The Appeal of Cricket

December 12, 2016

Two needed off three. David is about to deliver the fatal blow. Goliath will soon perish, and so will the hopes and dreams of a sea of blue. Many have turned their television sets off. Many have closed their eyes. Atheists are at war against their God. Palms have joined in prayer.

A loud thunder tears through the black sky. India have the wicket of Rahim. There is movement in the clouds. Is there light behind them? Bangladesh will have to wait one more ball for their win. Their celebrations have stopped. Two needed off two. Silence has reclaimed its lost empire.

The in-form Mahmadullah is on strike. The inexperienced Pandya has the ball. The pupil anticipates the whip, and shuts his eyes. He clenches his bottom and waits. Suddenly the bell tolls in the distance. The period is over. The pupil has survived. Mahmadullah is walking back to the pavillion. India have dodged another bullet. Two needed off one.

The clouds are parting. The first rays of hope glimmer through the darkness. Night awaits the dawn. The boy is in familiar territory. He knows his way home. But the hounds are still lurking in the corners. The television sets are back on. The spectators are on the edge of their seats. The silent prayers continue.

The faint heart prepares to skip a beat, and the lightning strikes. It is followed by thunder. A cloud of dust engulfs the stadium. Did India prevail? There is chaos. The palms are clutched in prayer again. The dust settles, and the clutched palms separate into fists. India have claimed another wicket. The boy has grasped the cliff with both hands, and watches the feeble last rungs of the bridge fall to the river below. The boy is home.

It was a triumph for some. It was a defeat for many. Everyone likes to watch the underdog win. And the underdog would have won, if it weren’t for the lack of a script. “There is no script in a cricket match”, Dhoni very eloquently put in the post-match interview.

While a cricket match does not have a script, it does have a story. And it is this story that makes the game the most entertaining sport. Sure you have ups and downs in other sports, but no other sport has such vivid stories; Stories that are etched in memory for decades, very much like the best movies ever written.

Like a movie, a cricket match has a timeline, which changes at its own pace. There is no single point of climax, there are periods of relative calmness, alongside spurts of activity: moments of peace, and moments of utter chaos.

Like a movie, every cricket match has heroes, and villains, and supporting characters, all of them protagonists, playing their part in the story. The role of each character also changes over the duration of the game. There are those who start as heroes and end as villains due to a plan which wasn’t executed to perfection or a stroke of bad luck or a momentary lapse in concentration. And then there are those who start as villains and end as heroes, helped by moments of sheer brilliance, or luck.

Comparing a cricket match to a movie is unfair. A movie is often self-contained and has a finite timeline. Agreed prequels and sequels extend the length of the movie, but the timeline of a cricket match transcends its duration. Comparison of a cricket match with an epic, like Mahabharata, is more apt. Each story gives rise to many stories. Rivalries are born between sides: A billion spectators watch the India-Pakistan clash in the 2015 World-Cup. The actors share history: Tendulkar becomes Warne’s nightmare in one match, and these nightmares are discussed for decades over dinner tables and phone calls; People await this clash every season. The stories have recurring themes: Pakistan hasn’t defeated India once in over a dozen encounters in World tournaments. The stories have recurring characters playing different parts. A young Kohli witnesses Tendulkar’s brilliance on his television set. A decade later they are playing together. The mantle is passed from one to the other. The stories are told by the actors: Gavaskar talks about Kapil Dev while narrating the proceedings of a match two decades later.

Cricket is appealing because there are no spoilers. Miracles happen in cricket. Take the second test between Australia and India in 2001 for instance. Prior to this particular match, Australia had won 16 games on the trot, beating India in the previous game. This game was destined to have a similar result. India had been forced to follow on, on day 3, trailing by 274 runs behind Australia’s first innings score. And then the weather changed. The hero of the story, Laxman, played the innings of the century, scoring 281. He was helped by Dravid’s 180, and Harbhajan’s 6 wicket haul. Australia were dethroned. By 171 runs.

Cricket is a game where patience is rewarded. Unlike most sports, where the faster or more skilled opponent prevails more often than not, patience is a virtue in cricket. On bowling tracks batsmen have to wait patiently for scoring opportunities, preserving their wicket like the last morsel of a starving mendicant. On batting tracks, bowlers need patience through long wicketless spells, often with the batsmen hitting them all over the park, and are rewarded when the batsmen make errors.

Critics of cricket brand it a “slow” sport, because cricket matches are longer than other popular sporting events. But cricket, very much like life, is a constantly evolving game. Each evolution adds to the appeal. The T-20 format was initially introduced to boost viewership, but it also brought about a change in the way the game is played. Batsmen can now maneuver the ball 360 degrees. Bowlers can vary their pace significantly without early detection. Technology is being used now more than ever in every aspect of the game.

Finally, cricket appeals to the aesthetic faculties. Can a baseball swing ever compare to the charm of a cover drive? Can a football goal ever match the seduction of an in-swinging yorker? I’m not seeking answers. These are rhetorical questions.

Opeth 101, the fifteen Opeth tracks that you should definitely listen to before you die.

August 11, 2013

Opeth is my favourite Band. Having said that, I am also heavily influenced by Megadeth, and Lamb of God. I am also into Gojira, Tool, The Faceless, among scores of other bands, and I might write a post about Gojira some day. This post is intended to convert a music lover with the slightest of inclination towards metal into an Opeth fan. If you’re one of the “Metal is noise” folks who never really gave a crap about trying to understand the beauty, the pain, the appeal, of Metal, this is your chance to redeem yourself. There is more to Metal than you think, and if you open your mind, you might just find a part of you that you never knew about.

Opeth first started as a dedicated Death Metal band in Stockholm, Sweden. They have released ten outstanding studio albums since they first came out in 1990. Opeth isn’t an English word, it’s perhaps the best made up band name ever. Some folks have a story about how Opet was the name of a fictional city in some novel, which stands for the City of the Moon, and Opeth was named after Opet. Anyhow, Opeth’s sound evolved over the years, and they are no longer the death metal band they started as. Having said that, if you have an ear for Death Metal, you’d realize that their soft songs are still pretty heavy, and you can feel their death metal roots even in their softer music. The rest of this post is a list of songs which you should definitely listen to, to be able to complete the intended transformation. If you’re trying Metal for the first time, you might want to stick to the regime I dictate in the remainder of this post, for I present Opeth to you in a manner you’d be able to appreciate, starting from their more recent softer tracks, going back to their heavy roots. Personally, I think the best way to really understand a band you have never heard before is to stop listening to everything else, and dedicate a weekend to discovering the band in question. So, take this as an activity for one of your weekends, and hear them out. If you fall in love with Opeth after you’re done listening to this list, drinks on me.

Beginners (Soft shit) – Start with these tracks if you don’t have an ear for Metal. The first thing you’ll notice about Opeth’s softer tracks is the fact that their vocal melodies are hauntingly beautiful, and Mikael Åkerfeldt’s singing voice is, well, sweeter than honey. Opeth has dedicated two albums entirely to soft music: Damnation, and Heritage. The first two tracks on this list, are however, not from their softer albums, but from Watershed.

1. Burden – You might want to skip the last part where the guitars are gradually put out of tune to create a psychedelic effect.
2. Coil – This is the only Opeth track with a female vocalist.
3. Hope Leaves – One of the best softer tracks.
4. Harvest – This is from Blackwater Park, one of Opeth’s heavier albums. The vocals spring up on you, as the chord progression changes suddenly when the vocals start. After you’ve heard this song once, play the song from the beginning, and try to sing along in the correct scale. It took me a dozen tries to get the correct scale.
5. Devil’s Orchard – This is perhaps the heaviest of the softer tracks, and this is your portal to the next set of songs. This was incidentally the first song that I ever saw Opeth play live.

Intermediate (Some of Opeth’s heavier tracks) – This set of tracks is significantly heavier than those in the last set. Opeth’s diversity is most palpable in these tracks: there are moments of absolute calm, and moments of utter chaos. Opeth’s music is really powerful, and is a sublime expression of life, with all the turns and the bends.

1. The Drapery Falls – Starts off soft, grows heavier, quintessential Opeth track.
2. Funeral Portrait – Great Bass, great vocals. Starts heavy.
3. Baying of the Hounds – One of the heavier tracks on the Ghost Reveries album. This is my favourite album, alongside Blackwater Park.
4. Hessian Peel – Another haunting track, this has elements of Black Metal. One of the riffs in the track reminds me of Dimmu Borgir.
5. The Grand Conjuration – One of my favourite Opeth tracks, the music is really powerful.

Advanced (Expect some Anal Bleeding; this is the good shit) – Opeth started as a death metal band. These are the tracks which are windows into Opeth’s true soul: the darkness inside is pitch black.

1. Reverie, Harlequin Forest – This was a song which I paid attention to really late in my life with Opeth. It was my favourite track for a long time, until I rediscovered the Moor.
2. Deliverance – This is regarded as one of the fastest Opeth tracks.
3. Heir Apparent – One of the best death metal tracks in history.
4. The Moor – This is my current favourite Opeth Track. If you find the studio version, the riff that marks the beginning of the song is the most morbid riff in musical history. And this song has a great introduction.
5. Ghost of Perdition – I saved the best for the last. This is arguably the best song ever written.

I hope you realize that Opeth is more than just these fifteen songs listed here. Opeth is beyond what can be expressed in words. If you want more song recommendations, I have a lot of Opeth to offer you. Write to me, and I’ll write back.

Wight is White, only less racist – The English Road Trip, Part 2

June 24, 2012

Read the previous part of the adventure here.

Chapter 6:
“Woof”: that was Bhaiya’s attempt to startle me. I had sneaked into the house at 0830. I had slept at Juneja’s happening place. Drunk women and homosexual men dressed as Pirates had sung us lullabys all night (I’m referring to the noise associated with the George Street, the place where all the weekend parties happen, thanks to all the pubs and discos around). The fat lady does sing in the end, and she’s not good. Anyhow, after the sound sleep (sound here refers to the noise again), I had woken up, shopped at the Tesco nearby and trotted home.

“You’re up”, I exclaimed. “What are you cooking? Do you need help?”, Bhaiya interrogated. “Thank you, breakfast is almost ready”, I responded. Half an hour later, the three of us were having breakfast. We talked about how good the flat was and other things. After the breakfast, Bhaiya googled “Car Hire in Oxford”. We looked at the top ten retrieved sites. It was a Saturday and our intentions were to hire a car for the day and return it on Sunday. This fact restricted our search solutions to just two sites, since most of these offices were closed on Sundays. Anyhow, we wrote down the addresses of these two car hire companies, fortunately they were close to my flat. We set out with little hope of procuring a vehicle; we had packed the bare essentials we required, a packet of tortilla chips, a camera (we took mine and left Bhabhi’s in my room, a fact that came back to haunt us later), sunglasses, a pink (yes, the colour is crucial) and a black umbrella, jackets and overflowing enthusiasm.

We decided to visit Thrifty Car Hire first, it was closer. We were turned down with “Sorry, we don’t have any vehicles free at the moment.” Our next stop was some other company’s outlet, I chose to not dignify it by forgetting its name. They had cars but they required a proof of address, a British bank account, a British Driving License (I’m sure if we had those, the woman would have asked us for a British citizenship document too). We didn’t have all of these, so we decided to walk out. The woman was kind enough to let us know there was a company next door called Europ Cars that was likely to let us rent a vehicle with what we had. So we decided to make a last attempt at renting a car.

We waited for about twenty minutes for someone to talk to us. There were two blokes at the outlet – one a hippie and the other overtly effeminate. The two of them became available simultaneously. Bhaiya chose the latter (I’d like to believe his choice was random.) Anyhow, he greeted us and we reciprocated. We stated our purpose, confessed we didn’t have a reservation and he frowned like he was really sorry. “We don’t have any cars, I’m afraid. Very sorry to disappoint you”, were his first words. “You wouldn’t be interested in a van, would you?”, were his next. Beggars can’t be choosers, I thought and responded, “we don’t mind taking a look”. “At the moment, we have a 2 seater van”, he announced. “Don’t you have any thing that might fit three people?”, Bhaiya inquired. He smiled. “Let me check”, he blushed. He dived into a pile of documents, did something on his computer, dived into the pile again to retrieve a flier that had pictures of vans on it. Smiling like a sixteen year old girl, he put his finger on the picture of a white and green van. From the corner of my eye, I saw a twinkle in Bhabhi’s eyes. Five minutes later, we had laid bare all our cards in front of him: I had the Driving Licence and the the Passport, Bhaiya had his Driving License and the credit card. The only problem was, the effeminate guy wanted a single man to satisfy all his needs. The three men concerned concluded it could not be worked out. Bhaiya and I decided to walk out.

Where men fail, women deliver. In the time of crisis, Bhabhi decided to take matters in her own hands and make it work. Just when we were about to exit the office, she asked Bhaiya to try his Indian PAN card as a proof of identity. Bhaiya agreed, extended the card towards the dude and popped the words, “Will you accept …?” The man considered for a while, “Yes. I do”, and beamed, diffusing the glow of the woman inside. “You may now kiss the bride”, I whispered. “You’re a lovely guy”, Bhaiya told him.

Chapter 7:
Fifteen minutes after the almost christian wedding, we were on the road. We had taken full insurance cover for the vehicle, a GPS navigator (we called it TomTom) and we were to return the van before 1200 the next day. We hadn’t decided where to go, but we didn’t want to see the city traffic, so we took the Outer Ring Road. We were discussing destinations and someone mentioned Portsmouth. (It was either Bhabhi or me; Bhaiya was concentrating on driving.) Portsmouth had the sea, so we all agreed it was a place worth seeing. Bhabhi fed in the destination in TomTom, and it dispensed a route to the place which we followed religiously.

Chapter 8:
“Want another pringle?”, Bhabhi asked no one in particular. We had parked by the side of the road, to make phone calls. It was 1300 in England and 1730 in India. We were seated in the van’s rear: the cargo compartment. In a few hours, it’d be too late to call our families. We played a prank on my sister by using Bhabhi’s British phone but she understood what was going on once she heard Bhaiya’s voice. After making sure we had made all the calls we had to, we hit the road again. It was 1345 in my watch. I took the wheel this time. We were singing and joking, admiring the beautiful English country side, and listening to the vocal instructions Tom Tom was dispensing periodically. The best part about the van was, everyone had a place to sit in the front. Portsmouth was still an hour away.

Chapter 9:
We had been driving for half an hour now and we had been reminded by several street signs that we were nearing South Hampton. My old flatmates (Omkar and Juneja) had visited South Hampton a year ago and I had seen pictures of the place; it was lovely. I could’ve seen South Hampton with them a year ago, but I had my reasons to stay back home, alone (or was I? :P). Why did i bring this up? Oh yes, South Hampton (forgive the wandering mind :P). At some point, someone floated the idea of us making a halt at South Hampton. I told the others that it was a beautiful place; we decided to have lunch at South Hampton. We decided to disregard Tom Tom for a while and rely on street signs for a change; using them we headed towards the sea, looking for parking spaces to park our van.

*In line with my hypothesis – large chunks of text intimidate people – I’m limiting this post to the size it is. Keep checking this space for new stuff or subscribe to receive updates.

Wight is White, only less racist – The English Road Trip

July 7, 2011

Chapter 1:
It was the 10th of June, 2011. Satisfied with my daily struggle with research, I was walking alone towards 37 Venneit Close, listening to good old Deep Purple and thinking nothing at all. I had covered most of my 2 miles from the lab to my home, when I saw a stressed out Erika standing by the road, talking to two elderly gentlemen. As I inched towards her, I knew what it was. She had parked her car in the No Parking Zone and they had clamped it. She waved at me and asked me how my day had been. I went to her and asked her if she needed any help. She said she’d pay a fine and they’d let her have it back, and was waiting for some paperwork. I decided to wait with her and joined her in staring at the two men talking to each other. We were woken up by the vibration in my pocket, it was a phone call. I picked it up to hear my cousin’s “Heleu”. It was about seven thirty in the night. “Listen, Parul and I were wondering if you were interested in spending the weekend with us. We can come down to Oxford.” “Excellent”, I had waited years for this day. “Cool, we’ll take the bus at ten and be in Oxford by eleven thirty”, he said. “Make sure you get off at the last stop, Gloucester Green”, I responded. “See you tonight”, he said before hanging up. I was happy. Erika was staring at me, puzzled. I realized I had to make my room survivable, so I had to rush. I told her that I had some stuff to take care of, and she responded, “Oh okay. You go home, I’ll be in soon.” I cursed myself for leaving her alone, and jogged the remaining distance to the flat. As soon as I got there, I pulled the hoover from the store room and got busy.

Chapter 2:
It was nine and my room looked neat. I had changed the bedsheets, the quilt covered up looked nice, the pillows were wearing matching pillow covers, the carpet looked okay and the room smelled nice. Erika was home and I had apologized formally for having abandoned her in her time of crisis. I told her I was having family over and she forgave me. I looked at my watch and typed in a text message “Details about your journey will be appreciated”. Minutes later, I received “Details will be dispensed on a need to know basis.” I liked this game. I typed in, “Codename: JohnDoe”. He responded “Is it raining in Oxford?” I said to myself, “Non-sequitur” and chuckled like a bad guy. It’s fun interacting with geniuses. I replied “No. Give me a call when you reach.” An hour later I received, “Liar. We’re in Oxford and it’s raining.” I chuckled again, grabbed my jacket and an umbrella, and set out to receive my favourite cousin and favourite Bhabhi.

Chapter 3:
It was 2330. I was busy making breath rings in the cold air when I saw the red-blue Oxford-London Express from the corner of my eye. It had to be this one. It was. Two minutes later we were smiling at each other. It was still raining, so we ran for shelter. “So what do we do?”, Bhabhi asked. It was a Friday night, we didn’t have many options but to sit at a pub or go dancing. I had noticed they didn’t have much luggage, just a bag that could be swung over one’s back. I wished everyone in the family had this impeccable packing sense. “Any of you want to use the washroom?”, I asked. “We’re good”, they responded in a chorus. “So we’re going to a pub”, I declared. Bhaiya drooled at the statement.

Chapter 4:
“Let’s sit here”, I yelled, to be heard over the loud music. We were inside ONeills, my favourite pub in town. We left Bhabhi at the table and headed towards the bar. The band was playing Carry on my wayward son. I loved that song. We returned with goodies and stared at each other. A conversation seemed tough in the loud music, but we still did a good job. We managed to know how each one of us had spent the last week and talk about what we’d do the next day. I managed to describe the Saturday scene at the Cornwall market. The band played a medley of We’ll rock you and Back in Black, my excitement was palpable. “The guitarist is Good”, Bhaiya remarked. He had been a Floyd fan since his college days. (This is a partial non sequitur. Boy, I’m on fire.) Anyhow, we had a fun time at the pub. Bhaiya duped me into having Guinness, telling me it was good. I gave him a taste of his own medicine (he had to finish it). Despite the fun and the fanfare, the band had to stop playing at some point and the people had to go home at some point. That point came and we decided to look for food. It was more than an hour past midnight, give or take a couple of hours. (The point of the story is fun, not accuracy.) Minutes later, we were ordering food at McD. Two girls in pretty dresses had a row with the security guard over something trivial, it was an entertaining dinner. Content with the night’s events, we walked home.

Chapter 5:
“Are you sure the two of you will survive in this dungeon?” was what I could have asked them. I didn’t; we didn’t have any options. I later realized we had an extra mattress in the house (so if anyone wants to be my guest now, I can be a better host.) Anyhow, I had asked Juneja to let me crash at his place, and he had graciously agreed. (He’s one of the dudes I can always bank on.) I bid goodbye to my two companions, Bhaiya expressed his desire to see me out, I let him follow me. We had sneaked into the house without really announcing our presence, so I felt obligated to let my flat mates know I had company. It was 3 am, Erika was asleep and I wasn’t keen on inducing oaths in Mandarin, so I didn’t disturb her. Andrea was still awake, so I decided to disturb her. “Andrea, this is my cousin from London. His wife and he will sleep in my room tonight, I’m going to a friend’s place. Don’t be alarmed if you see them” were my exact words. “Okay”, she said and held out her hand. Bhaiya reciprocated. They exchanged names. “I must get going”, I announced. I was outside the house, and Bhaiya was staring at me, waiting for me to leave. We looked at each other for forty seconds, then I announced, “Bhaiya, go in. I am going to lock you in.” “Alright, see you tomorrow”, he responded. And I left for my haven. It was still drizzling; I walked in long strides. With this company, I was sure the next day would be fun. It was more fun than I had imagined it would be.

* Large chunks of text intimidate the common folk[Citation Needed?], so I’ve been organizing the stuff as several small installments lately. This is how far I’m taking you now. Keep checking this space for the remaining part of the adventure.

Read the next part here.

The adventurous race to Witch Mountain: featuring Sonisphere Rock Festival UK 2010 (the destination), Time (the invincible bastard) and JohnDoe (the master of tragedies) The Concluding Part

July 3, 2011

Read the previous part here.

Chapter 9:
The next twenty four hours were going to be eventful. I was on my way to the coach station, humming the tune of a ghastly song, occasionally whispering the lyrics. The cold was sending in shivers down my spine. I reached Gloucester Green at around three in the night. My bus had not arrived. I had hoped I’d meet people at the station. There were none, except a drunk girl who thanked me three times for telling her the time. She was not travelling to London, she was just waiting for a cab. I tried to direct her to the cab stand but apparently I was not making a lot of sense. While we were trying to establish my right was not her right, my coach arrived. The british people are very amiable, you just don’t end conversations abruptly with them, so I had to lie about her right being my right. I bid her goodbye and hopped onto the coach. I showed my ticket to the driver and walked to the middle of the coach where the seats were the most comfortable. The time was 0310. The coach took off in a jiffy. I was the sole passenger in the sixty seater double decker bus. Scenes of Indian buses flashed past my eyes: a hundred people – relying only on the inter-atomic repulsive forces that prevent all matter from combining – trying to fuse into a single blob, some hanging out from the doors, in a moderately sized vehicle. I looked around to reassure myself I was alone. I collapsed in the comfort of my cosy seat and prayed for a change. I tried to doze off, but the streets looked so lovely in the moonlight, I couldn’t help not stare at them. It was 0440 and I had reached London, Victoria coach station. I thanked the driver. I was excited and relieved as I got off the bus. As much as I love travelling, I don’t like spending time getting to the places. My next task was to locate Stop D and board the bus N73 to Kings Cross St. Pancreas. I groped my pockets for the map of the place and retrieved one from umpteen nicely folded print outs of more maps and bus routes and bus timings. I have never prided myself for being able to learn road routes and in the next thirty minutes, I was beginning to doubt if I was even a literate. I had the map and I was walking along what appeared to be the right tracks, but the destination seemed unreachable. I reverted back to my starting point twice, made slight modifications to the paths I had taken earlier, but it didn’t work. I knew I had missed the 0510 bus and I’d have to catch the next one. I had made up my mind to take a cab, but fortunately I spotted N73, the bus I was supposed to board. I couldn’t stop it, for it was not my country. For what was worth, I saw where it was coming from, so I walked in the direction I thought it had originated from. I managed to find Stop D and realized how Archimedes must’ve felt after the knowledge of buoyancy hit him. The next bus was in twenty minutes. I had a lot of time to reach King’s Cross. My cousin had promised to be there at eight for our breakfast together. I would’ve missed the next bus too had I not been reminded to buy a ticket from the ticket dispenser by a kind elderly man who learnt from me how I had missed the bus. Fortunately, I didn’t.

Chapter 10:
I was at the London King’s Cross St. Pancreas station. The time was was 0552. I had time to kill. I had a small bag that I was carrying. I decided to take a walk. There was a KFC nearby, it hadn’t opened. I walked towards it to read the offers pamphlet and it started raining. It was a drizzle at first but grew into a downpour in a jiffy. I ran towards the train station to seek refuge. The station was huge but there was no sitting room. There were white, black, brown, yellow people everywhere. There were a couple of stores inside: selling books, chocolates, fruits, water, soft-drinks and chewing gum. There were restaurant outlets selling food. I checked into a book store to kill the time; spent the next forty minutes reading the gists of different novels. Suddenly people started to leave the benches and walk towards the trains. A couple of trains were ready for departure. This implied sitting room. I jogged towards an empty bench and perched my rear on it. I had not slept in two days, and there wasn’t going to be any sleep that night. So I decided to take a nap. I rested my bag on my lap and my head on the bag and tried to sleep. I was unsuccessful and gave up. A couple of chinese looking people were banging their heads, trying to scan the huge digital information board to locate the timings of a train to Cambridge. I joined them and found the train to Cambridge in three minutes (not my personal best though). “Thank you mister“, replied one of them. Suddenly I felt a vibration in my pant-pocket. It was my cellphone. I picked it up. “Robin, where are you?“, my cousin from the other end said. “I’m at Kings Cross”, I responded. “Be there. Sorry, I overslept. I will be there as soon as I can. I’ll take the train from Wembley. Eat something if you’re hungry. We’ll still have breakfast together“, he said. “Okay. I’ll wait here, and you take your time. There’s no hurry“, I hung up. I walked out, it was still raining. I checked into another shop, bought an apple and read the headlines from a newspaper that was up for sale. The rain had mellowed down so I walked along the streets, breathing in the fresh, moisture laden breeze. I received another call from my cousin and we decided to meet outside the King’s Cross station in 5 minutes.

Chapter 11:
We hugged. Saurabh Bhaiya (that’s how we address elder brothers in India) asked me if I had any food preferences. I had none. So we started walking, talking about my future, daylight savings and other things I don’t quite remember. We had traditional English breakfast at a cafe. It consisted of vegetables, an omlette, bacon, bread butter and tea. It was nine thirty. I had decided to catch the 1006 train, so we walked back towards the train station. We reached the station well in time, and we still had about fifteen minutes before the train arrived so we used the time to see Harry Porter’s platform nine and a three quarters. There was a long queue of young people waiting to be photographed at the platform. Soon it was time and I bid goodbye to my cousin and embarked on the train to Stevenage. I didn’t have a music player then, but the moment I stepped into the train, I could hear Rammstein’s Kiene Lust in my head; it was the effect of seeing the people I was travelling with. It was the biggest Heavy Metal crowd I had ever seen. People with tattoos covering three-fourth of their bodies, people with piercings, people with muscular builds, people with hair reaching their waists, people with knotted beards, I knew the next fifteen hours were going to be fun. I looked around, there were two attractive young girls wearing Motley Crue T-shirts in one booth, and three older men wearing Metallica and Slayer in another. I weighed my chances, and sat with the Big 3, because 3 is an odd number after all. Thirty two minutes of heavy metal trivia later, I found myself in a queue to the shuttle that would take me to the Knebworth Park. Twenty minutes and a bus ride later, I was outside the Knebworth Park; my first reaction was, “It’s freaking huge“. The shuttle dropped us outside the park from where we had to walk a couple of miles to get to the actual park. On the way we saw parked cars for a mile and camps for another mile. Finally I got to the huge queue to the main site entrance. I could still hear music in my head, but it was drowned in the actual music coming from inside the park. I noticed I was excited, which was a rare occurence for someone with a slow brain and a dismissive attitude towards most things others are interested in. I found a gentleman with a BMVC bag ahead of me in the queue, I was fascinated (BMVC is an annual Research Conference for those seeking answers to similar questions as I am). I held out my hand and introduced myself, explaining why I had poked him. He responded, “so you’re a machine learning guy” and introduced me to his two Italian companions. I joined them, three is an odd number after all. We talked and walked to three the main stages: Apollo, Saturn and Bohemia. Well technically Bohemia is the smallest of the three stages, where the smaller bands perform. It was not noon yet, so Bohemia was the only stage in business (bigger bands don’t quite like the sun). Some band was playing some form of heavy metal, I could hear the growling vocals. It was good, but, as I told my companions, there were bands in Hyderabad like Skrypt, Sledge, who’d kick arse harder.

Chapter 12:
It was noon, Lacuna coil would go first. I had expected them to be a bigger name; anyhow, they did a decent job, but they were not so good Live. There were girls jumping around to their music, and the one in front of me landed twice with her wooden boots on my left foot. It was excruciating, but when she asked if I was okay in her husky voice, I could manage, “No I’m on local anaesthesia, it doesn’t hurt”. We had a laugh and she offered me beer. The rest of the evening was spent seeing and listening to bands like Anthrax, Slayer, Good Charlotte, Skunk Anasie, Katatonia, Evile, Papa Roach, Soulfly, Apocalyptica, Fear Factory, Motley Crue, Placebo. I had never heard Fear Factory, but they were a force Live, I respect bands who are good Live. I got into a huge moshpit while they were on, and I lost my companions. I had southern fried chicken for lunch, and a softy for dessert. Rammstein started playing around 2130 and continued till 2300. They set fire to the stage. The back-drop of the stage changed several times, they did their shenanigans and tantrums, the keyboard player was thrown in a coffin which was set ablaze, someone from the crowd jumped on the stage and was set on fire; it was a crazy awesome performance. Rammstein was Rammstein best that night. I had to take the last bus at 2352, so I ran like I hadn’t in ten years. The natural process of companion selection landed me with a Portuguese dude (he basically had the same speed as I had) and he volunteered to show me the way. He was travelling to London too and was an IT technician, so we had other stuff in common to talk about. So we sat next to each other in the Shuttle and the shuttle left us at a strange intersection. I looked at the Portuguese, he looked at his watch and back at me with the “everything is under control” twinkle. We walked in a direction he dictated and stood in a queue for five minutes, it was hardly moving. I asked him if we were standing in the right queue, he reasoned the station was crowded because everyone wanted to get on that train. I was skeptical about his theory because everyone in the queue was so dressed to kill, it was certainly not the Heavy Metal crowd. I asked him to save my space and went on ahead to find out why the queue wasn’t moving. I felt a shiver down my spine as I saw a huge bouncer chatting with two women in raunchy outfits. It took me less than ten seconds to realize it was the queue to a disco/drinking club. I cursed my fate, ran back to my companion, pulled him by his arm and announced “it’s a fucking disco.” He smiled and responded, “Not in the mood to dance?” We laughed like war veterans, it was a bloody brilliant line. Twenty seconds into the fanfare, I realized this train was my only chance to not miss my flight to India, so I decided to tell him I HAD to be on the train. He realized the urgency of the situation, pulled out his modern cellular phone with GPS tracking and asked me to follow him. I could see a smaller route to the railway station on his tracker map, but I didn’t want to confuse him, so I just followed him. He was kind enough to remind me we’d have to run again, and we ran our way on the longest route available to the railway station out of three available options. Basically it was like going from the east coast of America to the west coast, only taking the route via China. One and a half miles of running later, we finally reached the train station at 2351. We had no time to read instructions, so we jumped into the first train we saw and the doors shut instantly. I leapt for the door realizing it could be the wrong train, but it had started to move. Thankfully it was not the wrong train, as was announced later. At 0040, we reached London, and I knew this was it; I had made it. The Portuguese and I bid good bye, he said he’d be glad to see me again sometime, I said the same, but I didn’t mean it. He was a nice bloke, but I swore never to trust a Portuguese. The rest of the trip went as planned, I met no talkative strangers at the Kings Cross. It was perhaps the most memorable twenty hours of my life, but several incidents recently have made me question my assertion. Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to a life full of similar adventures, I’m going to Sonisphere next week again.

The Tea Coaster

January 6, 2011

The fairies were having a tea party
In their small garden atop the big cloud.
Capricious Susane playfully poked Rosina
And her coaster flew off the shroud.

It fell across the blue sky
And landed on the grass all green.
Where little Johny was chasing
His little sister Jean.

Jean stopped, picked up the coaster
Gave it to her brother who was chubby.
He rubbed it against his small tummy
Until it looked not at all dirty.

He then set it on the grass again
And the two of them stared at the thing.
Robbie, Samantha and Summer were summoned,
The little children sat in a ring.

Little Johny reached for the coaster
And held it in his palm.
It was light and it was white,
It was pure, honest and calm.

It had a logo and a printed word
In raging red crimson.
The crimson stood out on the white
With fieriness, with energy, with passion.

Below the letters was a drawing,
In many colours, not one dull
The colours were lively and cheerful,
The colours were bright, almost real.

While the children looked at the drawing,
Rosina groaned and flapped her wings.
It was a tree with flowers, with leaves,
They grew out like little offsprings.

The flowers and trees held onto the trunk
Like to a cat cling the kittens.
The trunk was thick and strong and sure
Yet, firmly rooted to its foundations.

The flowers had vivid colours,
Some red, some blue, some yellow;
Like Different moods at different times,
Sometimes tensed, sometimes mellow.

Big and small with different shapes,
The leaves sat on the tree grandly.
They fed it, nourished it, provided for it:
The bread winner of the family.

Summer grew impatient at Johny
Who had held the coaster for long.
She pulled his hair and he gave in,
The little girl was strong.

She held the coaster, admired the drawing,
And then gave it a flip.
She wanted to see what lied beneath,
She felt the surface with her fingertip.

While the top was smooth like butter,
The bottom was coarse and rough.
Like a father who pampers you when you’re good,
And checks you when he has had enough.

The Light

December 30, 2010

A singular star gapes through the clouds
In the murky, moonlit sky.
A young lad in his twenties
Stares at it and thinks of someone.

Miles away in a foreign land,
A lonely girl does the same.
It’s not every night
That you see this tragic spectacle.

Night is but darkness,
That obscures the truth,
That hides the pain,
That veils the light.

And in the darkness,
Is lost the love,
That they believe still is
In the darkness.

The cold wind blows in his face,
It blows past her hair,
It’s bleak, for it brings no warmth,
It’s bleak, so it dries the tears.

He’ll not sweep her off her feet,
She’ll not wake him from his sleep.
The old man who tells the tales of love,
Lives in his humble hut alone.

March will follow October,
And October March.
The dreamers will die
And be born again.

A dream

December 20, 2010

The scent of lavender
Woke me up.
I looked for you
And found a scarf.

There was no coffee
By my bedside,
I had made my own bed
The last night.

The silence was quiet,
The colours were dull.
I wish there was music
Playing in the distance.

I couldn’t remember if
‘Twas a monday or a friday.
March or October,
I didn’t care.

I’ve been in a trance
Ever since.
I remind myself,
You were just a dream.

A Cold Christmas

November 29, 2010

The beggar prayed for a sunny day,
The crippled prayed for death.
It was a cold Christmas,
It snowed all night.
The cold consumed the beggar,
The helpless crippled cried.
With tears in my eyes, I saw this happen
A part of me – that day – died.

The adventurous race to Witch Mountain: featuring Sonisphere Rock Festival UK 2010 (the destination), Time (the invincible bastard) and JohnDoe (the master of tragedies) Part Deux

September 12, 2010

Read the previous part here.

Chapter 6:
July 27th, 2010. I mailed Amr, asking if he’d make it to Knebworth. He replied that he wouldn’t, owing to his illness. That was sad. I started to have second thoughts about my plans. My reasons for calling the trip off were:
A. I was about to embark on a journey to the unknown. Alone. There was a chance I could die of boredom.
B. I was skeptic about my travel plan. If I missed a single bus or train, I’d be struggling to not miss my flight. Having orthodox people around (orthodox to the extent of being called wusses) did not help. In fact, I was even suggested to have my flight rescheduled.
My reasons for going were:
A. I had blown a hundred pounds on this trip. Flaking out meant all this going down the drain.
B. Rammstein.
I weighed the pros and cons like any sane man would. This helped me to arrive at a conclusion any insane man would. Even if I missed my flight, I’d have a story to tell the grand children. Besides, I reasoned, I would not be alone, I could make friends with strangers (I’m actually good at it). Finally, I thought to myself, one man can have a lot of fun alone (no I don’t mean that), and dismissed all the discouraging thoughts. By the time I realized I was going, I was the human equivalent of a fully charged AAA battery. I punched the air like it was Ravindra Jadeja’s jaw.

Chapter 7:
July 28th, 2010. I was going to Knebworth, alone, to witness the vulgar display of power of some good bands and I was thrilled because there was the uncertainty of my timely return. I had spent the week shopping for parents with Marco, the Italian dude. We had literally spent hours, window shopping which made us feel like a couple of sissy girl-friends. His long blonde hair does tad justice to the last remark. At home, we had packed our stuff because I was to leave the apartment one night earlier than my companions. I wouldn’t have the time to wind up later. It was about six-thirty, I was at my desk, in the lab. Most of the people had already left. Matthew approached us from his office. He diffused his warm Californean smile, peered out his glasses, and asked, “Plans for dinner?” “I’m in.” It took us a while to convince Omkar to eat at Nandos, famous for its Southern African cuisine. We picked our laptops and started to walk leisurely towards Nandos. We were talking about some stuff, and Omkar asked me for the umpteenth time if I had called Emirates to have my flight rescheduled. At times, I have to pretend to be polite, this was one of those times. I took a deep breath and smiled at him. I told him, I wouldn’t mind missing the flight, I was really looking forward to the adventure. Matthew remarked, “There’re adventures worth doing, and there’re advenures that you just pay for. Your adventure seems to belong to the latter kind.” I read out my travel plan to him. His smile burst into a grin. It was visible he was working hard to supress a roll of laughter. It was an over-rated plan, I guess. Now it was his turn to play polite. He had to say something to justify his excitement, so he said “Beware of strange men at Kings Cross. Let me tell you something.” “I don’t wanna know”, I responded, anticipating his next statement. “Let’s just say that you might meet strange men around Kings Cross who might offer you money. Just make sure not to get lost in one of the dark alleys there”, he adviced. “I will try my best”, I said. Then he described the somewhat repulsive scene from a British sit-com where the protagonist had a similar experience. His description was hilarious.

Chapter 8:
July 29th, 2010. It was my last working day in England. Sure a man can work on stuff, even when he’s not working, and I meant working in the latter sense. I had a meeting with AZ later that afternoon. We were to discuss my results over tea at a posh English cafe. Towards the end of the meeting, I was given a truck load of experimenting to do, and I was supposed to report my findings the day I reached India. I reminded AZ, “do you remember the Rock concert I mentioned?” He smiled, “Yes, I do. This means you’ll have to set all your experiments running tonight, before you leave.” Everyone on the table laughed. It was a jolly brilliant line. My arse was hotter than Apollo 11’s rear ten seconds after takeoff. Marcin took some heat off by asking if anyone had heard Saxon, the British Heavy Metal Band of the 80s. He took my note-book and scribbled the name of the band as the last item in my to-do list. He’s a genius, and he’s hilarious.

We had a lot of stuff to do this day. Bart, our land-lord was meeting us at six to inspect the apartment for any changes we might have caused; he’d decide whether or not to return our security deposit on the basis of his findings. I was supposed to handle him, the refrigerator door was not closing properly.

Then it was my last day in Oxford, so we (all the lab people) had decided to gather at ONeils, the pub where bands played live on weekends. Marco and I had been coming to this place for three weeks. We loved the ambiance here; I loved the Music and he their waitress. She used to come to our table, pick a single empty glass, then come again later to pick another one and so on, when she could just take away all in one go. Once we had decided to tell her we loved her (in a chorus) but Marco saw her smiling and talking to another guy and it broke his heart.

So, we gathered at this place, drank, talked, people left one by one. I had the bus at 0310, so I was keen on staying till they kicked us out. I couldn’t afford to go home and sleep. Omkar, Juneja, Relja, Natraj, Marco and I finally left the pub at 0215. We spent another thirty minutes saying goodbye to each other. Separation sucks, but is inevitable. We went home. I made sure I had the print-outs of the train and bus timings, the road maps of London and the tickets. I walked out at two-forty five. It was cold outside, I had a woolen hoodie with me, but it was a gift for my cousin so I couldn’t wear it. I rubbed my palms together as I walked towards the Gloucester Green Coach Station, into the night. I whispered the lines of Angelo Badalamenti’s Into the Night:
Into the night, I cry out your name.. Into the night, I search out, your love… Nights are dark, where are you, come back in my heart… So Dark…
It’s a ghastly song and the eerie music was giving me goose bumps.
The next twenty four hours were going to be eventful.

I’m afraid there’s more waiting. Stick for the last part. Read it here.