Saturday, January 29, 2011

Andy Murray v/s Boston Red Sox

Two of the sporting world's greatest droughts belong to places that begin and end with the same letters: Boston and Britain. Boston's ended in 2004; Britain's will end this year.

We put the Red in Union Jack
The Boston Red Sox is one of the top baseball teams in the U.S. However, their turning point came in 1918 when, after winning the World Series, they sold legendary player Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees. For the next 86 years, they didn't win another World Series.

Britain hosts one of the greatest tournaments in the world of tennis: Wimbledon. However, the last men's Grand Slam champion they produced was Fred Perry in 1936. The turning point? He turned professional after winning the U.S. Open that year and no male Briton has ever won any of the top four tournaments in the world since.

The Scot Andy Murray plays Serbian Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open men's final on Sunday. Will he end Britain's drought? No, but he will end it later this year. Here are the reasons why.

I'm shipping up to Boston
The Red Sox got to the final hurdle - the World Series - four times after 1918. They were beaten in 1946 by Enos Slaughter's "mad dash", nearly achieved the "Impossible Dream" in 1967, lost in 1975 despite Carlton Fisk's "waving fair" homer and let the championship slip through Bill Buckner's legs in 1986. They finally won on their fifth attempt in 2004.

I'd like to draw attention to a couple of facts.

  • Boston lost four finals and won the fifth.
  • They lost their third final in 1975, their fourth final in 1986 and ended the drought after 86 years.

Andy Murray is now playing in his third Grand Slam final, after the 2008 U.S. Open and last year's Australian Open. Britain has not had a men's Grand Slam winner in 75 years. Hence, my predictions are as follows.

  • Andy Murray will lose his third final in this, the 75th year of the drought.
  • He will, however, end the drought after 75 years; hence, he will win later this year.

Essentially, Britain are currently operating one level behind Boston and are perfectly poised for history to repeat itself, albeit one rung earlier.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Jaipur Lit. Fest Is Free

When we use the word 'Free' with any product or service, it almost always refers to the monetary price one would have to pay for its consumption. Having just returned from the Jaipur Literature Festival, I can attest that this maxim is woefully inadequate.

The JLF does proclaim 'Free Entry'. Anybody and everybody can walk in to the Diggi Palace Hotel Compound and attend any of the hour-long sessions that take place over eight hours everyday for five days, including the three-hour music sessions every evening.

But, JLF's freedom extends well beyond mere free walking rights.

There are no beeping machines at the entrance that I had to walk through, ready to swoop in on you like children in a game of 'apples and oranges'. No men in khaki performed a body-sweep with a diviner, as if seeking treasure. My bags weren't required to be kept in a locker at the entrance. My bags weren't opened and scanned through. I could literally walk anywhere in the festival and nobody bothered me, no restrictions hindered me. And it was the same with the other 50,000 people who attended the festival.

My friend took a couple of minutes to realise that he was standing next to Kapil Sibal at the music concert one evening. Kabir Bedi sat swaying to the music at a table and conducted a genial conversation with an elderly gentleman who sat next to him. Jon Lee Anderson and Junot Diaz stood with beers in hand. These are people who rock their respective worlds - political, social, literary - and there they are, mingling with everyone else, as normal as anybody else, there for the arts.

The barriers had been broken. The walls had been demolished. Everybody who was in the Jaipur Literature Festival was on an equal footing, were on the same level. All that was requested of people was common sense and courtesy, and they responded, all 50,000 of them. They were trusted and given self-responsibility and they repaid that faith many times over.

Literature flourished, and suddenly, the world really was flat.

A Tennis Point Is Like A Woman

Written in the style of Ernest Hemingway.
"A tennis point is like a woman," said Anand. "If I was a tennis coach, that's what I'd tell my players."

Bala continued watching the TV. He didn't bother asking for an explanation. He was not weary of Anand, but he didn't ask him to explain. When the commercials came on, Anand resumed.

"When the point begins, you have moments to figure out how you're going to play her. Forget the aces; you're out of their league. And double faults are low-life scums. But the rallies; the rallies are where you play the game and score."

Live coverage resumed, but Anand kept going.

"Is she an easy one? Can I go for a winner early? Or does she play hard-to-get, throwing all your moves back in your face?"

Bala increased the volume. Anand fell silent.

"You always support the champions, don't you?" asked Anand.
"What do you mean?"
"The winners. You always support the guys who are definitely going to win."
"No I don't."
"Sure you do. Who do you support in this match?"

"When have you ever supported a challenger?" asked Anand.
"Why do you support challengers? Don't you want to back a winner?"
"It's about the underdog, man. I support the underdog."

Monday, January 17, 2011


"She was built with curves like the hull of a racing yacht."
- Ernest Hemingway in The Sun Also Rises.

The international personal care brand, Dove, exhorts us to "talk to your daughter before the beauty industry does".

What about our sons?

Aren't they exposed to the same relentless barrage of visuals, where buxom women cavort in skimpy clothes, flaunting bodies that are heavily toned and tanned, aiming to be 'hot' and 'sexy'?

If our daughters are going to base their lives on looking like the plastic, made-up women they see on screen and in glossy pictures, it's because they believe that our sons are going to only want women who look like that. And our sons are going to only want women like that because they see the beefed-up men on screen get women like that, based solely on looks and nothing else. The existing notion, that is getting perpetuated to dangerous levels, is that the pinnacle of womanhood is a lissome twenty-something with great hair who wears a lot of make-up, has large round breasts, an ass that curves like the headlamps on a sixties' racing car and a waist that is small enough to wrap your hands twice around. And her mid-riff needs to be as flat as a washboard.

It's a very Barbie-doll kind of image that is not only impossible to maintain, it's pointless. It's little wonder then that the man who married today's twenty-something hottie is shopping for another twenty-something hottie twenty years later, once the first one's looks change. It's because he's lusting after the physical evidence of the woman, the notion of the 'perfect woman' that is advertised in visual media. The sad part is that the man's actions are not frowned upon by society, but rather, they are celebrated as 'a second coming', 'a fresh lease of life', 'a rediscovery of youth'. And there is the added bonus of becoming a better-looking couple, no matter if the two can't maintain a conversation beyond the weather and beauty products.

I don't prefer women like that. Women do not exist in straight lines - they are not stick figures. They are discovered in their curves; they are 3-dimensional, they have depth. I don't want women who aspire to look like any of today's actresses or models - women with flat, shiny tummies and skin stretched tight across it. What am I going to hold on to? I don't want to make love to a rock with my hands slipping and sliding off its surface.

I prefer a woman who is comfortable with who she is in her skin, yet makes an effort to take care of her body, mind and soul. A woman who is real and who lives in the real world, not some plastic piece-of-work who lives for ten-second flashes.

The propaganda we receive everyday is incessant and false. Our sons need to be spoken to as much as our daughters, because when they get into relationships and get married, it is with each other. Both of them are involved equally.