5", 240 pounds) hitter who was as good a singles hitter as he was a slugger.

Even as their careers wound down and they changed teams, I kept track of the box scores just to see how they were doing.  Maddux finally ended with 355 wins, one more than Roger Clemens which pleased me no end (and still does even today)!

Yesterday, in their first year of eligibility Maddux and Thomas were voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  A perfect ending to my "association" with them.

Someday I will tell you of the one time I went to see Thomas play live.  I was more fortunate with Maddux, seeing him pitch multiple times, including a 9 inning gem where he did not give up a single run and still did not win the game!  That game - on August 28th, 2002 - remains my favorite baseball game.  I had a seat right behind home place at PNC Park in Pittsburgh and got to watch Maddux unveil a 100 pitch masterpiece.  When he left in the 9th inning the score was 0-0!

Maddux was not only a good pitcher, he was also a great fielder, winning the Golden Glove a record 18 times.  Think about it, for 18 different years he was best fielding pitcher in baseball.  A testament to his longevity and excellence at that position.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

2013: Year in Review - Jaw-dropping movie "fact"

Henry Cavill's Superman outfit was not enhanced in any way in Man of Steel - those are really his muscles underneath the costume.  'Nuff said.

(Digital Trends 2013)

2013: Year in Review - Pet peeve

As the years have progressed, movie directors have pushed the boundaries of what is acceptable to be shown/visualized on-screen.  But sometimes, just because you can film something does not mean it is "entertaining".

A common theme that has emerged in recent superhero movies (be it the Hollywood variety - The Avengers, Iron Man, etc. or even the Bollywood kind - Krrish 3, Dhoom 3, etc.) is the "battle" between the main characters.  Earlier, the destruction of cities and buildings and, by proxy, humans was reserved for natural disasters such as comets or meteorites crashing into the earth.

But not any more.  The zenith (or nadir, if you will) of these scenes was the final battle between Superman and General Zod in Man of Steel.  One of the most enduring legacies of Superman was his wish to protect human life at any cost.  Look at the following video and try to figure out how many lives were lost before the General was eliminated.  Oddly, it seems that the General's fatal mistake was to target a family.  As long as he was only destroying buildings (and the people within them) Superman appeared content to simply trade body blows with him.

What bothers me is that human lives appear to not have any value, especially if they are eliminated en masse.

(Note how much destruction has already been wrought on Metropolis by this point.  And it is not a vacant city as you can see from the cars that are moving on the roads and the people clearly still milling about).

P.S. And yes, I will admit that the entire premise of my favorite movie of the year was the destruction of everything human-made  in outer space but I will submit that the loss of human life was restricted to the astronauts at the start of the episode and was treated with great seriousness.

Monday, January 06, 2014

2013: Year in review - My favorite movie

The next few posts will discuss some of the things that caught my attention (mostly positive, some negative) in the year gone by.  I am leading off with my favorite movie of the year.

These were the top-10 grossing movies in Hollywood:
1. Iron Man 3
2. Despicable Me 2
3. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
4. Fast & Furious 6
5. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
6. Monsters University
7. Man of Steel
8. Gravity
9. Frozen
10. Thor: The Dark World

Of the top 10, I saw 6.  Not a bad ratio for me.  The ones I missed were Despicable Me 2 (since I have not seen the first one), The Hobbit (No interest whatsoever after the ponderous Lord of the Rings trilogy left me cold, Monsters University (liked the original too much to ruin the memories), and Frozen (I am a Pixar snob, what can I say?  Though I may well end up watching this one.  (I will revisit the Top 10 in a separate post with some pet peeves and concerns).

Among the Bollywood releases, I liked Kai Po Che!, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (not the ending, though, as it reinforced stereotypes that I think it is time Hindi movies got away from), Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (even though it was too heavy-handed and syrupy), and Dhoom 3 (more on this and Krrish 3 in the afore-mentioned separate post).

But, by far, my favorite movie of the year was one that featured just two actors, one of whom is there for only about a third of the screentime.  Strap your seat belts and watch this extended preview first:

Some movies are meant to be seen on the big screen.  This one definitely was. Wow.  The movie combined my love of astronomy/outer-space with my fear of being adrift with no one but myself to pull off a rescue.  Sandra Bullock and George Cloony give Gravity the right amount of heft and their persona is so likable you start rooting for them within minutes.

If the movie is running in a nearby theater, go see it.  Don't worry about the 3D. The movie is a combination of an edge-of-the-seat thriller, how-dun-it with some spectacular visual effects and perfect acting.

I could tell you more but that would only spoil the fun.