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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Chp 77. Manori Beach > Palm Beach Resort

What better ways to end a stressful week at the office than by stealing away to a peaceful idyllic beach resort with friends for the weekend where you can unwind and do absolutely anything that you want.

The Location: Manori Beach, Palm Beach Resort.

The cast and their characters:

Camera woman cum director: Perween
Producer: Samit
Comedian cum sound-in-charge: Sachin
Hero: Little Faham
Item number: Lavita
Drinks-in-charge: Kima
Dietician: Dinpuii
Quietician: Mandy
Censor Board: JV
Based on a true life story: Birthday girl Tina


So there we were, on our way to this fantabulous beach resort for the weekend. I was with my sister and JV in his car since he wanted to drive all the way there, while the rest of the gang came by the ferry express.

Got lost on the way and ended up at Pali Beach Resort which was like 50 kms away from our destination. Lolz. JV didn’t want to ask for directions and had I been driving, neither would I. It’s a guy thing. We don’t just stop and ask for directions when there’s a woman present in the car, and this applies to nearly every male species in this World.

Finally reached Palm Beach Resort. We had just missed the beautiful sunset because of the wrong turn that we took. Damn! But the rest of the gang already there took a couple of snaps.

So we moved on to our bungalow. It was one huge room with 5 double beds. I met my sister’s friends again, and this time Perween and Samit bought little Faham along. Man, he’s so cute that I just wanna gobble him up (Thank God for the existence of metrosexuals, such a remark by a guy is now accepted by society )

We booked our tree-top party location in the Beach resort, and Sachin bought his laptop along. Fixed the speakers and soon it was party time.

Those of you who are planning to go to this Resort must keep this in mind: You have to bring your own stock of hard liquor along as the Resort only caters to Beer. Fortunately for me, the guys I was with had already been here before and know about this.

Very soon we were rocking the place. We really did set that tree top place on fire that night. Even little Faham was shaking his hip to Daddy Yankee’s “Rompe” and Sona family's “ek gilassi do gilassi teen gilassi char”. Soon, many of the other guests at the Resort that night started gathering around our tree top so we pumped up the volume and the entire area near our tree top was one big grind session. Everybody danced, strangers you’ve never met before, enjoying the night without the utmost care about who they are dancing with, all under the bright moonlight and the sounds of the waves hitting the shores in a distance.

I really enjoyed that night. I think I made atleast a full bottle of Bacardi disappear. Sachin even let me DJ my entire hiphop CD infront of the crowd which included tracks like Fort Minor’s “Where’d you go” and “Believe me”, Shakira’s “Hips don’t lie” and “La tortura” , Juelz Santana’s “Oh yes”, Daddy Yankees’ “Gasolina” and “Rompe”, Eminems’ “Shake that” and the bit old Rihanna’s “Pon de replay”, MVP’s “Rock ya body”, R.Kelly’s “Burn it up”, Akon’s “Lonely” and “Locked up”, PCD’s “Don’t cha” and “Beep” and BYP’s “My Humps”. Gawddd I love that night!

At exactly 12, it was cake smearing time. Sang a hearty happy birthday song to dear Tina and what followed next was a chaotic chocolate cake flying everywhere incident. After we all washed up, the party continued and I think we all winded up around 3-4 am. Man, it was indeed a great party!

Now comes the only bummer of the weekend Shangri-La. Mosquitoes!!!! Freaking thousands and thousands of them, sucking the very life out of me. By 5am I was completely sober and scratching every part of my body; sober because I think the damn mosquitoes sucked out all traces of alcohol present in my bloodstream. Sachin, Mandy and Lavita slept like a baby while the rest of us were up the whole night donating blood. I even went outside to sleep on the hammock but there were even more mosquitoes there. Sometimes I even felt as if the mosquitoes were actually rocking the hammock in one great unified motion.

Anyway, I managed to sleep for an hour. When the sun rose, Perween and Samit ordered breakfast and we filled our stomach. Food was excellent. Pav and omlette, chicken ham sandwiches, alloo paratha and coffee. After we were re-energized, Sachin and I went to the beach, but it was too damn hot n humid to hang-five there so we walked back to the resort and dived into the shaded swimming pool. Boy that felt good. Swam, floated, splashed, drowned, did all sort of crazy stuff.

Am definitely not going to miss out little Faham trying his best to join us too. He would scream and scream while his mom or dad takes him across the pool on their back. Samit tried his best to teach his son how to swim but was disappointed to realize it’s gonna take a few more years for Faham to swim across the English Channel. Here he is fiddling with the life-saver not understanding exactly what it’s for.

After the refreshing pool session, it was back to the treetop. Blasted the music and opened up another bottle of beer while leisurely watching a group of vacationers play football below. Our lunch was served there and soon it was time to big adieu to this wonderful place. Back to the busy city life and back to a hectic office schedule (I’m just speaking on behalf of the other guys ). Before I end this post, a few parting photographs.

[ Me on top of the treehouse with the stony rugged part of the beach as the background ]

[ Me showing little Faham one of the mysteries and wonders of the World, that pebbles can make sound if you bang them against each other but mushrooms growing on the side of palm trees don’t ]
[ And finally, the entire gang ]

Monday, June 26, 2006

Chp 76. Holland Down

Mayday. Mayday. Holland down. Holland down. Holland down.

One of the most exciting matches I’ve ever seen. Ended up in utter disappointment for me but at the same time felt gratified in a strange way for having to witness such a landmark match LIVE at 3 in the morning while there seem to be no life at all from my entire apartment.

Holland has just conceded to Portugal with a marginal 1-0 scoreline. It was the first time during this WC that I actually forced myself to sleep for 2 hours in the evening so that I will be wide awake during the match. It was also the first time since the World Cup kicked off that I switched off my mobile phone during the entire game because I just wanted to concentrate and give my entire thoughts to the match and not text messaging friends all over India discussing about the match.

With the exit of the Netherlands, so ends my campaign too. I am now a pilot without a plane, a Caesar without an army, a George without a jungle, a football fan without a team. Holland still retains the “Best team to have never won the World Cup” title. But mark my words, this particular team is a very young team and they will definitely be back with a bang at World Cup South Africa.

Yellow cards flew everywhere, 16 to be exact. But before that correspondent from the TOI once against blast the referee for "reducing the game to an utter farce", I’d like to show my solidarity with the ref Ivanov that even though it was not a very well umpired match, most of the players do deserve those cards and that there was nothing he could do about those incidents. No I will not blame him for showing 4 red cards. All four players who got their second yellow card bought it upon themselves. Stupid, yes, but nevertheless deserving. There was absolutely no need for Deco to delay the game by holding it, unnecessary of Van Bronckhorst to trip Valente when there were 2 other Dutch defenders behind him while Valente was the only Portuguese around, Costinha’s intentional handball was completely unnecessary and about Boulahrouz’ second yellow, he should have known better not to swing his elbow like that when an opponent is immediately behind him because that is when experienced players especially veterans like Figo would use as an opportunity to get knocked down, and with the recent DeRossi-McBride incident still fresh in the officials’ minds, I wasn’t surprised at all to see the Russian referee Ivanov hand him his second yellow.

Although I felt some of the cautions given out by Ivanov could have been avoided, I felt there were other incidents that really deserved to get penalized but didn't, like Figo's head butt which is a definite direct red card, the flying kunfu kick on Robben's chest inside the Portuguese penalty area, the harsh challenge by Costinha on Ooijer which deserved to be Costinha's second yellow (anyway he got his second yellow later) or the incident where the entire Portuguese bench came rushing out pushing and slapping a dutch player (was it Van Bronckhorst?) around as if he's a rag doll! Comon! The Dutch-Portuguese War need not be revisited again.
Holland with 62% possession, twice as many passes made than Portugal did, twice as many shots taken, just fail to find the back of the net. Cocu’s shot which hit the bar seem to pass on a message that it was just not Holland’s day (I already got a slight feeling that it was not Holland’s day when Harsha announced at the beginning of the broadcast that the match was between Holland and the Netherlands! )

Every molecule, follicle and ventricle within me sat up during the entire game. So many times Holland came close to scoring, so many times the players were on the verge of tearing each other’s throat and so many times the referee had to reach in his pocket to swipe out yet another yellow card. Holland got 7 yellows out of which 4 resulted in 2 reds, and Portugal got 9 freaking yellow cards! The commentator really did find the right words when he said “If Portugal wins, it will be just a pyrrhic victory for Scolari”. Now that Portugal are through to the Quarters, they will be without Deco and Costinha, and C.Ronaldo looks doubtful too from that injury. Even if Holland had equalized and scored again, they will also be without key players in the next round including players who will have to play safe so that they wont miss the next game after that (although they aren’t in a soup as hot as Portugal’s).

My final word is, no matter which team scored more or played better last night, there is just one clear cut winner, and that is England. Lucky bastards.

My 2 pence on a couple of incidents:

About C.Ronaldo’s injury:

Sad but I won’t miss him at all. Because for a defender, there’s no bigger insult than to be beaten by an opponent using fancy moves. Hence defenders are more likely to take out such a person before he can execute such a move. Even other top notch players like the original Ronaldo, Ronaldhino, Zizou etc display fancy moves while attacking, but no one does it as flamboyant as the thick headed C.Ronaldo. He has been criticized many times even by his own teammates that he is a “glory chaser” and a “one man show” incapable of being a team player. To me, I feel the only real contribution he gives to his team (be it Portugal or ManUtd) is being awarded free-kicks for the fouls he receives. A crucial role I agree, but such a person is definitely prone to injury and I’m surprised he hasn’t been taken out earlier. If C.Ronaldo recovers and continues playing like this, all he’s doing is committing professional suicide.

About Figo’s head butt:

Figo Figo Figo. Why why why. You knew so damn well that more than a million eyes were on you, what made you ever head butt Van Bommel? Such a stupid stupid move on your part dear Figo. Ofcourse you were angry and ofcourse your opponents were provoking you and ofcourse Van Bommel’s fall after the contact was a bit overdramatic. But you should have known better that that is what most professionals do. Thrash talk all you want, but the moment you get physical, it’s a completely different ball game. Now with Deco, Costinha and probably C.Ronaldo sidelined for the next game, do you think Portugal can ever beat England if you are disciplined by the FIFA Board for that action? Gawd I hate England, but now I’m starting to hate you more for giving England the window to get through to the Semis!!! Why did you have to physically display your anger on the field? Remember the heated England and Turkey EURO 2004 qualifier match? Ofcourse there was no love lost between the two teams on the field, but they came to a fist fight only in the tunnels far away from the prying eyes of the video cameras.

About Van Nistelrooy not playing:

Feyenoord’s Kuyt displayed a fine piece of playing, but he just couldn’t save the Dutch ship from sinking. With 62% possession and 20 shots taken, it was obvious that Holland’s main problem was with the finishing. At such times, one needs poachers. And who else better to fill that spot than one of the greatest poachers himself, Van Nistelrooy. The score line could have different figures if Nistelrooy was there instead of Kuyt. But ofcourse, the past is past and there’s no point saying one particular strategy would have worked out better, just because another strategy didn’t. Van Basten gambled with the young Kuyt instead of the out-of-form Nistelrooy but unfortunately he couldn’t hit the jackpot.

Gomenasai, Holland, I bid thee sayonara. You tried your best but luck just wasn’t on your side. Cheer up all ye Vans. This Van here is not ashamed of you. Disappointed a bit, but is still proud to know that the Vans can still go the distance. You have done the VAN family proud, brethrens. Kudos.

And with that ends my plan to celebrate Holland’s July 9th victory with a bottle of champagne. I’ve already saved 600 bucks meant for the bottle which I will now spend on something else, like purchase a new Tommy boxer or buy Harsha’s latest book “How to tell the difference between Holland and the Netherlands”.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Chp 75. WC Interval - NBA Finals

World Cup World Cup World Cup everywhere. I’m sure this is the highest publicity and popularity the game football ever reached here in India.

In a way, it’s nice to know that Cricket is not the only sports people talk about right now. But I think sometimes people tend to over-do things a bit. This is the first time ever in ESPN history that the NBA Conference Finals is not broadcasted LIVE. Five years ago, ESPN used to show LIVE games of NBA atleast thrice a week. Now, not even the Conference Finals is broadcasted LIVE. Football has completely overtaken Basketball.

My team, the San Antonio Spurs lost in the semis. Too bad Duncan, Bibby, Ginobili, Finley, Horry, Van Axel, Barry, Bowen etc.. Anyway, since the Finals was between the Mavs and Heat, both first timers to reach the Finals, I decided to cheer for the Mavs. I hate the Heats line-up. I mean, yeah, I got nothing against D.Wade. He plays God level (and eventually got the MVP award which he truly deserved), but I’ve always hated Shaq. Take away that height and weight and all you have is a talentless no good clumsy stupid oaf who can’t even convert a free-throw for nuts. And I also despise ex-Sonics and later ex-Lakers Payton and ex-Celtics Antoine Walker. I just hate the way they throw their attitude around. But then, I used to love and still do, Alonzo Mourning. He’s one of my all time favourite players, and if people must throw their attitude around, they should do it like him, not like how Payton, Walker or Kobe does. God I hate those b@strds. Plus Mourning was the main Heat player during the days of Jordan and Pippen.

Anyway, Mavs too had a great team. Novitski is still there (Damn, can you believe he’s just a freaking year older than me?) and Terry too had a great game 1 and 2. And then there’s one player I really like by the name of Marquis Daniels because he has some part of the Bible’s Songs tattooed to his chest! Seems when he was young he used to read to his grandma the Bible everyday and hence memorized most of it and that “Songs” was his favorite passage. I find that really cool, funky and sweet at the same time. Mavs took a 2-0 lead in the best of 7 Finals but they just couldn’t keep up with Wade raining down shots from everywhere in the next 4 games and hence lost the series. If only the likes of Nash and Finley were still there at Mavs, Heat would have definitely been history.

If you are a true sports buff like me, what would be the one thing you hate the most in this entire Universe? That the team you’re supporting just lost due to an unfair referee’s decision? Nopes. There is one thing much worse than that. And that is, when you are not able to watch the Finals LIVE and hence has to settle for a replay, and so you spend the whole day not contacting any of your friends or surfing the internet or peeping into the sports section of the papers for fear that you might know the result. And while you’re so deeply engrossed in watching the replay, somebody calls you up and tells you the final score!

And in my case, the culprit is none other than my dear friend Sowmya who has been leaving a lot of comments on my past few posts. Yes, Doctor Sowmya. Gawd I hate you!!!!! She called me up from Hyderabad while the game was into the 3rd quarter and since she was planning to party here at Mumbai for the weekend, I picked up her call so that we can plan out where to meet up n stuff. And then she asked me what I’m up to and I absentmindedly told her I’m watching the NBA Conference Finals and then she said, “Oh, Heats won”. Aaaargh aaaaargh aaaargh aaaaargh!!! It was right then that everything just stopped, you know, like in those comedy sitcoms when everything is going on fine until somebody just said something to screw it up and then you hear the sound of a movie reel abruptly stopping “krrrrreechhh”.

Anyway thanx a lot for spoiling the fun Sowmya. And don’t try to justify it by saying Mavs were going to lose anyway. Sports is not just about the final score. It’s about enjoying the entire game and that’s one of the reasons why we guys become couch potatoes… I’m sure you don’t want me to get into the whole “women and sports” thingie again, do you? Plus, I don’t want the fair ladies like flygirl, aishwarya, sunshine, virgochhas lashing down my throat again

Monday, June 19, 2006

Chp 74. World Cup: Red Card!

A collision, a bone crunching sound, a player sprawling on the ground in agony while the other player protested it was a dive, the entire stadium erupting into one continuous sonic boom thundering out louder than Mt. Elba spewing out another volley of molten lava, until the referee dug into his pocket and sternly whisked out a red card. That action detonated the peak of every spectator’s vocal decibel: half of them due to celebration and the other half due to dismay.

Today as I turned the pages of the TOI while sitting on “my throne” with a cigarette in one hand, I happened to glance through the article “Booking Office” on the sport’s section about yesterday’s USA-Italy match. It really caught my attention and after I read the entire article, all I could think of was, who the hell is the correspondent who wrote this article? The credit to that article went to “AGENCIES”. Sometimes freelancers or people not affiliated to any News group would write a review and submit it to the tabloids.

Those of you who saw the match thriller would obviously know that there were 3 red cards handed out during that particular game. And any regular viewer of football will know that FIFA is now stricter than before due to the increasing number of fouls committed during a match. If players lunge themselves dangerously at an opponent and crash at them with no contact on the ball, the referee has the full divine authority to show that player a direct red card.

Yet this writer blasted the referee for “reducing the game to a farce” and that “there was an impression the Uruguayan has lost control”. Bullshit. Referees hand out red cards whenever it is necessary and according to Jorge Larrionada the innocent “victim” of this bloodthirsty (or fame thirsty?) writer, it just so happened to be necessary three times last night (out of which one red was only a result of two yellows). The writer sounds like an amateur football reviewer or wannabe expert or somebody who watched the match with his friends and wrote whatever his intoxicated football crazy friends were blabbering about.

“Although the absence of the three players accidentally created a thrilling spectacle, soccer is all about skillfully creating those chances. It’s not about desperate attempts to hoist balls upfield for tired forwards to chase against exhausted defenders.”

Jesus! Are you for real???? My 12 years old nephew can write a better football review than that. First of all, the three ejections did not “accidentally” create a thrill. A thrill was definitely bound to be created with such an ejection, duh! Secondly, I can’t believe you actually wrote a review on a World Cup match and called the game “soccer”! And thirdly, yes, football may be about skillfully creating “those” chances (I don’t know what you meant by “those” so I’m just assuming they are goal scoring opportunities), but football is also about players following the referee’s decision even though he made a mistake. I’ve watched many matches where the referee or linesmen made a completely wrong decision, but football is all about living with it and carrying on. To err is human. If field referees were removed and a match officiated by an army of referee watching the game on slow-mo TV replays, the decision may be 100% precise but then the game is no longer football. Along with your decision to remove the field officials, you’ve killed the very soul and spirit of football. Football is also about getting penalized for a foul or getting away with it. It’s about ejections and how players adapt to a missing comrade or comrades by adjusting and reshuffling their formation. And yes, “forwards may be tired and defenders can get exhausted”. But they are all trained for that and getting exhausted is also what football is all about and FYI this is the World Cup, the mother of all football matches. If you don’t want to see players go through such a tiring ordeal, maybe try watching school level tournaments instead (but I assure you, even those little kids do get tired). And about your quote on desperate attempts “to hoist balls upfield”, well, this is the first time I’ve actually come across anybody using such a phrase in a football review write-up but then, what can I say: You have a different perspective on the whole game.

“If he has given verbal warnings to the players earlier in the game before he started flashing his red and yellow cards, its likely the fouls that followed wouldn’t have happened.

“Mastroeni was given a straight red for sliding into the ankles of Andrea Pirlo, the sort of challenge that usually gets a caution. Pope received two yellows, either of which would have been avoided with an early warning.

Are you kidding me? So if a referee gave a verbal warning to a player, he’s suddenly going to reform himself right there in the middle of the field and won’t even come close to an opponent for fear that he might have contact with the person? Get real. Football is about getting physically aggressive and at the same time not crossing that thin line between fair-play and dangerous play. It’s about dangerous tackles that are disallowed by FIFA and also about badly timed tackles which can still be penalized even if there was no harmful intent. Simply warning a player isn’t going to change anything, because these players are extremely experienced professionals who rather treat the presence of a referee as somebody managing the entire process and not somebody giving out free gyaans on how to play the game. And yes, there has been many occasions indeed when a player got a straight red for sliding into an opponent’s ankle; you’ll just have to watch more of the game to know that.

Yeah maybe you can voice your displeasure on the referee for being strict because after all, your article seem to have a biased leaning, but criticizing the referee and saying that all the fouls could have been avoided had they been verbally warned earlier, just seemed to pass on a message to TOI readers on how much you really know about the game of football.

I was cheering for Italy initially because somehow, I just don’t support the Americans when it comes to football as the game is not very popular there compared to other sports, and that I believe a Country totally committed to football should be the deserving winner. But all that changed when De Rossi gave that elbow to McBride. Bastard! Such a distasteful sportsmanship. McBride, all bloodied and dazed, had to undergo three stitches and De Rossi was given a straight marching order to the locker room. After that incident, somehow, something in me just couldn’t cheer for the Italians anymore. It was indeed a shameful skulduggery and I would have stopped my subscription to TOI immediately had the “Agency” writer also said that that too deserved to get a freaking verbal warning. But fortunately he/she didn’t complain much about that particular decision. Phew.

When I used to play for school level basketball, we were taught how to treat the referees with utmost respect. We were also taught that referees make mistakes, and that we should accept any decisions they make. I learnt it the hard way when I protested vehemently for a wrong call and as a result got a technical foul. I protested even further and I was ejected from the game. Then came the college level basketball era. Referees transformed from the God like stature to people you would invite for a tea and chit-chat with. They became your equals, a friend who would give you tips on what’s wrong with your fade-away shot or turn around cross over dribble. Soon I got promoted to University District level, State level and finally National level. I even played a match with Sri Lanka’s Mercantile BB Club. In the National level, I locked horns with the big guns like India Bank, Punjab Police, IOB, Railways, Custom & Excise, ICF etc. During my brief stint with the Pros, what I noticed was that, these professional players hardly treat the referees with respect. Some of them would even abuse a referee for a wrong call and still get away with it!!!

So the gist of this whole post is simple. As players become more and more acclaimed, recognized, salary hiked and sometimes snooty, they sometimes tend to treat the referees with disrespect. After all there is a huge gap between their respective fame and salary package. And players will always protest a referee’s wrong call even though his decision is final and there’s no way he’s going to change that. And the players know that very well too. But still they protest. They protest not because of disrespect but rather because it is of human nature to do that. And referees have to live through all that protest from the millionaires around them and stick to their decision. I don’t think this Agency writer have any idea how tough it is to officiate a game and how much of a fitness training and endurance work-out these referees have to undergo inorder to officiate a World Cup match. Most of the defenders run till the half line, midfielders stay between the two D’s and strikers dash from half-line to the opponent’s area, while these referees have to run from one end of the field to the other the whole time, with no substitution. And in the process, they may have made some wrong judgments. Fine, you can show your displeasure, but you don’t have to crucify him for that!

I know, sometimes it’s really hard not to criticize a referee for blowing his whistle unfairly against the team you’re cheering for. I still remember how pissed off I was when Lehman was shown the red card at the UEFA Finals even though a part of me was telling me he deserved that. But to write a review about a match for a Newspaper or News website that everybody reads, one has to be completely unbiased and look at the whole issue with a very neutral perspective. That is what makes a good sports columnist.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Chp 73. World Cup: Of women folks and football

Football. To most women, the very word itself can bring about a new height of insecurity. After all, it is the one element on Earth that they can never compete with. No matter how much Azzaro perfume they spray upon themselves (somebody’s gonna kill me for saying that! ) Or wear the most revealing designer minis and spaghettis, men will always ignore them for football. It is the Universal truth.

World Cup is the only time when we-men relax and wo-men yawns. But I really appreciate women who take that extra mile just to please their men. After all, we men do take a lot of effort just to please our woman like leaving the damn toilet seat down every time we finish peeing or flicking our cigarette in the ashtray and not everywhere we feel like. Take for example the UEFA Championship Finals. My roomie n I went all the way to KMG to watch it LIVE with a couple of other guys. Eventually there were around 15 of us and 50 rounds of beer. And among the people watching the match, 3 of the guys brought their girlfriends along. Two of the girls slept off even before half-time, and the remaining girl just kept text-messaging her friends through-out the match. Why did they come to the match in the first place when their boyfriends were going to ignore them anyway? I guess it’s because they want to show how much they love them by being present at such a special moment.

There are ofcourse many women crazy about football. I once watched a crucial match between Brazil and France with my mom! The sound effects she made when the ball was close to the goal was simply priceless. She would scream in her shrill high pitch voice “hets hets hets heeettsss…”, “khai khai khai khaiiii…”, “pet ro pet ro pet ro pet roooo…” (In English: “kick it kick it kick it kick itttt”). But the main difference between them and us is that they don’t analyze the players or game strategy like we do. They just sit and cheer with all their hearts out but have no idea what an offside means or what’s the difference between a direct and indirect free kick. Sometimes when a player plays a dummy role by acting as if he’s receiving a pass but let it go past him in the final second to fool the opponent, some women actually think “what a useless player, he can’t even receive a pass!”

Hence this post of mine is dedicated to all you women folks out there (and a few men like Benjamin, Admin of ) who think football is just about 22 men chasing a ball and trying to kick inside each other’s goal. I will start off with my dear friend Jenny. She works at the AOL call centre in Bangalore. She came over to my place one day and my roomie and I were watching an Arsenal match on ESPN. She has completely no idea about football and since my roomie and I were so deeply engrossed in the match, she tried to strike up a conversation regarding the match. Out came the ultimate football joke of the Century: “So has Arsenal qualified for the World Cup?” Gawddd!!!!! I have never laughed out that much in my entire life!!! And it was a very genuine and innocent question too. These are some of the reasons why I’m so grateful to God for making women so different from us. It’s as if they are here just for a comic relief

And then there is that mizo housewife who saw David Beckham during the World Cup 2002 and exclaimed in surprise “I thought Beckham was playing for Manchester United, how come he’s playing for England too?”

Another time I was in my own World watching Arsenal beat Leeds United 3-2 and a couple of friends were there too. David’s girl Julian (name changed) was there in the crowd and I was really impressed about the way she was seriously watching the match, until Arsenal scored their third goal and ESPN showed a clip of Arsené Wenger rejoicing. She exclaimed “Look look, their “Boss” is so happy!”. LoLz. I mean, in a way, he is their “Boss” but who calls him by that designation anyway? Women. Sigh.

For a guy, explaining the concept of Offside to a girl is probably one of the hardest things to do. Let me rephrase that. It is a Herculean task. Just when you thought they understood everything you told them, a few exceptional cases will occur, like when the ball strikes the body of the opponent and goes to the striker who was in an offside position but is actually not an offside since it was the opponent who touched the ball last, or when the linesman gives the benefit of the doubt to the defensive team even though it was not an offside, and the girl would start “Why is that not an offside? Why why why why why?” and all you feel like right then is taking out a shotgun and blowing her brains out.

Football is one game where we would like to be left alone without any questions asked. Mothers, sisters, girl friends, wives, concubines, please stay out. Maybe you enjoy watching the game, but you don’t understand the game and you never will. One reason why we have penises and you don’t. When God took that rib out from Adam and gave it to Eve, He unfortunately forgot to transfer the ability to comprehend football, and so that’s how things will be. After all, it’s just a once-in-4-years experience so quit cribbing and let your man enjoy. Cheer for a team if you must, but don’t ask silly questions during the game.

Just because a particular country has many good strikers doesn’t mean they can all play at the same time. And no, every foul does not deserve to get a yellow card. Yes, I can see the ear phone in the referee’s ear. What’s he listening to? Aaaargh. Shakira’s “Hips don’t lie” from the local German radio station. Happy? No I have absolutely no clue why he’s lying there screaming and grabbing his ankle even though the replay showed that there was no contact. Maybe the contact was so fast that the video camera failed to capture it. Yes a “banana kick” is an easy way to score a goal from a corner kick, why don’t you tell that to the players because I think they don’t know. No honey, for the umpteenth time, there are no commercial breaks during the entire game except at halftime. And no, Pelé is not playing for Brazil anymore. Huh, what did you just ask me? Do I know Maradona? No dear, I’ve been watching football all my life and have absolutely no idea who or what Maradona is. Is it an Italian dish? Aaaargh. Honey, can you please pass me my handgun from under the mattress?

After July 9th, you can nag him all you want. But till then, please, I beseech all you women folks out there, leave your man at peace. And by “your man” I mean, your boyfriend, husband, brother (especially little brothers ), cousin, father, uncle and anyone that’s remotely related to the male species of our race. The other day I was watching the Japan Australia match. The Japanese side was barely hanging on to a 1 goal lead and then on the 80th minute my sister told me we’re going out for dinner. Much as I hate to leave my personal space around the TV, the look in her eyes screamed out murder if I skip dinner again. So unwillingly I went out with her. Later I found out Australia scored 3 goals in the last 8 minutes! Aaaaargh! And when I told my sister what I missed because of chow-time, all she said was, “So what, it’s only 3 goals. People score that much all the time during football na?”. Aaaargh. Once again, where’s that handgun?

Monday, June 12, 2006

Chp 72. World Cup: My Team

One of the hardest things for me to do during these two Holy Months of The World Cup is selecting a team that I would cheer for.

When I was young, choosing a team was easy because those days I never got to watch much of International Football mainly due to the fact that it had a very poor coverage. After all, the only channels we used to get in our television back in Mizoram those days were Doordarshan, Bangaladesh channel, Burmese channel, and if we twist our reception antennae a bit here and there, we even used to get “Arirang” the Korean channel!

And then Star TV entered the Indian market (Those were the days when Star Plus used to air shows like Santa Barbara, Tour of Duty, Mash, Sledge Hammer, Moonlighting, Force Five etc). So even in Mizoram, people stopped watching “Chitrahaar” on Wednesday nights and Bangladesh’s “Movie of the Week” at 5pm on Fridays (*sigh* Those were truly the days! Sniff Sniff…) and switched to a more globalized version of TV entertainment.

Those days, World Cup would mean supporting for Brazil, Italy or Argentina. And regardless of what team we are supporting, most of us knew just a handful of players. Pele, Maradona, Rudd Gullit, Van Basten, Batistuta, Valderrama, Gary Lineker, Cantona, Zico and Lothar Matthaeus. I forgot which channel used to show those WC matches live, but I do remember watching it, with flags and facial paints and drums surrounded by my childhood friends and cousins.

And now, a lot of things have changed. One thing for starters, I have seen a hell lot of International matches. EPL, La Liga, Bundesliga, you name it. Hence you get to know nearly every current world class players. And I’ve also never missed a single Arsenal game for the past 3 years now. And I think this is the main reason why I’m finding it so damn hard to find “my team” in this World Cup.

And I think this problem is more or less faced by every hardcore Club supporters all over the World. Arsenal players are present in almost every team that has qualified for the league, and at the same time, players from Clubs I really hate are also there in the same team. What to do?

The other day, I was watching Argentina vs. Ivory Coast from my cozy new Mumbai flat. My roomie from Bangalore, also a hardcore Gunner fan, was all for Argentina. We were text messaging each other through out the match. I asked him how could he not support Ivory Coast which had two Arsenal players Toure and Eboue, and yet root for a team that has the likes of Riqueme that played a havoc in the Arsenal camp during our UEFA semi final and Messi from Barca who beat Arsenal in the finals and also Chelsea’s Crespo & ManUtd’s Heinze. His reply was, how could I support a team that has Drogba who scored a goal against Arsenal in both our two encounters with Chelsea last season.

So you see where I am getting at. Look at England. The defence line-up is made up of Chelsea’s Terry, ManUtd’s Rio and Arsenal’s Ashley Cole and there’s also our Sol Campbell. And so finally, yesterday I decided to keep all Club differences aside. It was indeed a hard thing to do, but I am not going to get anywhere with my loyal Arsenal vow, and we are already on day 4 of the competition. Better late than never.

And that is exactly the reason why I will not be supporting France. As I said before, at first I wanted to be behind France due to its heavy Arsenal presence, but Henry turned out to be the sole Arsenal player in the squad. Now that I have kept Club differences aside, Henry’s presence is really not enough for me to support a team. Ofcourse France has an excellent fire power in the offence area with Henry, Trezeguet, Saha, Wilthord and Cisse calling the shots and the formidable Viera at midfield (Zouzou isn’t the God he once used to be), but it would be better to have talent equally distributed in every position rather than just one spot. No team is ever going to play a 1-4-1-5 formation And other than Thuram, their defence isn’t that great compared to other teams (I don’t like Silvestre, never had, never will).

So with France out of the option, what else do I have? Man, Brazil is so freaking strong with Roberto Carlos, Cafu, Lucio, Cicinho at defence, Dida behind the gloves, Emerson, Ronaldhino, Kaka, Arsenal’s Gilberto , Juninho etc at Mid-field, Ronaldo, Adriano, Robinho as forwards. Phew! That’s one mean arsenal of players (pun not intended ). But a promise is a promise. Like I said before, the victory of a weaker team is much much more sweeter than that of one that’s sure to win. This ship ain’t sailing to Brazil.

Italy is also very strong with Del Piero, Inzaghi, Totti, Nesta, Cannavaro and the trustworthy Buffon. The same goes for Spain with Raul, Luis Garcias, David, Torres, Joaqin, Arsenal’s Reyes , Salgado, Puyol and either Casillas or Cannizares behind the gloves. But most of the other players are unfamiliar to me, and yeah, too many people I know are supporting these two teams solely because of “their good looks”. LoLz.

Finally, I came to a decision. Me and somebody I treasure deeply are both going to cheer for the Netherlands. It’s high time the Dutch glory days are revived once again. Why Holland? Because much as I hate to admit it, I really hold ManUtd’s Nistlerooy in high regards (Forgive me, my Arsenal brothers, for saying this). I consider him to be the best “poacher” ever in the history of football. And then there’s Chelsea’s Robben and Arsenal’s very own promising young Van Persie, and Van der Sar happens to be one of my favorite goal keeper (he replaced Tim Howard). Ajax’s Sneijder and PSV’s Cocu are also players not to be taken lightly. Plus the team has a lot of people named “Van”, just like me Van lalruatkima . There are exactly 6 Van’s in the current squad: Van Der Sar, Van Bronckhorst (ex Arsenal now in Barca) Van Der Vaart, Van Bommel, Van Nistlerooy and Van Persie. And I used to love their current coach when he was a player: The Legendary Van Basten himself (Who happens to be yet another Van!!! )

Ofcourse having similar name is not the only reason why I love this team. If similar name was the criteria, I would definitely go for South Korea which has 7 Kim’s in their line up: KIM Yong Dae, KIM Young Kwang, KIM Young Chul, KIM Dong Jin, KIM Jin Kyu, KIM Sang Sik, KIM Nam Il and KIM Do Heon. Man that’s a lot of KIMs. You’re definitely going to see a lot of players sporting the same name when Korea plays. And I think it is indeed a very good strategy to confuse the referee

Among the under-dogs, I am all the way behind Togo, not just because they are led by Arsenal’s very own Adebayor who is the current African leading scorer in this competition with 12 goals to his credit so far, but also because they have a very impressive team record. They beat Senegal 3-1 and a host of other Nations and this is by far one of the best under-dog team ever. Go Togo!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Chp 71. World Cup: Opening Ceremony

Beer? Check.
Bean bag? Check.
Nachos? Check.
Freshly fried prawn chips? Check.
Enough cigarettes to last me 6 hours? Check.
Emptied my bowels so that I wouldn’t have to crap during the game? Check.

Ah! Finally I was ready to watch the Greatest show on Earth, Live! Woohoo!!! The opening ceremony wasn’t as great as I expected. Everything seemed to be a little bit chaotic and unorganized. And every time those Bavarian dancers tapped their feet on the ground, I shuddered, because all I could think of was the beautiful football ground they might be damaging with their steel toed boots.

The veteran’s parade was really really nostalgic, especially when I came across people like Didier Deschamps, Maradona, Lothar Matthäus and Emmanuel Petit walking around in their Armani suits and their body resembling nothing like the athletic well built soccer icon they once used to be. Had I already started drinking, I swear to God I could have cried on seeing all of them once again, smiling with such a deep sense of satisfaction and a glimmer in their eyes telling you they had indeed achieved their dream.

What made me genuinely smile on seeing them was one particular scene when they all got together to pose for a photograph while the parade was still going on. The all huddled together and the veteran players were handing out their digital cams to the people around them asking who can click it. Lolz! Even we mere mortals do that. And the person who clicked it would suddenly want to be in the next picture so somebody already in the snap would have to sacrifice his place in the photograph and do the honours of clicking it . Deep inside, I guess we are all the same. And some of these Titans were actually using the same phone camera that you and I use everyday. In a strange and twisted way, it actually made me feel like one of them

I was a bit shocked to see Claudia Schiffer walking by the side of Pele, the Greatest football player ever in the History of the “goal duniya” (hehe sorry I couldn’t help it with that corny pun) but then she IS Germany’s hottest babe around so I can somewhat understand that. But what really shocked me last night was when I switched on my TV and went to ESPN. Tra la la la dish dish dish and all the graphical intro about Germany 2006 and then finally we were taken to the studio. Appearing there right infront of my 21” TV screen was none other than Harsha! Yes, our very own Harsha Bhogle! He was giving the welcome speech and introduction to World Cup 2006! No!!!! This can’t be it! I immediately switched to Star Sports ~ MotoGP World Championship. Zee Sports ~ Sports Café. Ten Sports ~ French Tennis Open Live. Aaaargh. So I went back to ESPN. Harsha was still on the main screen. And to make matters more inanimate, Harsha turned to his TV screen to ask an “expert” for an opinion about the World Cup, and guess who appeared? Ravi Shastri! Why why why is this happening to me?

Harsha and Shastri definitely know how to sell themselves when it comes to Cricket, but by using the same brand at a completely different market, the TV Moguls are killing the very essence of Football spirit. Please keep these two streams apart from each other. If entertaining the Indian viewer is your intention, please use some other Indians with a good Football background (one who is not affiliated to any other sports). This is sheer Product assassination. In IIMB we learnt about STP – Segmentation, Targeting and Positioning. Just because there are some people who are crazy about both Football and Cricket, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they can be targeted together because the two games do not belong in the same segment and hence must be all together positioned differently. Yes I do agree Harsha is very good at what he does, but a brand image and value can easily get exhausted when over-used especially in two completely different Markets. Kotler might term this as “confused positioning”

Atleast the appearance of Gerry Armstrong (and Richard Keys?) on the studio set made things a bit more professional. Harsha did his part well, but it could have definitely been better had it been John Dykes in that seat (No offence intended, dear Harsha). Anyway, fast forward to the game. Germany Vs Costa Rica where another great shock was waiting for me. The game kicked-off and the commentary was in Hindi!!! All of us screamed out! Where’s the freaking English commentary? Other than me, my three companion ofcourse understand Hindi perfectly, but even they admit it is very “inanimate” to watch International Football with no English running commentary. I didn’t understand Hindi at all so to me it sounded just like those lightning fast 1000 words per minute South American football commentaries . JV said we should call up the cable operator but then we realized atleast 100 guys from out locality would have to call them up to ask for a change.

I quickly text messaged my friends all over India. Amos from Bangalore said it’s in English. Mary from Delhi said it’s in Hindi. Johnny from Calcutta - English. Puia from Aizawl – English. Ravi from Chennai – English. Arjun from Pune – English. Damn, a majority of them were all getting it in English. And then suddenly, exactly on the 4th minute of the game, the cable operators switched the commentary to English! Halleluiah!!!! 100 people from my locality must have called up the Cable Operator Two goals later, Mary from Delhi smsed me saying it’s still in Hindi over there. Hahahaha! Guess that’s her problem But the text messaging did not stop throughout the game and I was in constant sms with all my friends discussing about the game. When Germany conceded their first goal, Amos from Bangalore immediately texted me “There was nothing Lehmann could have done about it” and I quickly agreed, after all, we are both hardcore Arsenal fans and woe be anybody who bitch-slap any Arsenal player. Finally at the end of the game, I got an sms from Chandigarh’s Jimmy that I have been expecting. A very short but sweet sms. “We won”.

I like Germany a lot but it has a very young team. I thought I would support for France due to its heavy Arsenal presence until I found out only Henry was the sole Arsenal player in the entire squad (Viera and Wilthord are ex Gunners and Pires is out). Hence I still haven’t decided what team I’ll be supporting for. Last World Cup I rooted for Argentina and look at where that took me. Somebody very special to me and I decided to support for Holland together but I still need to analyze the various other players first. One thing is for sure, I will definitely not be joining the Brazilian Bandwagon. Yes they are the favourites to win the cup and yes they got an amazing fire power. But the victory of a weaker team is much much much more sweeter than that of one that’s sure to win.

The June pin-up of the Arsenal Official Calendar that my sis from UK gave me is none other than Henry himself. Had I been more superstitious, I would have considered this as a good omen that France is going to win (Check out the strikers: Henry, Saha, Trezeguet, Cisse). But since the competition go on to July, well, the July pin-up is Gilberto, hence passing a message that Brazil will win. Bah. Who believes in superstition anyway

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Chp 70. Welcome to Mumbai

Bye bye Bangalore. Hello Mumbai.

This is exactly the 5th time in my entire life my feet touched the sidewalks of Mumbai. But unlike the previous times, this time my ass is going to be glued here for a pretty long time.
  • 1st time: Mom and my two aunties took me to Mumbai for a vacation. That was a very long time ago. Hardly remembered anything except for the fact that I pee’d in the train from Pune to Mumbai, and also Smita Patil passed away due to cancer during our stay there.
  • 2nd time: T’was during my Hyderabad days. My sis was doing her HR course at TISS so me and my tiny little cousin Saidingpuii went to pay her a visit. Stayed there for just 2 days. Since she’s busy with her studies, we partied with her friends at some pub in Chembur near her campus, and during the day, went to Colaba for shopping.
  • 3rd time: bp Summer Internship Orientation. Picked up by chauffeur from Airport and dropped to Hotel. 2 days Orientation Program along with other summer Interns from various other campuses. Project briefing and query clearance session. Flew back to Cal.
  • 4th time: End of my summer project. Presentation infront of the biggies of bp. Later on, went to stay with my sis for 2 days. Warmed up at “Toto’s”, dance-appetizers at “Shooters” and finally main-course-boogie at “Avalon”.

Arrived at Mumbai for the 5th time last week. My flight which was supposed to depart at 9pm, got delayed by an hour, another hour, another hour, yet another hour, and I finally left Bangalore at 1 freaking 40 am!!! No prizes for guessing which airlines I was flying.

My homies Amol, Momo and Monu were planning to pick me up from the airport and later go for a mid-night buffet, but with the change in my arrival timing, we decided to meet up some other time. My sis was there at the airport that night. Took me to her place.

Her place, my new home, wasn’t as bad as she described it over the phone. It was much bigger than I expected, about 4 times the size of my Bangalore pad. Fully furnished. It even had a shower! The kitchen had a four segment gas stove! One morning I got up and cooked rice on one, heated milk on the second, warmed up the previous day’s gravy on the third and oil to fry eggs on the fourth, all at the same time! Boy that felt great! Back in Bangalore, I had just one tiny electric stove. And that takes like forever just to heat up a freaking cup of coffee. Believe me, it was really frustrating especially on days when I decided to cook a meal for my roomies (soup followed by Maggie followed by fried eggs to go with the Maggie followed by pork luncheon can heated on oil). By the time I got to the canned meat, the soup and the Maggie were already cold. Aaargh. But now, no more of that lifestyle. Woohoo!

Her fridge too had a breathtaking view It was all stuffed up with goodies ranging from Tify’s Olives with Jalapeños to White Mischief Vodka. It was so unlike our fridge back home in Bangalore. There, most of the time, the only thing you’ll find in the fridge are water bottles The first thing she told me when I opened the fridge was that she’s gonna keep it locked every time I get drunk! Aaargh. I had enough of this. Alright, faith_no_more, Jupiter, BlackWhite, Teii, Diki, my sisters and anybody else taking my trip on my blog about the “fridge incident”, its time to stop ok? There’s a limit to making fun of someone. Fine fine I did something really stupid. But it was the first time such a thing happened while I was drunk. For many of my visitors here who wondered what all those “fridge” messages in my ShoutBox and comments were about, well, I’ll tell you. Only because these people will stop teasing me about it coz it’s in the open now and so there won’t be any more fun slyly hinting about that incident anymore.

A couple of days ago just before I left Bangalore, I was on a wild drinking spree, getting sloshed every night because… I just got dumped. So “Jupiter” would stay over at our place with me and “faith_no_more”, and sometimes some other friends come over, all to give me company and get drunk so that I’d forget about her. One particular night, I was extremely drunk and merry. I got more sloshed than I usually do. During our drunken chit-chat I had to pee suddenly so I swaggered towards the loo. Our small loo had a white door. I opened the white door, and with all my glory, I relieved my bladder. Ahhhhhhh… boy that felt ghooood. Suddenly, Jupiter screamed out followed by faith_no_more. That made me a bit conscious and I looked down only to find out that… I was peeing inside the freaking fridge!!! The “white bathroom door” that I opened was actually the fridge Gawddddd!!! It was so embarrassing. But there was nothing I could do. I just continued peeing and the guys continued screaming behind me. After I was done, I went straight to bed because I was too damn embarrassed to face them. Passed out within a couple of seconds. My dear Jupiter and faith_no_more cleaned up everything, really sweet of them. So that was it. My big embarrassing drunken folly. Happy now? So you are now officially not allowed to make fun of me anymore. Chapter closed. Bleh.

By the way, I was having lunch a couple of days ago with my friends Amrapali, Amol and Anita at “Pizzeria” next to “Mocha” in Powai, and my sister who was at Haiko (the adjoining building) invited me and my friends over to “Far East” for a beer coz she wanted to meet my friends. A very great big thanks to her for telling my IIMB friends about the little fridge incident. They took my trip the rest of the night, telling about it to Monu and Vijay who later joined us at IMAX. And very soon, this is going to spread even further and further. I think I made the right decision to confess about it right here on my blog so that people who hear about it later won’t have so much fun teasing me about it.

Moral of the Story: Never place your fridge next to your bathroom. Or, Never paint your bathroom door with the same colour as that of the Fridge.

Enough of fridge talk now. Let’s talk about parties . On my sister’s birthday, we went to this resto-bar at Rodas called “Aura”. Ambience was great. There were 13 of us, and my sister introduced me to all her friends. Amazing bunch of people, just like her. What I love about this place is that, wherever you look, people just love to drink, dance and laugh. I really am going to have a great time here in Mumbai. The crowd at Aura was mainly in their late 20’s and early 30’s. The ladies were all hot, and it was a very well behaved but at the same time wild party-animal crowd. One main difference between this and Bangalore was that, it was a very heavy hindi speaking crowd. The babes all spoke in hindi and the music was also mainly Punjabi pop. After all, this is Bollywood, the centre of hindi speaking funk so what else can I expect. But most of the people spoke to me in English when they realized I don’t speak much of hindi (sentences I learnt in hindi, courtesy my summer internship at Castrol, like “kis engine oil istamal karta hain” and “Castrol se koi parishani hai, mujhko batayiye” aren’t gonna help me at all that night). But towards the end, once the 3rd pitcher of draught beer cloud your senses, it’s all the same.

So that’s what I experienced so far. And oh, there was that dinner party at Marami’s place. A close friend of mine Pari from Bangalore was also there that night, and I really had a good time debating with Marami’s uncle about Inter-racial relationships after two quarters of rum. My roomie Rita literally carried me home that night Other than that, guess I’ve been just spending my time here in Mumbai doing nothing and watching movies I’ve downloaded while I was in IIMB. JV said I should get a job, and am really thinking about it now. Mumbai has definitely more opportunities than Bangalore, so who knows, I might soon start celebrating my first pay-slip.

Other than that, everything is just wonderful out here. When I wake up early in the morning and realized I’ve run out of cigarettes, there are always ciggies to whack from my sister or Rita. 24/7 electricity, water supply stops for only a few hours everyday which is nothing, amazing apartment and surroundings, and if there is anything we need like ciggies, booze, bread, milk, tandoori, vegetables, movie tickets etc, they are all just a phone call away, delivered right at your door-step.
Mumbai raacks!