As Shelby Ford v Ferrari so shall be India v Australia!

The Indian cricket team recorded one of the most remarkable come-from-behind victories in sports by beating Australia in the recently concluded Test Match series. πŸ‘ Made all the more memorable by the fact Indian team was playing away, with Australian team having the advantage of home conditions and crowd support, and by the time the last match started the Indian cricket team had lost more than half their starting eleven to injuries sustained in games played during the tour or in training! With injuries mounting Team India was akin to an undersized Joe Frazier taking on much bigger and much more fancied Ali in “Thrilla in Manila” and fighting the last few rounds virtually blind due to his eyes closing from Ali punches in earlier rounds. Under the circumstances it would have been expected that the Indian management might throw in the towel to prevent more serious injuries like the Foreman team did then. Instead the Indian cricket team rose up after each knockdown and took the fight to the Australians till the end, emerging bruised and battered but not broken and eventually victorious πŸ‘Œ (Trivia: If Frazier corner had let him fight as he wanted to he would have won Thrilla in Manila as Ali was so drained out he could barely stand up and fell down in the ring after the 14th round when he was announced as the victor πŸ˜“)

The series victory would be akin to a Porsche getting lapped in NΓΌrburgring, no less, by a car barely put together with whatever spare parts were available! Or, the real life equivalent of Shelby Ford emerging victorious over much more fancied Ferrari in the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans. As in that race the underdog team, the Indian cricket team, started the tour disastrously and still found enough strength and resolve to defeat the Aussies confidently and convincingly. It was as if God ordained “As Shelby Ford v Ferrari in 1966 so shall be India v Australia in 2021”! πŸ™‚

The quality of cricket itself was far from perfect, yet the battles to gain supremacy were riveting and thrilling throughout. So much so that the series went full distance with the final battle still being fought till the last fifteen minutes of a four-month long tour. The ebbs and flows add to the beauty of 5-day cricket Test matches when the two sides keep trading blows and battle fair and hard to force a result. The Aussies are great front runners and play aggressive cricket. They deserve credit for playing fast cricket and taking risks in pursuit of victory. The times when 5 days of cricket were producing dull draws are pretty much gone, save for a few when weather curtails play. The cricketing world can thank the trash-talking (they call it sledging Down Under), sports-crazy Aussies for possibly saving the longer form of cricket. The way the Aussies play their cricket their Plan A-Z all involve aggression. This is also their Achilles’ heel as they find it hard to adapt and change to a more defensive play during the course of a game when things don’t go their way. This trend has become more noticeable in recent times. I have maintained, past few years, the Australian cricket team are very much beatable at home. What it requires is a mix of caution (to frustrate) and aggression (to prevent them from getting on top). The way they play their cricket and the Indian team does too plus the dry conditions which swings the cricket ball less gives India a chance to stay competitive if they combine caution and aggression and maintain discipline. Not easy but doable if maintained consistently at a very high level even though results are not guaranteed. That’s what the Indian cricket team managed to do in this tour and fortune favors the brave. πŸ‘

Ultimately it’s just a sport, albeit being a glorious sport, and sporting achievement is about teams and individuals getting sporting glory which is theirs primarily. πŸ‘ Doesn’t solve any major problems or save lives but what it does is expand our understanding of possibilities for individuals and teams in terms of what is achievable. During these turbulent times that’s priceless πŸ™

Another Spiritual Journey

Recently visited Mumbai in India after a few years. Every visit to India is quite an experience and this time was no different. After living in a small town in the US for many years I myself now have to follow the advice I give to folks from here who are traveling to India for the first time: Be prepared for the sight and sounds and go with an open mind just to soak in the atmosphere. The sight of so many people and the sound of traffic can be intimidating for the first time visitor as it is even for someone like me born and raised there. Like other great, major cities of the world Mumbai is always buzzing with activity and change is the only constant. Where once a 10-storey building might have towered like a giant a decade ago the same building might look like a runt of the litter now. And I am talking about distant suburbs on the outskirts of the city and towns outside the city limits! The pace of change is so rapid I could hardly recognize surroundings that I was once familiar with. In a land once known for mystics and spiritualism today capitalism is well and truly alive and kicking πŸ™‚

It was good to catch up with folks old and new. Folks from earlier generation appeared to have grown much older (I am sure they felt the same about me πŸ˜€ ). Met batchmates from school and college and it was good to see everyone doing well in their professions. Visited my alma mater and even there old is making way for new as school is being redeveloped for a newer and bigger version to meet the need of changing times. It was good to see neighbors drop by and offer help to parents, respect for elders is very much present. Some even insisted on being given opportunity to help. One main difference between West and East is the individualized culture of the West compared to the community culture of the East. Not to say one is better than the other but it is just a different way of living. Vertical expansion has led to many high rise buildings all over the city and beyond. Which brings its own good and bad. Taller structures have led to green spaces within the community. To cater to the high end buyers businesses have also set shop nearby which obviates the need to go downtown or midtown for shopping or entertainment. Flip side is additional demand on resources which the existing infrastructure is not geared to handle and lot of traffic increasing local travel time. Multiple road projects going on simultaneously also adding to commuter woes. Real estate prices have gone through the roof too. Always amazed and thankful for the time friends make to meet for anyone visiting from outside though. The spirit of the city lives on though in citizens who put up with a lot and still find it in them to care and share.

Yours truly likes to go for walks occasionally. The experience of walking, be it in a wooded area or in anonymity in a crowded street, is spiritual. One either takes in the beauty of surroundings or just learns to stay unaffected by the crowd or noise and be a dispassionate observer. Which helps in developing into a non-judgmental observer and taking everything in one’s stride. In one such walk I got lost. πŸ˜€ For the ride back home I hired an auto rickshaw. The driver was from different part of town, not familiar with the area I was in. He asked me to show the direction and I ended up seeing half the town as we tried to make it to my place asking folks along the way for directions couple of times πŸ˜€ Did not have time to try more such adventures. All in all the whole visit was quite a ride with some new connections made, some old connections severed and a few connections revived. Which is what life is about: making new memories, erasing some and remembering some old memorable memories. On my return it was great to see my wife receive me at the airport and be back in surroundings that are more familiar now. It was good to be there and it’s good be back. Life is a journey generating a ton of memories along the way to last a lifetime!

Childhood Heroes

Everyone needs a hero figure, someone to look up to. The heroes are supposed to inspire and trigger aspirations of those who read about them. Growing up in India my heroes were in the pages of Amar Chitra Katha and Chandamama. Both these publications were meant for the young readers, rich in pictures and high on tales of valor, wit and wisdom depending on who the historical protagonist happened to be in a particular story.

The pictures in Amar Chitra Katha were colorful and the accompanying words always seemed to add value and substance. The pictures were like music painting a colorful mosaic providing the context for the text which were like vocals describing the story and fully resonating with the readers keeping them engaged till the last page. The images in those books left a lasting impression. Seared into my memory are illustrations of how the rishis (the wise sages) looked. All the rishis sported luxuriant growth of mustache and free flowing beard with thick black hair tied into a bun at the top of the head. On one hand they would carry rosaries and on the other a kamandalu (oblong water container with a nice handle at the top for carrying it with ease). You better be quite hirsute to convince me you are a sage πŸ˜€ Creating those pictures by hand must have been a painstaking effort and I was always amazed at the consistent look achieved in those books.

Chandamama had less pictures compared to Amar Chitra Katha books, it had its own charm. Less pictures meant more reading material which is what one wants when younger, right? πŸ™‚ The images that were there painted a picture of an idyllic India with abundance of greenery where learning was more one on one with the guru (teacher) and in communion with nature. The 2 regular features in Chandamama I remember are “Legends and parables of India” which featured allegorical tales and the other feature was “Tales of Vikramaditya”. Vikramditya was a wise king cursed with living in the forest for 6 months for every 6 months spent in his kingdom. The tales always had a picture of Vikramaditya carrying a ghost on his back who would ask the king very difficult questions. If the wise king answered correctly the ghost would be off his back, if answered wrong his head would explode into a zillion pieces and he would experience a very painful death.
Needless to say the wise king would always answer the questions correctly with wit, wisdom and a very thoughtful explanation leaving readers awaiting for the next edition for more of the good stuff. I need to read again the tales to see if the ghost is actually a metaphor for bad karma which carries over.

The creators of those stories and TV series like “Dora the Explorer”, “Spongebob Squarepants” etc deserve kudos for their ability to understand the needs of their audience and producing a very satisfying experience!
Teachers in elementary school deserve special praise too for understanding the needs of kids and moulding their learning experience.

These days my heroes often tend to be regular folks who perform heroic deeds in their own way!