Friday, May 17, 2013

Guilty until proven innocent .....

Why have his own people never liked Sreesanth?

Across the world people love sports stars for a multitude of reasons - their ability to do that extra 30 or 40 % on the basis of God given talent and hard work, their larger than life personalities and lifestyles, their ability to hold the collective euphoria or despair of an entire nation in their hands etc. The swish of the net as Kobe Bryant sinks in a clutch shot with seconds on the board, the ball rapidly making its way into the crowd as Chris Gayle hits yet another towering six and a 40+ year old Randy Couture taking down Gabriel Gonzaga yet again as he defied the odds and Father Time and marched toward a seemingly impossible UFC title victory are but a few examples of how sports stars become heroes for so many of us caught up in our drab day to day existence and who live for those fleeting moments of ecstasy. And yet somehow despite everything falling into place at the right place and the right time, in a cricket mad country, Indian cricketer Sreesanth was never a hero to his own people.

The Sreesanth script could've been perfect. He comes from a state – Kerala, which has hardly ever had its players in the national cricket team. There were always rumors that talented Malayalees (for those who don’t know - people from Kerala speak Malayalam and are known as Malayalees or Keralites) never got called up because they didn’t have godfathers in the selection board and almost all cricket fans acknowledge this to be true. But all this changed when Sreesanth burst on the cricket scene a few years ago. Here was a reasonably good fast bowler (how good he was has perpetually been a matter of debate) who ended up playing 27 test matches (with 87 wickets), 53 ODIs (75 wickets) and a handful of Twenty20 matches. He was flamboyant at times in his celebrations and on occasion seemed to bring a feisty flavor to our traditional pace bowling.

So why wasn’t he the darling of the masses? To me, it’s because his flashes of brilliance were often overshadowed by his inability to back up all his venom with actual match winning performances. As a nation, we have respected and admired the workhorse bowlers, the ones that did their job minus the pizazz. The ones that replied to aggression by the opposition through their bowling and not through words. And Sreesanth just wasn’t what we were used to. He didn’t represent what Indian bowling was all about. Remember Venkatesh Prasad’s response to Pakistan batsman Aamir Sohail’s infamous pointing the bat to the boundary incident? One of Indian cricket’s great moments that.

But controversy followed him with the infamous Slap-gate scandal (a fellow senior bowler Harbhajan Singh apparently slapped him on the cricket field, some fans believe that the one slap wasnt enough ...) and like many other cricketers thrust into the spotlight he too tried his hand in showbiz. Again this wasn’t what Keralites were used to. All the glitz and glamour somehow alienated him from what should’ve been a loyal fan following. To all of us sitting in our living rooms it appeared as though this brash Johnny come lately was more fire breathing posturer than wicket taker and that the fame and fortune had gone to his head (yes, we are a judgmental lot). And so Sreesanth was excluded from the respect that we showed the Sachin Tendulkars and the Anil Kumbles and the Rahul Dravids of the cricketing world.

And now its all come tumbling down. Along with two of his club teammates, Sreesanth has been arrested for spot fixing (working with bookies to fix certain spots in matches in exchange for extremely large sums of money) yesterday. In a society with true justice, people are assumed to be innocent until proven guilty. But looking at social media and newspaper reports, it seems as though the nation has played its role as the judge and jury and declared him guilty immediately. All we await is the ruling of the cricket board that plays the executioner here (assuming he is guilty of course). Other cricketers might have got the benefit of the doubt. But with Sreesanth, the axe has been quick to fall when it comes to the normal man's verdict. 

The following image has been doing the rounds since yesterday. What I have said in 700 odd words, the Joker seems to have said in 17. And people wonder why we Malayalees don’t like Sreesanth.... 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Wrestling tolerances : Part II

I laughed a lot when the following email forward was sent to me - it showed the other extreme of the road  our society was on. 

Dear All,
I wanted to send some sort of holiday greeting to my friends and colleagues, but it is so difficult in today's world to know exactly what to say without offending someone. So I met with my attorney yesterday, and on their advice I wish to say the following Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes  or an environmentally conscious, socially  responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral celebration  of the winter solstice holiday, practiced with the most enjoyable traditions of religious persuasion or secular  practices of your choice with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular  traditions at all.

I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted Gregorian calendar year 2011, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make our country great and without regard to the race, creed, colour, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee.

By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these terms: This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for himself or others and is void where prohibited by  law, and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher.

In short, wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year ..... 


I for one, am having no more of this diplomatic non political keep everyone happy attitude (which is a complete about turn for someone like me, years ago I used to be told that I was frustratingly way too diplomatic to survive in this cynical world)  which is why I am boldly posting this. Im sure none of my readers know that the guy in the picture below Dwayne Johnson (a.k.a. the Rock, a wrestling superstar who is now a leading Hollywood actor) made the catchphrase "Do you smell what the Rock is cooking?" famous (accompanied by him closing his eyes and taking a deep breath as in the picture to the left)

Wait, whats that you say? You dont appreciate that? Uh oh, exit stage left. Feet, dont fail me now. Btw  whatever happened to tolerance? 

Wrestling tolerances : Part I

Tolerance. Our society has us learning more about other cultures, religions, people and their way of living but  despite all our best efforts, tolerance seems to be at an all time low. It's the strangest thing really. 

Im sure most of my readers dont know that Jay Briscoe is the reigning heavy weight champion at Ring of Honor, a small US based wrestling company. Jay and his brother Mark have been with the company since the beginning and their characters are that of hard hitting redneck Americans (which seems to be pretty close to reality) that arent afraid of speaking their mind. Things really got out of hand recently, when Jay took to Twitter to write about gay marriage and his thoughts on the subject. 

Do a lot of Americans (not just Americans mind you) feel just the same way but are afraid to speak their mind given the politically correct times we live in? Definitely yes. Was it offensive? To a lot of people, yes (to the extent that fans have said that they will not buy Ring of Honor shows as long as Jay is the champion despite him having been a fan favourite for so many years). Was he playing his character or was it the real Jay Briscoe speaking his mind? One will never know. 

Of course, Ring of Honor did what any company would do and wrote a long apologetic post on Twitter and decided to fine Jay Briscoe his earnings from the next few shows. He probably will lose the title soon as punishment as well. But it begs the question - where do we draw the line when it comes to being politically correct? Do we allow anyone to get away with saying anything they want to just because they have the freedom of speech? Or do we just throw a blanket censor of what we actually feel because we are so concerned about what other people will think? 

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

These days

These days there are very few movies that genuinely make you laugh – not just chuckle or smirk or smile but laugh heartily. There are even fewer movies that make such an impact on you that you cry – not just feel like crying but tear up. There are some movies that make you think about life but fewer ones that cause you to introspect about the good times, the bad times, how things were and how they could be. Billy Crystal’s movie Parental Guidance does all of these.

These days we build walls around us that are more self preservative in nature than anything else and are a function of the times we live in but what they do is make us cynical and distant. What a movie like Parental Guidance does is temporarily break down part of this self imposed wall and makes you feel. It gets you to sit back and enjoy the ups and downs that grandparents have to go through as they have to adjust  to new age parenting which includes lack of disciplining and complete positivism. Yes it is sappy and formulaic and some of the stuff the characters do is ridiculously over the top especially when you look at it from an Indian context but these are minor glitches in an otherwise thoroughly enjoyable movie.

Two days before I watched the movie, I was on a cross country flight in the US on which they aired Parental Guidance (was one of those flights that did push services and not on-demand entertainment). I overheard two elderly people sitting next to each other talk about how hilarious the movie was and how one of them was going to babysit her grand kids and how a lot of the same stuff happens to her all the time. That put it on my need to watch list. 

Four days before I watched the movie, I was talking to colleagues of mine who have settled in the US and we were discussing how they balance their commitments and expectations from their family and friends in India  with successful careers and their lives in the US. One very interesting aspect of our conversation was how they manage to keep their kids involved with their parents who are settled in India. I was told the story of a middle aged Indian in the US who bumped into his (Indian) neighbours father while out on a walk and asked him how he was enjoying his stay in the US when he was rudely told “These days your generation only wants to spend time with us when you have kids .....”. 

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Go figure!

Ok so I've been watching numerous bikers here in Chicago riding by with no semblance of a helmet anywhere. On further enquiries, I found out that riding with a helmet is not mandatory in the state of Illinois. What I was told is that they have done research on this and found that if you have a fall above 40 mph, it is going to be fatal anyways even if you ride with a helmet and that you will be riding at over 40 most of the time. Plus, trying to get a person who has survived a fall, out of his helmet before transporting him to the nearest hospital, is difficult and so they have gone with the no mandatory helmet rule. 

For more, check the attached link The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that the law making helmet wearing mandatory was unconstitutional. 

I feel like Obelix - tapping my head and saying "These Americans are crazy...."