Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Blowing with the wind

I remember Sanjay Manjrekar once saying, very presciently, that the crowds in India are not fans of cricket, they are fans of Indian cricket. Suresh Menon has finally cottoned onto that fact in his latest article.
Now we expect Tendulkar to score a century every time he goes out to bat. This modern great has been jeered at in his own hometown, Mumbai. The Indian captain has been booed in Kolkata. Indian spectators expect too much from their players, and are not shy of expressing their disappointment when things go wrong. Nor do they find it necessary to cheer a visiting player when he performs. This is embarrassing.
India's fandom can be summed up in the reaction to Mahendra Singh Dhoni. When India bowed out of the World Cup in 2007, the walls of his house under construction were pulled down and stones were pelted. Now his fans want to build a temple where he is the presiding deity. Enough said

When the vultures begin to circle...

Matthew Hayden has been pulverizing bowling attacks around the world for almost a decade but the runs have not been flowing as easily of late. Everybody relishes the role of kicking a bully on the way down, and Christian Ryan does not hold back any punches in this opinion piece, accusing Hayden of being a glorified Gorgie Porgie, running away when the boys come out to play.
England had Steve Harmison, Andrew Flintoff, Simon Jones and Matthew Hoggard, and for four Tests Hayden had the horrors. In the fifth Test he played an innings most curious. He edged and groped and miscued and scratched at imaginary scuff marks and edged some more. Australia needed desperately to win. But Hayden went off twice for bad light and was outscored by Justin Langer and draped 138 runs over three murk-affected days. And when the Test was over, the Ashes lost, the selectors let him stay in the team.

The hundreds resumed, at the same rate as before, built on the same method too: one giant step forward, then one brutal swing. He made half the textbook look obsolete. Back-foot play? Why bother, mate? The bowlers once more had a happy malleability about them. The trends of the time seemed to suit him: helmets, dead pitches, few quicks, fewer swingers. The old West Indian awesome foursome was by now a clueless threesome. Dillons, Drakeses, Collinses, Lawsons, Blignauts, Ervines, Mahwires, Agarkars, Nehras and Zoysas abounded. Hayden hundreds abounded, as well.

And then, three months ago, he encountered a bowler named Zaheer. Another named Ishant. Then Southee and Steyn and Ntini. And when critics now ask him what has changed in three months, it is possible he still thinks: "Only your mind
Of course, I would have been more impressed if Mr. Ryan had published this while Hayden was still on top, and not on the way down.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

To cut a long story short

Of late, I have gravitated towards collections of short-stories instead of 1000 page novels. A combination of a shortening attention span and a distinct lack of extended reading time has forced this change in my reading preferences.

I have quite a few books at home that are in my to-read list, but I find the quicker pace and faster conclusion of a short-story much more appealing. Strange since I find that my interest in cricket remains in direct proportion to the duration of the game.

The website,, has come out with a collection of short-stories by various Indian authors for their year-end issue, with the simple brief that the stories have to be about "excess", as explained by Jabberwock on his blog.

As ML was telling me recently, there appear to be two types of Indian writers - those that write for a western audience, and those that write for any audience. The stories in this anthology are a mix of both types. I have not read all of them, so I will reserve my comments until I do that. Until then, enjoy the stories by clicking on the link for the stories. (Once again, these are short-stories linked to the site where they are published from -

Siddhartha by Altaf Tyrewala

Feast by Manjula Padmanabhan

Same Day by Mridula Koshy

The Decline Of Henrietta by Tishani Doshi

The Good Boy by Rajorshi Chakraborti:

Mrs Roberts by Ruskin Bond:

Anatomy Of Excess by Amruta Patil

Sweetlove (recovered) by Sunetra Gupta

Rosie by Vivek Narayanan

Paraphilia by Ambarish Satwik

The Perfect Couple by Sarnath Banerjee

Hanging On Like Death by Anjum Hasan

My House Is Your House by Sudeep Chakravarti

Strawberries Are White by Kalpish Ratna

Monday, December 22, 2008

Muggle time

A few weeks ago I discussed the Tales of Beedle the Bard, JK Rowling's latest book from the world of Harry Potter (sort of).

I loved the stories in the book, as I did the Harry Potter books. Each of the five tales have the classic JKR touch - simple enough that kids can get it, but complicated enough that adults can enjoy them, too. This is a tough thing to do, but she seems to have a finger on the pulse of her readers and this book does not disappoint, either.

I do not want to discuss the tales themselves as I do not want to ruin it if you have not read them. But I will say that she does not pretend that children cannot take adult concepts seriously. By not condescending to the children, whom the tales are directed towards, she does us all a favor by making the stories fun to read. This book is basically a children's book directed towards an adult audience.

Everyone will have their favorite story. Two stories stand out for me - The Warlock's Hairy Heart and The Fountain of Fair Fortune.

Buy the book and read it!

Friday, December 19, 2008

The calm in the midst of a storm

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius - and a lot of courage - to move in the opposite direction.
E. F. Schumacher

A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don't necessarily want to go, but ought to be.
Rosalynn Carter
It's no secret that I have a great deal of admiration for MS Dhoni, more for his captaincy than his game (though I am a big admirer of that aspect, too).

For a man who trolled the railway platforms as a ticket collector a few years ago, Dhoni has come a long way and has taken to the role of a leader like a duck to water. Earlier, I had written about Dhoni's leadership skills and how he makes more sense than most people who make a living on lecture tours where they talk about what it takes to be a great leader.

Lest someone starts thinking that being the captain of a team is as easy as showing up for the toss and throwing the ball to the bowlers, Dhoni reminds them that they are in for a rude awakening. As Dhoni points out in this article, it takes more than just instinct and luck to be a good captain - you also need to have a sense of the right moment to strike.
"Nothing is easy, I can assure you of that," said Dhoni with a smile when asked if this whole captaincy business was a lark. "International cricket is tough. Yes, if you do have a good side, if the side is doing everything right, it looks a bit easy. I think it's just that the team is playing really well."
Seizing an opportunity when it presents itself is easy. But seizing it after you have created that very opening is true leadership.

Spitting into the wind

I have never hidden my admiration for Aakash Chopra, and have even advocated a major role for him in the current Indian set up.

A few days ago the BCCI announced the latest list of contracted players. Many fringe players made it, but there was one omission that went largely unreported - Aakash Chopra was quietly dropped from the Grade D (the lowest grade possible). (Siddharth Mongia explores this in more detail in this piece).

To say Aakash Chopra was stung by the vote of no-confidence is an understatement. On his CricInfo blog, Aakash puts forward a very compelling case for why he deserved a longer run, clearly showing that the BCCI only pays lip service to the domestic game. I fear the writing is on the wall, and Aakash Chopra will never play for India again and the loss is entirely Indian cricket's. Shame on you, BCCI.
Initially, the list of contracted players was limited to the top players in the country, and it had no more than 25 players spread over three grades. But last year the BCCI went a step further, and included the players who were doing really well in the domestic circuit. It was a great gesture from the BCCI, and it rewarded a lot of players for their performances. Well, everyone can't be playing for the country at the same time, and hence getting a contract was a huge encouragement. Once you have the contract, contrary to popular belief, not only does it bring the money and security, but it also adds to the motivation to do well, knowing that you're in the loop and would be rewarded again if you do well.

Last year with the contract under my belt, I was all geared up for the season and played with the single-mindedness of proving right the decision to back me. It was a great feeling to be back in the loop after three years of wandering in the wilderness after getting dropped from the national side. It was good to be back.

I went on to score 1339 runs at 60 runs per innings in the longer format, and was the highest run-getter in the season with three double-centuries and two centuries. Incidentally, my tally was the fourth-highest in a single season in the history of Indian first-class cricket. I was lucky to add three unbeaten centuries in the shorter format, taking my season's tally to nearly 1700 runs.

(...) The new list of contracted players was announced three days ago. I was disheartened not to find my name in the list. For the last couple of days I was mulling over what must have gone against me. Did I not score enough runs in that period? Was I supposed to do something more? And after two days of brainstorming, I am still as confused as I was earlier. If I was disheartened earlier, now I was positively lost. I really don't know how to react to the news of not finding my name in the list. It was, after all, meant to be the reward of doing well in the contract period. One part of me still believes that my name must have been forgotten, as I've always had faith in the system where one performs and gets rewarded. Questions are plenty, but answers are none.
No surprisingly, Aakash Chopra is back at it again, scoring runs and keeping Delhi's hopes of defending it's Ranji Trophy triumph alive, by leading from the front as captain and opening batsman.

Good guys rarely finish first, but I'm rooting for this one to buckle the trend.

It takes a village-r

India chased down a daunting total to win the first Test against England. The win was engineered by the trigger-happy Virender Sehwag. MS Dhoni admitted as much in the post-match interview when he said that had Sehwag not fired, India would have played for a draw. Yet, the rest of the fine folks who report on the game seem to think that the entire team shared Sehwag's will to win. I hope I am wrong in thinking so, but there is only one uncluttered mind in the Indian dressing room and he plunders his runs from the opener's spot.

(Incidentally, South Africa is in a similar predicament in their Test against Australia but they do not seem to have the belief that they can win).

Here are some of the items caught my eye in the aftermath of the famous win in Chennai.
a) Sambit Bal, fast becoming one of my favorite cricket writers, thinks that the only team that believed it could win, did so.

b) Sachin Tendulkar's history of disappearing in the crunch was put to the test and this time he came through for what may end up being the signature century of his glittering career. Afterwards, he spoke about the moment and what it meant to him and millions of other folks.

c) The Englishmen were left to look for slender positives from the game. Simply showing up to play has to considered a win for them.

d) Sanjay Manjrekar provides the Indian viewpoint, as only he can.

e) The elephant in the room that no one wanted to talk about was not the failure of Rahul Dravid to score any runs, but rather the failure of the premier spinner on either side to fair well on a pitch that should have supported them immensely. The boy named Mudhsuden is the one that copped the most flak, but the person who deserved more criticism for his non-show was the Turbanator, Harbhajan Singh. Michael Atherton brings this up in his match review.
After England's defeat, the spotlight has been trained on Monty Panesar, but before he is condemned to the gallows in the rush to promote Adil Rashid, it might be instructive to compare him with India's spinners. Harbhajan has played 73 Test matches to Panesar's 34 and he has taken 193 more wickets than Panesar. He was also in the groove, having played a Test series against Australia and a one-day series against England. Panesar, bedevilled by bad luck and his non-selection in England's one-day team, had not twitched his index finger competitively for the best part of four months.

Even though Harbhajan was in form, bowling at a ground he knows well and at batsmen short of match practice, he made little impression. I am not entirely sure that Harbhajan is the bowler he used to be, now that an overextended use of the doosra - the ball that spins to the off - has affected his ability to drift and spin his stock ball, the off spinner. Nevertheless, England, and Andrew Strauss in particular, played him superbly well
f) Peter Roebuck, who is more engrossed in the Australia-South Africa, does find the time to talk about the Chennai Test in his distinctive style.
Judging from their responses to his vivid innings, England had not previously seen Virender Sehwag at his most audacious. Bear in mind that 12 months ago he had lost his place in the side. Australians, on the other hand, are well aware of his powers. Now he caused such disarray in the opposing ranks that in a trice fieldsmen were running hither and thither, most of them ever further from the bat. Yet Sehwag is no mere thrasher. Rather, he is an intelligent and consistent batsman who has managed to remain instinctive and creative. It is a most unusual combination. He is not remotely as barmy as he seems. Although he was removed before stumps, he had given the Indian innings its momentum and caused a furrowing of brows in the England camp.
g) To me, the best of them all was this extensive piece by Prem Panicker who, when his mind is focused on cricket, still cranks out well-thought out pieces that should be circulated to the cricket teams he dissects so well.
In the second innings, the team starts strong, but then two determined batsmen take the game away with controlled performances. At close on the third day the opposition is 247 ahead with seven wickets in hand; at lunch on day four that lead has been stretched to 319, seven still remaining in the hut.

Even occasional followers of Indian cricket will effortlessly recall dozens of such instances; they will recall, too, the inevitable denouement: India falls back on ‘defence’, which in context means spreading the field out and protecting the boundaries [‘They won’t mind the singles too much, it is the boundaries that will hurt’, commentators invariably say at such moments]. The result: the lead mounts, the home team’s hangdog air of oh shoot, we stuffed this up, let’s somehow get the misery over and done with, tomorrow is another day and another Test becomes more pronounced, and fans give up the ghost and go off to see if they can get tickets to Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi.

Not this time. For the second time in four Tests as captain, MS Dhoni employs his own version of active defence, packing one side of the field with placements aimed to make a monumental struggle out of every single taken. The bowlers all read from the same page, unwaveringly bowling the lines scripted by the think tank and operating with the fields set. The result – momentum snatched away [23 overs, 57 runs, 5 wickets] at just that precise point in the game when, in earlier times, the opposition tended to run berserk and bat India entirely out of the game.

And then the final, most welcome change: The team and its coach talk not of “saving the game” and “taking it session by session and seeing where we are” but of winning the game. Its buccaneer in residence then walks out to play an innings that would have attracted comment in a one-day situation, and was downright implausible in context of a Test match
h) Finally, as the 5th day was playing out, Prem Panicker blogged about it, leading off with a brilliant treatise on the man who could be the king of them all if he (Sehwag) is able to duplicate the feats of the first half of his career. He provides a lesson from the past to shed some light on cricket's last gunslinger.
To call Sehwag’s batting “instinctive” – that is, an atavistic response to a situation that is not based on thought or prior experience and do not depend on prior learning – is to call it wrong: Sehwag’s secret is not that he does not think, but that he has cleared the clutter and reduced thought to its barest, most necessary essentials.

In his connection, I always think of one particular example – and it relates to when England came touring under Nasser Hussain. Sehwag, then batting low down the order, was sitting in the dressing room, fretting at the sight of his senior colleagues “tackling” Ashley Giles’ round the wicket, wide of leg stump line with their pads, butts and other parts of the anatomy.

In course of an eruption of profanity of which saala is the only quotable word, Sehwag blasted his mates and, in prĂ©cis, said wait till I get out there, I’ll teach that &#%%$ a lesson.

Sure enough, his chance came. He greeted Giles with a murderous mow that almost decapitated short square leg, followed it up with a clinical reverse sweep, ran down the wicket to loft him over midwicket, charged down again to hit inside out over extra cover – and in the space of three overs, forced Hussain to take Giles out of the attack.

That was not “instinctive”, as the dictionary defines “instinct”. Rather, it was the result of Sehwag reducing the game to its essence: There was, he realized, no percentage in standing there watching the balls go by. Nor, given that line, was there the danger of his getting out bowled or leg before. That left “caught” – and reduced it to a straight contest between a bowler clearly unsure of his ability to effectively bowl the more attacking lines, against a batsman confident of his own mastery of the grammar of batsmanship

Slow news day

Sometimes you wonder what goes through a copy editor's mind. I cannot imagine anyone making dinner reservations in anticipation of a promotion for okaying a story as mundane as this one! Really, I'd like to meet the intrepid reporter who "scooped" this story.

The headline says it all: Saina gets her passport renewed.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The greatest nightwatchman ever

Yes, cricket is back on this blog after a month-long hiatus.

Virender Sehwag. What a player. May that glint never leave his eye. Where other batsman see two slips, a gully, point, cover, extra-cover and mid-off, Sehwag sees gaps. Where others see roads to failure, this man sees opportunities. No third man? Okay, here's the upper-cut. Seven fielders on the off? No problem, here comes the slog sweep to midwicket.

What sets him apart from anyone else in cricket today (now that a certain flap-eared Aussie keeper has retired) is that he is always looking to score runs. Always. A knock against Sehwag has been his inability to perform in the second innings. Well, don't look, but since he was resurrected to the Indian side in Perth early this year, in the second innings he has scored 617 runs at an average of 51-plus, with 1 century and 4 fifties in 12 innings.

Sehwag almost single-handedly brought India back into the match. Now they have a more-than-manageable 256 runs in 90 overs equation to negotiate on the last day. If I was the bowling team and I saw that Gambhir, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Yuvraj, and Dhoni were still there, I'd be more than a little worried. (For more insight on how Sehwag thinks, check out CricInfo).

When Sehwag got out, Dhoni sent in Dravid to negotiate the last few overs of the day. Dhoni must be hoping that a combination of pride and muscle-memory will reignite Dravid's batting, which is currently in the doldrums.

By the way, Chennai spectators, please don't bother showing up tomorrow for the final day's play. If you could not be there to support the Indian team when things were not going their way, you have no right to come in there on the last day and create a ruckus. Or at least if you do, then please have the humility to admit that you gave up on the team for 4 days. It's sad that only cheerleaders and glitzy colors under artificial light can bring you to the stadia. This Test match has been as gripping as any in recent memory and was played in front of largely-empty stands.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

'Tis that time of the year

Sometimes I go to movies just to watch the previews. The anticipation they build up is far greater than the thrill of watching most of the movies themselves. Ever since I heard that Christian Bale was signed up to star in the reinventing of the Terminator franchise, I've been waiting for the movies. Here's a preview of the first movie, which is expected to do to the Terminator story what Batman Begins and Casino Royale did to their respective series.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

A method in his acting

In my previous post, I had alluded to Aamir Khan's thought process when he chooses his roles. Here is a blog post in which he describes how and why he chooses the roles he does. Read it in its entirety. In it he describes one scene from Fanaa where he explains how he approached the scene. Very fascinating.

Also, read this posting on how he conceived and created Bhuvan and his mannerisms for Lagaan. Here is a guy who puts a lot of thought into the roles he chooses.
Creating Bhuvan was tricky because he is such an all round good guy. No weaknesses. Characters like this have a tendency to get boring. I began at his core. What is his strongest quality? What is the quality about him that stands out the most? Based on the script I felt it was his inner strength. He's got tremendous courage, inner strength and resolve. How do I project that physically? I went for two imp body signals for this. One I kept my back ramrod straight at all times. I consciously avoided stooping or slumping my back. Two, I divided my body weight equally on both legs. Meaning, I avoided standing with my weight on one leg. So, feet shoulder length apart, weight evenly distributed on both legs, back straight and head held high, not too high (makes you look proud). That's the classic Bhuvan posture.

A dish best served cold

For many months now, I have been waiting eagerly for Aamir Khan's next release - Ghajini. The wait is almost over. I have seen the Tamil original and from Aamir Khan's (now-defunct) blog I understand that the weakest link in the movie - the drawn out ending and "surprise" element - has been discarded. His blog also gives an interesting insight into how Aamir thinks about the roles he chooses.
When I was offered GHAJINI I didn't take it very seriously as I'm not usually keen on remakes. But when I saw the film I really loved it. I did not like the last 30 mts of the film but despite that the film had worked for me. I was not sure that I shoiuld do it as I had a problem with the end of the film, also I was not sure that it was my kind of film. (...) On the script level while we have stuck to the Tamil original for the most part we have made changes to the villian track, and have changed the last 30 odd mts of the film including the climax.

(...) While discussing the film I expressed my doubts, I felt that maybe I was not the right actor for the film. He (Surya) just brushed aside my doubts and insisted that I was the right person for the Hindi remake. But what sealed it for me was my meeting with the director. He is a really spirited young director and I was very impressed meeting him. He has a really nice vibe around him and a very sharp instinct towards his work. Importantly, when I expressed my reservations regarding the end of the film he did not hesitate in seconding that he too was not very happy with that portion, and that in the remake thats the portion that he felt we needed to rework. Having made sure that we were on the same page and feeling a great amount of comfort in Murgadoss I went ahead with my decision.

(...) For those of you who have asked me why I don't have any problems doing a remake of a Hollywood film..., its NOT a remake. Watch both films and see for yourself. In my opinion this is a GENUINE case of 'inspired from', and nothing beyond that. Murgadoss has written a completely different and original screenplay and he should get the due credit for his work.
The previews look good and I hope I can see it on a big screen around Christmas. Until then, trailers like this will keep me going.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Coveting the uncovetable

I have never wanted anyone's job as much as I did Siddharth Mongia's when I read this article on CricInfo. This sounds like a perfect day of work to me.

Someday, someday...

Quietly fades the don

2008 is turning out to be a sad year for me. Earlier this year Graeme Hick retired (I think I've mentioned this once or twice!) and now news filters in that Greg Maddux is on his way out, too.

Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated has penned a perfect tribute to the man who made me follow the scoreboard once every five days during the baseball season.
The magic show is over. I dislike absolutes, but of this I am sure: Greg Maddux is the most fascinating interview, the smartest baseball player and the most highly formed baseball player I have encountered in 27 years covering major league baseball. There is no one alive who ever practiced the craft of pitching better than Maddux.

(...) Maddux was the genuine article, a ballplayer evolved to the highest form. It is fitting that he is the winningest pitcher alive, an honor he should keep up to his very last breath. This appreciation, not by accident, made no mention of any career statistic of Maddux, no more than you would cite records sold to describe the voice of Sinatra. Maddux is synonymous with the art of pitching. He was that good. Never again will we see, or hear, anyone quite like him.
Not to be outdone, Gene Wojciechowski of has a different way of paying tribute, too. Just as interesting to read, nevertheless.
In 1996, just before Maddux and the Atlanta Braves faced the New York Yankees in the World Series, pitching coach Leo Mazzone met with his starters and relievers and read them the detailed scouting reports. Maddux raised his hand after Mazzone read the report on Yankees slugger Bernie Williams.
"That report is not correct," Maddux said. "I've been watching film of Williams for two weeks, and that report is not correct."
"Did everybody hear that?" Mazzone said.
The Braves pitchers nodded.
"Well, then the hell with this report," Mazzone said. "We go with what Mad Dog says."
Williams hit .167 in the Series.

(...) He wasn't unprofessional enough. Maddux probably could have squeezed another season and paycheck out of that 42-year-old right arm of his. Others would have taken the money. But not Mr. Integrity.
Nope. Won't miss him at all.
Until spring training 2009.
My last reason to follow baseball is gone. Quietly. Just the way he pitched games.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Needling the thread

JK Rowling has taken a major plot point of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to fashion a children's book out of it. Tales of Beedle the Bard is a book in Book 7 that is bequeathed to Hermione Granger.

Using the ruse that Hermione translated the tales from ancient runes, JKR produces 5 innovative children's tales. Each one is different, most of them having macabre elements that get resolved by the end of the story in such a way that the gory bits do not seem that gory at all.

The stories still carry JKR's punch and inventiveness and are fun to read. There are just 5 tales in the book and it is a quick read. Which is why JKR has an additional section after every story under the guise of them being "notes by Albus Dumbledore". While these provide more details and extend the book, they are a deterrent to the story. The Dumbledore comments are longer than the stories and don't really add anything to the HP lore. Those that are not familiar with it will not understand the text anyway, so the purpose of these additions is perplexing. Moreover, the notes try to explain the meaning of the story which is a tad condescending to the reader since the stories are so well written the "moral" of the tale comes through pretty easily. By dumbing it down, she has actually made it worse to read.

I suspect that the publisher's insisted she have additional text in order to make it a bigger book so they could charge more for it. If that was the case, then it only served to weaken the impact of the stories. If it was just JKR's doing, then the finger that she had on a child's pulse has slipped just a little bit.

(I have intentionally not reviewed any of the tales as I'd like you to discover the stories for yourself).

Friday, December 05, 2008

Mailing it in

I follow a lot of cricket and have become quite good at reading between the lines of scorecards. So when I open a "report" that describes how the day's play progressed, I am looking for something that enlightens me beyond what a casual perusal of the scorecard will give.

Reports like this one are all over the place. They are utterly useless and do not provide any new information or insight into the day's proceedings. Sadly this is the norm rather than the exception.

A monkey with access to a scorecard could have written this article. Did it?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Thanksgiving Trip - Day 5: Moment of epiphany

Leaving Colorado Springs was not an easy task, a prospect that became evident as soon as hotel room door was opened in the morning.

Driving in a heavy snowfall is still one of my favorite times to drive, but I could have done without the snail's pace at which progress was made by the traffic around me.

Since the storm front was heading east, it turned into a race. One that took a good four hours for me to win.

Even though the bad weather was left behind, the winds ahead of the storm front buffeted and shook the van all the way home. Along the highway wayward tumbleweed raced across the road, reminiscent of scenes from a prison break, usually missing getting crushed, but not always!

And with that the road trip came to an end. I did get a lot of time to soak in the Rockies. No natural sight stirs me as much as snow-capped mountains. I hope I get a chance to finish my last days surrounded by mountains just like these, many decades from now.

Standing at the base of the Rockies I had a sudden insight into what Reacher exactly meant when he realized why the two fictional towns were named Hope and Despair in Nothing to Lose.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Thanksgiving Trip - Day 4: A drive in the clouds

Leaving Santa Fe was not easy as the clouds clung to the roads, occasionally clearing away to reveal a snow-decked landscape.

Eventually, as the altitude decreased, the sun began to exert a bigger influence on the proceedings, and the eastern plains took over, a golden expanse that must have been awe-inspiring and alluring to the early settlers.

But when in Colorado, the mountains cannot be too far away, and soon enough they began to appear, far away at first but nearer and nearer as Colorado Springs got closer.

Colorado Springs is a vibrant city nestled in the foothills of the Rockies, with Pike's Peak prominently overlooking the settlement.

The MLC Lady Warriors (in black and orange) were playing a game in Colorado Springs and were lustily cheered onto an impressive 98-56 win over Principia College Panthers.

Playing at the higher altitude is no laughing matter, and the hosts were kind enough to prominently remind the visitors of this.

No trip to Colorado Springs will be complete without a visit to the rock formations lovingly referred to as the Garden of the Gods.

The fading sunlight was still enough to capture some of the majestic beauty of the unique rock formations. (Click here for more details of the park).

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Thanksgiving Trip - Day 3: Attritional beauty

South-west of Santa Fe the highway (I-25) curls towards the Rockies again. About 40 miles south of the city are some rock formations that must be seen to be believed.

The place to go to is...

The road to get there is not a standard one, but if a Chevy Uplander can make it, almost any car can.

You get a sense of how different the formations are from a distance.

There are a few trails that wind through the park, including this one - Canyon trail - that begins innocuously, but has a steep 630 foot climb to the top.

The view from the top is worth the climb - very gorgeous and surreal.
These cacti are everywhere along the trail.

After that a drive through Santa Fe is almost anti-climactic. The houses are mostly flat-topped, with solid brick walls that would not be out of place in any Indian city.

The hub of Santa Fe is the Plaza, in the shadows of snow-covered mountains, where one can buy all sorts of things. A shoppers paradise, especially since the street vendors are willing to haggle over the price.

In spite of being the oldest capital city in North America, Santa Fe does have links to a galaxy far, far away.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Thanksgiving Trip - Day 2: Roadside roam-eo

After spending the entire first day in the car en route to Colorado Springs, a good night's rest was had at a comfortable motel, in the foothills of the Rockies.

The initial part of the drive the next day towards Santa Fe, New Mexico, was quite scenic and the Rockies stood to the right, proudly guarding the western frontier.

Occasionally, a dormant tree or two would show up as a reminder that it was not all plain sailing to the east.

Eventually, the plains gave way to some higher ground and even as the Rockies receded in the background...

...the weather took a turn for the worse and most of the sightseeing on the rest of the day was the old-fashioned way - a drive-by shooting.  

The snowfall left behind a powdered landscape that was no less alluring. Driving through the changing landscape was peaceful, rush hour traffic notwithstanding.

Crossing the higher elevations changed the scenery only to the extent of hiding all the mountains...

...only occasionally lifting the hemline of the skirting clouds to show what was behind the condensed water vapor.

Eventually, late afternoon on Thanksgiving Thursday, the city of Santa Fe was reached.

It got dark soon after that and photo-taking was stopped. A recon mission around the city was undertaken after a late lunch, followed by a quick dinner, and some rest to recharge the batteries for a trip on Day 3 to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument.