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Tuesday, October 8, 2019

The Rough Cut!


It was long overdue. The fact of the matter was that there was a problem in that very part of the anatomy that needed the action which therefore had to be postponed indefinitely. Paban’s wife had been complaining a lot; that he looked horribly ruffled, the overgrowth flowing all around uncontrollably and so on. She understood his problem, but looking at him in that state day after day she seemed to forget the unfortunate fact temporarily. Paban often explained to her, ‘Let me recover reasonably well first. Then I’ll definitely complete the task. Rest assured.’ But, as is the way with wives, her taunts, despair continued unabated, Paban accepted.  
Paban also had a somewhat contrasting situation. A few of his friends always appreciated his looks in that state and exclaimed that he really looked very handsome. One of them even took a snap of Paban at a family event, and displayed it proudly justifying his assertion. Paban also liked the way he looked. He showed the photo to his wife, but she remained expressionless. He was not at all surprised by her indifference.

One fine morning Paban felt that finally that long overdue action could well be carried out. So he set out to the nearest salon which was quite well kept and air-conditioned. Yes, it was his heady overgrowth that needed a cut. One of the young boys there made him sit in the empty spongy chair before the mirror and waited for his instructions. Paban told him very clearly that the hair had much overgrown and due to the summer heat he was facing lots of problems apart from losing control in setting it. So he gave strong instructions to make it very short. ‘No need for styles or looks, just make it short.’ The boy confirmed it again, and then set out with his operation. Paban expected the normal scissors to be used as on all earlier occasions. However, before he could foresee any lurking danger the boy lifted the motored hair cutting machine, and applied it on the right side of his head. The machine whirred around his right ear, and he still had no inkling of anything serious. He was rather happy that the machine, used for the first time on his head, didn’t at all scratch at the head skin.

Over with his right-side operation the boy stopped and asked Paban to take a look at the mirror and approve for the operation to be completed. Paban picked up his specs and looked at himself hopefully. He was in for a great shock. He never experienced such a tormenting sight in his entire hair-cutting history.

The machine almost cleaned him up on the right side leaving, perhaps, only the scalp. He was furious; more so because the boy was asking his approval only after completing the horrendous action. He calmed himself the next moment. It was my instruction to make it very short, he thought. How could the poor boy know what ‘shortness’ Paban exactly wanted? Then there was the overwhelming fact; with his right side shamefully bared he couldn’t possibly go for moderation on all other parts of the head. ‘You have totally destroyed me, exposed all my gray hairs too. Why didn’t you use the scissors? In all salons I visit they always use those manual things only. Anyway nothing can be done now, carry on, dear!’ Paban said sadly. The boy justified the faster speed and efficiency of the electronic device.

When Paban returned home his wife was out on some job. Seized with an almost vindictive desire he very tenderly took a selfie showing his head prominently and sent it to her mobile phone. Prompt came her angry reply, ‘Why did you leave that much hair? You should’ve cleaned up completely! You birdy bald!’
As it happened a few days later Paban met his photographer friend concerning some work. His friend immediately expressed his shock and dismay at the sight presented by Paban. ‘How can you do this? No respect for appreciating friends? How heavenly you looked the other day…and now!  My good God!’

Paban always had this dilemma regarding his hair cuts. Some, prominently his wife and mother, never approved his long uncontrollable hair saying the overgrowth hid his beautiful face. While some friends, both male and female, always appreciated his hair, particularly when overgrown. Who is right and who is wrong, is the eternal question in his mind. Once his wife made a caustic remark, ‘Don’t believe your friends. They don’t want you to look smart; they like to keep you as an ordinary nondescript person!’

Till this day Paban doesn’t have an answer.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Why You Like Being Liked!


Like, giving or receiving, is the quintessence of life. Life can be reduced only to strife if you do not like or get liked; of course, such a situation is rare in most of the lives lived on this likeable earth. At the very beginning, meaning when you are born, it remains uncertain if you like being born or before that being conceived in the womb; the situation becomes murkier because most babies cry after getting born, and it is considered  a healthy sign. Therefore, we will omit the very beginning of our life when, in any case, we don’t know why that ‘me’ gets into a particular womb through some particular external source amid billions and gets born into a particular family in a particular place on our likeable earth, and focus mainly on the ‘likes’ generated continuously throughout our conscious life and why we always like being liked.

We start liking our parents, particularly mom, our food, our relatives, our friends, our teachers, our gender-specific entities, our bosses, various objects ranging from gadgets to books to schools to colleges to jobs and so on, and likes for us emanate from all such sources; because, our likings always generate a positive ‘feel-good’ factor that keeps us kicking alive. Therefore, in this probably ‘likeable’ piece of writing we’ll concentrate on why we like it tremendously well when getting liked by other humans or animals or pets. We will keep ourselves fully safe from any kind of ‘disliking’ factors lurking in every ‘likeable’ corner; that is say; we dislike being disliked at that.

At a very young age we feel energetic when mom smiles sweetly at us and encourages us to take the first steps in life, and we erupt into endless giggles which make the art of walking all the easier. When a father likes our hand-written alphabets we feel so happy that we start making more efforts to produce more beautiful letters. Our mom looks heavenly when we make no bones about food and start taking healthy mouthfuls, and it makes us so joyful that we make a vow to always make her happy. When our class teacher smiles looking at our homework and utters his/her likes this very act makes us all the more striving students. When our friends like our birthday presents or other gifts we become better friends. On the playground as some of us show our unique expertise or intelligence our team building spirit gets a fillip.

In the various other more mature stages of life the voluminous story of ‘getting liked’ becomes more elaborate, productive and infectious, a bit too much for this writer’s comfort, and therefore, we will mention only a few significant situations. Examiner likes your answers, teacher announces, amid heavy tension, the marks obtained, and if you get the highest or very good marks you get enthralled and grateful; if you happen to exchange looks with members of the opposite gender, and those looks convert into smiles or talks you get an adrenaline charge, and teasing from your friends makes it all the more enjoyable, of course, sometimes a ‘like’ becomes ‘love’ which is, however, not included in this presentation; a faceless examiner somewhere gives you good marks for your answer paper for a job, you get a call for interview, interviewers like your personality and you get the job, and this makes you the happiest person in life; it is assumed you immensely like your spouse, and if the spouse gives back that ‘like’ or ‘love’ you find your life worth living; when your boss likes your works and recommends a promotion you are in the seventh heaven with insatiable energy and in the ensuing family life of being a father, being an uncle, being in-laws, being a grandfather and so on an expansive series of ‘likes’ get generated that keep you happy and happier. There could be many other situations when your creative contributions get liked and you become famous, through a delightful web of likes. Then, of course, there are the festivals, parties, get-togethers, family re-unions and the like where the likes generated are huge and deliciously infectious.

This ‘probably likeable’ piece would remain incomplete if we exclude the social media of today’s digital world from our purview. Well, in the social media there is a cut-throat competition for generating and devouring ‘likes’. If your post gets less than double-digit likes you normally won’t become unhappy, but will try better posts; more than ten likes will make you considerably happy and if you hit a century of likes you get charged up and ‘viral’ is the last word for your limitless like-generated happiness. However, there are certain unwritten rules for performing well in the social media—that you’ll have to be hyperactive on a continued basis, and you’ll have to like others a lot to generate likes for you. Therefore, a social media dictum emerges—like and get liked.

We have seen clearly how a like makes us happy at every stage of our life, and it is the best thing God has given us. We have not mentioned the word ‘appreciation’ which is also the best possible expression of positivity, because appreciation normally follows a like, in most of the situations. So we can look forward to having a species of ‘like-minded’ humans which can only be a good development on this suffering planet earth. There is also no harm to generalize the dictum evolving in the social media. Like and get liked. Happiness guaranteed.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Fade In, Fade Out...!—Part-6


My mind raging I look around aimlessly. My wife is sitting quietly beside me fiddling with her mobile phone, reclining against the hard back rest. Suddenly, my mind concentrates on our present situation. How long we had been sitting there? Did I doze off there for some time? If it happened like that did I dream about all the recent happenings? But how could that be; because we do not understand our present situation nor we know about our purpose of being there. And then, if indeed I dreamed had I woken up now? There is no way I could be sure of my wakefulness.                                                      
In a bid to bring about my deemed wakefulness I start pinching myself hard and harder, try shaking up my hands and legs; but nothing happens. Is this then an out-of-the-body experience? If it is so, then where is my existential body? I can still look at my physical self positioned there with my physical, seemingly, wife by my side. However, as I just narrated I am unable to get my body back to the deemed reality—by pinching, shaking up or lifting my body parts. At a sudden thought I try to touch my mobile phone tucked  in my pocket, and lo, I could still take it out and look at it; but I cannot dial any number or don’t remember any number. A scary thought creeps into my mind at that point of time.

Few years back I read a thrilling supernatural novel where the protagonist tried the out-of-the-body experience, and he succeeded in doing so. He was having a great time moving around like a wavy tuft of air seeing and meeting all kinds of characters without the earthly touch. All well so far for him as per the novel; but when the protagonist had had enough and wanted to re-enter his body he failed to do so. He was really getting desperate, looking for all kinds of possible solutions. To my consternation I can no longer remember how he got back into his body in the novel.

Am I in a similar kind of situation? Sense of trepidation rising within me I try to cough up an earthly conversation with unusually quiet wife—smiling at her, cajoling and teasing her. A cold sweat seems to have accumulated all over my body when my attempts miserably fail to elicit any response from her. I then try to relax pushing myself against the hard marble back rest of the bench, and surprisingly I can feel my back touching it. What the hell is happening with me?

I now decide to get into a mood of surrendering, absolutely; giving myself up to whatever force is supposedly controlling me. Wait and watch; be vigilant and alert to any possibility that may finally convert me into a reality, I start thinking fervently.

Of course, hope refuses to die down. This cannot be so utterly meaningless. Something is bound to happen, for the good I suppose. Perhaps I am sleeping physically somewhere and very soon I am going to wake up and find everything normal and earthy. Perhaps not, and in that eventuality I am in for more adventures in my so-called ethereal self, if at all. Again, I indulge myself in violent body movements and shake-ups; but to no avail. I look at my wrist watch, but time holds no value or meaning for me at that time. I look at my wife; she seems to be in a daze. I think of God. Save our souls, oh Lord! I start the act of surrendering to Him all over again.

Hope trickles in once more. I try to inculcate it in a most positive way. I read a lot of books on powers of positive thinking earlier, and many times succeeded in visualizing situations that were definitely unknown to my conscious knowledge. I start trying hard keeping up that spirit. I get up, take few steps here and there, and again come back to the bench with my wife. There are lot of people, maybe passengers, moving around in the area, but nobody seems to take any notice of us, and I also feel no urge at all talking to any of them. Don’t know why. Maybe something real is going to happen very soon...

                                                                                                                  (Concluded. ?)

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Fade In, Fade Out...!—Part-5


Two yards more to overcome...and I would be a free man, at least for the time being. I could no longer hear his laughter and dared not look back. Perhaps he really appreciated my gesture in not using the opportunity offered by the falling gun; that he was only joking about ‘good guys’ and that he was not going to shoot me down at all. On the other hand, had any murders taken place at the hotel afterwards I would have been a prime witness as I had seen all three thugs from close quarters. In that eventuality I would remain a marked man for eternity. But there was no way to know it for a certainty. Anyway, it would be very clear very soon.

I nearly stopped at the final point of the curve, gripped by persisting tension and fear. Taking an instant resolve to make the final dash to escape I rounded the turning successfully. No shots rang out in the air. And then I ran...I ran like a rabbit in pursuit, releasing the built-up tension and relishing my escape. Surprisingly, I never got out of breath; running at that kind of break-neck speed seemed effortless for me. I didn’t bother about that. What I bothered about was to forego my supper, get back to the guest house at any cost and sleep out that horrible night.

And I lost my way. The landscape was entirely different; it seemed to be a forest road with dense overgrowth on both sides, and I had no indicators to find my way back to the guest house. Suddenly, I confronted a steep rise in the road ahead. I stopped running and started climbing, again effortlessly. As I reached the highest point of the incline I stopped, and looked ahead expectantly. However, a new world was waiting to greet me in.

There opened before me the vast expanse of modernity—a big city with multi-lane brilliantly-lit streets, flyovers, high rises, shopping malls and hundreds and hundreds of vehicles moving both ways. I was stunned, utterly failing to react. Basically because I never expected such a spectacle, and after being confronted with that I found absolutely no clue to recognize that city which seemed to have materialized out of nowhere. I never knew the existence of such a big city so near to the town of our known guest house. That was another point that night when my mind was finally about to get out of control. So I applied all the common sense available to me, and decided to act to the best of my interest.

I moved along the street controlling my intense urge to ask the faceless pedestrians the name of the city. Perhaps my ego prevented me from doing that, because I was supposed to be a frequent traveler, at least within India, and it was utterly insulting for me not to have any idea about a huge city just a walk away from my latest destination. I also reasoned inside my mind that I would find out very soon.

My expectations soared as I saw a sprawling bus stand on my right which to my mind seemed to be an inter-state bus terminus. I quickly crossed over to the other side of the road, and entered the campus looking for ticket counters with possible names of stations or destinations. I got angry, frustrated and depressed not being able to find any indicator that could have satiated my quest. I stood still in the middle of the expansive concrete floor, not knowing what to do. I thought of queuing up in a counter and talk to the booking clerk; but what would I ask him having no idea where I was or where I was to go. I could be an absolute laughing stock; I decided to drop the idea.

Somebody called me out from behind sending a cold chill down my spine. For some time I froze not daring to look back, not able to move a muscle, such was the shock and surprise inherent in that sound. Because the sound was very familiar; it had been an integral part of me; it was inseparable from me; there was no way not to recognize that sound. It was my wife, my dearest life-partner of more than twenty years calling me out in her sweet tone.

Finally I whirled around, and there she stood, smiling sweetly at me, with no mark of any tension or surprise or anxiety or indignation or sentiment. It was I who started having most of these emotions. What she was doing there? Why she was there? I left her at home hale and hearty only last evening, and suddenly she stood there before me like an apparition. Again I had to apply full control so that my already tortured mind did not go raving out. Her calmness and naturalness also had an impact on my future course of action.

I decided to act normally too. Of course, I asked her what she was doing there to which she gave some incoherent reply, and I decided against pursuing it. Instead, we walked together towards a marble bench carved out of the side wall of the building, and sat down talking about nothing in particular. And then my mind started talking, talking rapid, and raging insane...

                                                                                                              (To Be Continued...)

Thursday, August 29, 2019

The Connecting Train!


I was supremely confident that the connecting train would wait for us. Our first train was running five hours late, and the onward connecting train was to leave from the big junction at about three hours after the scheduled arrival of our train. Most of the passengers booked for that train gave up hope. I tried my best to infuse confidence in them by pointing out the obvious fact that our reservation tickets showed confirmed births on the connecting train, and therefore, it was a sacred obligation on the part of the Indian Railways to make the train wait for us. Some of the depressed co-passengers believed in me. I was not only mistaken but was colossally being naive.

Yes, the connecting train left on the scheduled departure time, more than two hours before our final arrival, leaving us stranded for the night at the station waiting room. Of course, the ticket was valid and it was adjusted in the train leaving early morning next day for our destination. This was the first case of missing the connecting train, and it was by a huge margin.

The next time, we boarded the same train to connect the same train at the big junction for our onward journey; we were much closer to catching it—missing it by just an hour. And the same routine followed at the station for the early morning train. It happened for the third time in a row, and the third time was a real big chase of sorts.

That third time our train was running two hours late, and so we were very hopeful of catching the connecting train, because the time difference was three hours. The nail-biting chase began when we reached a small station about 30 kilometres from the big junction. The train was a little less than two hours late now, and it needed only half an hour more to complete the journey so as to yield us enough time to board the connecting train. We got busy packing up, feeling elated that finally we were going to make it on our third attempt.

However, the rail gods had some other plans for us hapless souls. The train, a superfast one, continued to wait at the nondescript station...for minutes...half hour...and more. We were getting really worried as the buffer time we had was drying out fast and furious. Now we started debating loud, and louder with ire and great irritation. Some experienced souls opined that the platform clearance was not given perhaps due to heavy local train traffic or maybe some other issues like goods train movement or derailment. Nothing helped though as our irritation gave way to plain simple anger.

Finally, our train started moving with less than half an hour time margin for the connecting train as far as we were concerned. It made good progress picking up great speed, giving us a renewed lease of hope. We were sure of making it when it reached the multi-track entry point of the big junction. And then, it stopped again for the final clearance.

We started praying, ‘Please let the connecting train leave a few minutes late...please... dear rail god!’ Perhaps as an answer to our prayers the train moved again on its final leg. We rushed to the doorway with our luggage anticipating which way the platform would come. We discussed our plan of action: two or three passengers would run immediately for the platform of the connecting, board it and pull the chain while the rest of us would come in the rear with the combined luggage. I was part of the more responsible ‘luggage’ team.

As we entered the platform we watched in horror the train leaving the platform, maybe about 7 minutes from its scheduled departure time. However, we saw two passengers of our advance team managing to hop into a coach. So, we kept moving hoping the train to stop any moment now. Unfortunately, nothing happened. The connecting train just disappeared in front of our disbelieving eyes. We were left stranded there with more baggage for comfort.

We took good care of the luggage, taking turns for sleep in the waiting room floor. Early morning we boarded the other train as on earlier occasions. At the junction midway on the route the two passengers without luggage getting no benefit by making it to the connecting train, having to spend hours at the new station floor joined us. I immediately asked them, ‘Why didn’t you pull the chain?’ They said they pulled all the chains available inside the coach, but none of these worked or perhaps their action was ignored by the railway authorities.

We took a solemn pledge, never ever to try that particular pair of trains again. And we did stick to our pledge to this very day. We learnt to be shrewd, reasonable and wise—go for any connecting train when the time gap between the pair is at least 10 hours or more.

Monday, July 15, 2019

ICC Cricket World Cup-2019 Final: The Ultimate Thriller Where England Become New World Champions As Per Rules!

Photo: espncricinfo.com
Very rarely you get to watch such a thrilling one-day encounter, an ICC Cricket World Cup final at that! Further, it a was low scoring game where New Zealand won the toss and naturally elected to bat, and struggled and struggled and stuttered to get to a score of 240 in full fifty overs which never looked like a winning total a la the  hype created over the so-called 300+  pitches of the world event. However, in light of the semi final match against India when NZ gave a target of just 239 runs and won it, plus the pressures of a World Cup final the target of 241 for England was a challenging one on a pitch that was termed as ‘tricky’ by confused commentators. The essence of the game as was felt by all cricket lovers was that none of the teams was willing to give away an inch. It was, throughout the entire duration of the match, an outstanding display of seam bowling and super class fielding by both England and New Zealand. Even neutral fans were hooked as the probable winners changed every minute till the last ball of the 100th over and then the Super Over. For the first time in the history of world cricket we had witnessed a tied match in 100 overs and also a tied match in the deciding Super Over. But one team had to win to lift the coveted trophy, and so the rules regarding maximum boundaries hit by a team in their innings and the super over were applied. And, as per those rules England was declared the new World Cricket Champions.

A debate is still raging on all over the globe on the fairness of the rules. Well, when rules are being framed scepticism and opposition should come then and there, and not after the set rules were applied. The very Super Over rule was actually more apt for T20 tournaments and for IPL. The revellers for the shortest format never uttered a word when such rules were set by the ICC. Now all are saying NZ has been done a great injustice or that there should have been joint winners. In my view, both teams had their bits of luck and chances to win the match. England needed 3 runs from 2 balls in the 100th over which is considered cakewalk in the modern world of cricket, but could only tie. New Zealand also needed 3 runs from 2 balls in the super over, and could only tie. Hence, what was wrong in applying the set rules? In all instances when teams win by 1 run or 1 wicket similar painful thoughts always haunt you, particularly when it’s your favourite team that suffers such a fate. On a day one team becomes the winner, and there is no question of justice or injustice being done. It is also common to see sixes cut off by splendid catches on the boundary line or crossing the boundary after catching it successfully, and also the overthrows going to the boundary.


Whereas no team in this incredible final encounter deserved to lose England did become the Champions thanks to their nerve and brilliance, and therefore nobody should grudge their celebrations. The intensely competitive fight by the New Zealanders will remain in public memory for a long time, and the team must surge ahead for the ultimate glory in coming years. It’s not for nothing that Ken Williamson was declared the Player of the Tournament. India’s Rohit Sharma made an unbelievable record of 5 tons in a single World Cup, but couldn't go ahead to make his team win the games that mattered finally. These are all part of this beautiful game of cricket. Last thought is that the ICC should not mix up rules for all formats and should emphatically separate the ‘populist’ T20 format from the classic formats of Tests and ODIs. 

Saturday, July 13, 2019

ICC Cricket World Cup-2019: New World Champions to Emerge Tomorrow!

Photo: espncricinfo.com
A new World Champions emerges tomorrow at Lord’s in the ICC Cricket World Cup-2019 Final match to be played between England and New Zealand. Neither England nor NZ ever became Champions before, although both coming close several times. England had been playing semi finals in the first five versions of the World Cup since 1975, and they had been runners-ups three times of those five occasions, never able to win the final. They played a semi final last in 1992 and lost it, never able to make to the last four stage since then. 

On the other hand New Zealand played 7 semi finals including the present one and the first two in 1975 and 1979, and had been runners-up only once in the 2015 version when they lost to their big brother Australia. They had been playing good cricket in several world cups, but mostly they had been facing an inconsistent run of wins/losses. In this version they looked the dominant team, but eventually lost badly to Pakistan, Australia and England. Their surprise win over India in the semi final ultimately saw them through. 

Therefore, both the teams would be desperate not to let go of this golden opportunity. More so, England on their home ground and looking to end a bad spell running more than 27 years. On paper, England looks the favorite on the basis of their batting and bowling. However, they also had to account for inconsistencies in terms of losses to Pakistan, Australia and a lowly Sri Lanka. Of course their last three wins over India, New Zealand in the league stage and over Australia in the second semi final were resoundingly convincing. In fact, in the second semi final Australia were so thoroughly outplayed that I cannot recall another occasion when the fighting Aussies gave up so meekly. We expect a cracker of a Final on Sunday, the 14th of July, 2019. 

Meanwhile in India, the pain-induced speculations ruled the roost. Nobody really expected such a poor show by arguably the best team in the tournament, so close to winning it the third time. However, to me the result was not entirely unexpected; in a warm-up match they beat India convincingly; their league match got washed out depriving India of  a real opportunity to assess their seam bowlers and the India batsmen failed to expect and prepare for the ‘three Bumrahs’ in New Zealand. Further for me, the single biggest setback for India was the loss of injured opener Shikhar Dhawan at the very outset thus throwing the gates open for ‘experimentation’ that went on relentlessly for more than two years prior to the tournament. As I feared in another piece of mine here assessment on the basis of IPL records proved to be the only course, and not ODI records of players like Ambati Rayudu who had been India’s no. 4 in the last two years in most of the ODI matches. 

I think the no.4 ‘crisis’ was created artificially; I won’t go into reasons why. The team management could easily have made MS Dhoni as the ideal no.4 batsman, thus avoiding the unnecessary ‘slow batting’ controversy putting the veteran as a misplaced ‘finisher’ instead of the natural pinch hitters like Pant and Pandiya who got, horrifyingly, promoted ahead of Dhoni. Then, they should’ve gone for a sixth bowler option preferring Shami in lieu of Dinesh Karthik who is definitely now at the end of the road, not able to take advantage of the opportunities offered including the biggest one at the semi final. The matches against England and New Zealand we had been watching helplessly as Chahal or Kuldeep had to be bowled their full quota despite the rains of runs yielded by them. One more fact is that the Indian top four invariably failed in knockout matches in recent years; this was more pronounced in the absence of Dhawan at the first semi final against NZ. 

This will never end as far as India is concerned. So, better concentrate on enjoying an engaging final tomorrow. 

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