Sunday, January 29, 2006

Waking up in the age of instant messages

Rang de Basanti is a story about the sustained awakening of a close-knit group of adults, and how their growing disillusion leads them down a desperate road. Faced with the seemingly insurmountable obstacle of life in India, they find escape in an unexceptional and anonymous life, where expectations are small and laughter is a means of keeping inevitable misery at bay. When we first meet them, we realise that they have already woken up to life’s offerings and given up in a puff of cynicism. Nothing will change, they say to us over and over, but when the group is touched by misfortune, they snap out of their stupor, stop talking, and begin to act.

The story opens with Alice Patten, who plays Sue, a documentary filmmaker, facing a stone wall. Having prepared to translate to film the jottings of a diary by her grandfather who, as a jailer, oversaw the hangings of Bhagat Singh and his friends, she is told that there aren’t enough finances to fund the project because Bhagat Singh isn’t popular enough. “Gandhi sells,” she is advised. Sue walks away and completes the documentary independently. There is in this a story within a story. Rakeysh Mehra faced numerous challenges to finance Rang de Basanti, and it is entirely possible that the advice he was given, when he revealed that Singh would feature prominently in the film, is similar to what Sue was told.

The group fills the role of Singh and the rest in Sue’s film, and when their painstaking work is done, a series of tragic events sees them continue in a revolutionary mood and, like Singh, act to attract attention. But times have changed and, instead of their deeds bringing notice to corruption and apathy in the government as they had planned, their efforts are in vain. This relentless back and forth struggle, where a few individuals seek truth from a featureless and unwilling entity, sets up the dramatic final act of this resonant movie. While that end, in retrospect, requires a slight suspension of reality by the watcher, the desperation that leads to the end is entirely believable.

The film plays the present off the past, juggling between the two, as DJ (Aamir Khan) and his vibrant friends are replaced by Singh and his gang mid-scene, and in conversation. The obvious reference is to history repeating itself, and as the shift occurs, it feels like a hop between parallel universes. What shape could the next fight for independence take?

But there are smaller issues at hand. As the group expands to accept Laxman Pandey (Atul Kulkarni), a Hindu nationalist, they begin to understand each other in the way only proximity allows. Sue and DJ strike a friendship, much to the expectations of their friends and everyone else watching, and she inadvertently brokers a truce between Laxman and the rest. Within one large story there are several other plotlines, some completed, others left hanging, and almost all real. The forts where they move about, where they choose to rest, all hint at a longing for the past – anything to avoid the future.

As each character grows, so does the dialogue, and this transition from the irreverent at the start to the focused and optimistic at the film’s end is one of its many strengths. That the camera hovers away from one set of characters to follow the others, and then cuts back to them, is another. An exchange between DJ and Sue, where he momentarily lets down his guard and speaks in Punjabi while she nods and smiles, is a particularly poignant one because the roles are reversed between them.

The two could represent more than their characters. It’s odd, but Indian cinema still depicts the white man chiefly as colonizer, and not as thinking individual. Here the movie falters, but it is necessary for this story: Indian aggressors are shown as faceless, as the new colonizers. And when Sue breaks down upon hearing the final violent path DJ has chosen, we realize that the England and India of 59 years ago have changed places.

Rang de Basanti is an unusual story because it presents another point of view: that patriotism doesn’t come from loving your country blindly, and that for some it may not come at all. That's fine, but it isn’t enough to sit about and complain – if it’s broke and you’re upset, fix it.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Going the distance alone

July 2005, around the time a cloud burst. Traveling alone, I could sleep overnight at a station platform, would think nothing of wandering from one state to another in search of a bus headed home, and behave as irrationally as I wanted without being tut-tutted. It was independence – messy, unregulated, and revealing. I imagined traveling with others who insisted on taking regimented tours, and this made me feel glad instantly; it was the satisfaction of avoiding a cliché. Their route would be pre-selected, its rough edges cut, and only the brightest, shiniest, and picturesque things would be seen. They would be led to the token traditional craftsman who had cut a decent deal for himself. Having dished out the money, they would see a performance pass itself off as reality. While they shook hands with Mickey Mouse, my journey would be full of wonderful discoveries. Strangers would become friends for life, we would trade stories, there would be original experiences and old tales and wonderful things that hadn’t been named yet. Life looked after its boys, fortune favours the brave and all that.

Marquez liked to get on a tour bus to see the places he should avoid. Bryson walked into countries just about accidentally. Dalrymple moved in broken trucks, broken buses, through broken countries. There’s a precedent here. But who reads the fine print? That it’s lonely, that staring out windows for hours in strange places is a recipe not for wonder but for an introspection of the most searching kind. A leaky roof becomes symptomatic of life’s misfortunes. Just as the joys while traveling alone are intense, internal events, so is the misery. Of course, everything will be out of proportion. I’d find myself a little disoriented for a while everyday, desperately seeking an anchor in something familiar. That meant sipping a coke, or having Kurkure for that back-home feeling.

Mood swings are common. Between breakfast and lunch you’re doing optimism. Between lunch and supper melancholy is doing you. It’s inexplicable, though I think sitting still for far too long, just thinking, has something to do with it. There’s too much time to kill between venues. The journeys become a blur, distinctive only by the feelings associated with each destination. In buses I smuggle and snatch inches, becoming more frugal on each new ride. And what if an old lady turns up, her destination clearly hours away? There she stands for a few hours, toppling over in this rattling bus, completely unaware that a few feet away someone’s realized something horrible about himself. It adds to the isolation, the sense of being cut away from your moorings. All those moral science books, all those hours spent listening to what’s right and wrong from parents and teachers and friends, all gone.

Then you return home, as I did, relieved, alive, but feeling the urge to run back naked into the wilderness. You made it back once, so surely it can be done again? The misery, the sheer alone-ness, and the self-doubts are nearly forgotten. Sure, it wasn’t all joy, but it was something.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Definitely out of my comfort zone

[First, the excuses: first book review; 200 word limit; early in the morning; heavy book.]

In Out of my comfort zone, Steve Waugh recollects his beginnings and the steady but jolty path of his first career, that of a cricketer. It is a solid retelling of a story that most familiar with him already know, but it also provides insights into the workings of Australian teams of the late 80s till the turn of the century. As he was an influential figure within the most progressive team of our time, his story also reflects the sport's changing nature. The book is filled with battles with players, with officials, and above all with himself. And that is why, one senses, it reads at time like a how-to book – the workings of his mind feature as often as he does.

However, the book misses some parts of the story. Lara's demeanour is compared to Ranatunga's, and one hostile encounter with the West Indian is right out of a kindergarten playground. What Lara would have said about this is not known. He speaks of the relationship with board officials in a vulnerable tone, bordering on distrust and dismay. The moment where an official says to him, "You're on our side now," is as chilling to us as it was to him.

There are significant human touches: when we turn from his voice to his wife's farewell note, we believe our time with him is up, it is her turn now. But there is also a feeling that before he is too comfortable in retirement, he will return.

Waugh dedicates significant space to the surprise and tribulations of the match-fixing saga, to player contracts, and to his unique look on travel, especially in the subcontinent. There are new and old things here. It may not always surprise, but for those interested in the life and workings of one of the more balanced and outstanding performers around, Out of my comfort zone is a worthy acquisition.

This appeared in the January issue of Mans World. I wish it hadn't. I don't know how these guys do it. It's terribly difficult to not sound like a blurb.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

It rhymes

Has a season passed?
Does anyone know?
What’s the latest government?
What’s happening outdoors?
Have the roads improved,
are there pavements outside?
Is the metro active?
Does it look like Shanghai?
My blinds are drawn,
the window is shut.
I’ve not seen daylight.
It’s that time of the month
when death is a distraction
and life stands by idly with a pout,
and all that matters
is when this magazine comes out.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Sindhi evangelists

When a sister is engaged before her older brother, the natural order is disturbed. The first child is always packed off first, the second child is next and so on. Family elders are not pleased that the line of people waiting has been jumped, but that most in this line cannot yet vote is ignored, and that had they been able, they would choose to not cast their ballot.

"For how long will you resist," an aunt smiled, wrinkles spreading around her grave eyes. "Not long now," another said, squeezing my shoulder tightly. One hopeful asked: "By this year's end?" Every relative is the enemy, every conversation a landmine. It takes one irresponsible word to turn a discussion on Sehwag to turn into an impassioned speech about marriage and responsibility. The words could be 'girl' or 'settling' or 'maiden'. Even not saying anything leads others to believe a cloud of gloom has descended over the bachelor, and only marriage can save him. Wedlock as savior. There is something very evangelic about all this.

The gorgeous sister was forgotten, replaced by self-preservation. But how? Running away is not possible, noncommittal smiles are perceived as arrogance, jokes are inappropriate, so how can it be avoided? Age can't be fudged (we're not Pakistani cricketers) a silent corner cannot be found for fear of being labeled anti-social. The temporary solution is to stand there and listen, and be honest. No, marriage can wait; no, not this year; no, don't chat with the woman's parents; no, please, no.

The elder brothers, the ones who resisted this charge once, are among the elders. I cannot explain it, not without sounding foolish, but there is something disheartening about this, but also something comforting in imagining that the struggle is bound to end in defeat.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Breaking it down

Slowly, slowly, a silent violence was about to occur. Nothing could have stopped it because the moment had already passed. That the ball had been struck over the ropes was already known. But here it was, on a new camera designed to reveal each thousandth of a second, and it took eight or ten seconds for the batsman to swing his bat in an arc of 180 degrees. The ball arrived as the bat raced down slowly to meet it. Its white thread appeared and then disappeared, over and over, as if unsure of what face to present as the bat drew closer. It passed a foot planted firmly, by a bent knee, and at that instant, it collided with the bat. The bat wobbled, pausing momentarily before continuing its arc. Shahid Afridi's head was angled, leaning towards the bowler but looking away to the left, and at that instant, when his forearms bulged and veins shifted over expanding muscle as the ball's course was altered, an art form was made of Afridi's madness. The explosion was imagined, the violence was quiet. The ball had changed its mind and hurried upwards, its seam spinning manically as it disappeared from view. As it rose, Afridi looked up steadily, and the bat swung past his head even as he began to raise himself. The result was known. It was a six. It had to be. But never before had the act of hitting a six before it was a six brought such delight.

Just looking

A short and bumpy drive south of Alibag is a place most people haven’t heard of, and for that I am glad. It makes writing this all the more wrenching; the dilemma is: should it be revealed at all, or instead clasped close to the heart? Will readers say to themselves ‘right, this place sounds nice’ and be off in a flash with packed suitcases and unsuspecting family? It could happen, couldn’t it?

So a short drive south of Alibag, when the narrow path ventures from fields into dense vegetation that thrashes by passing vehicles, and where houses are glimpsed fleetingly behind living walls of green, is a place called Chaul. Tall trees cross high above the path like a gateway. Along it were silent blocks, half enclosed in foliage, from where a disembodied voice asked, “Hey, you are tourist? Looking hotel?” “No,” I said, “I’m looking for a fort, a qila.” Six kilometers down the road that way, said the voice of the man I could still not see.

Revdanda was once a Portuguese fort now in ruin. Stone seals from that time are still standing, but the etchings have eroded and are less defined, and the fortress walls, in places where they haven’t collapsed, are coated with moss. A single road winds through the village – essentially a sparse collection of small homes in narrow rows on either side – and over the Kundalika River, due to which it has the underwhelming recognition of being a rest stop on the route to Murud-Janjira. But this is clearly a good thing. If this was the final destination on weekend itineraries, there would be horse-carts on the nearby beach, and bramble cut for a tourist pathway. As of now, there is really nothing.

The hotel owner was quietly curious. A thoughtful silence followed every answer before he asked the next question. He listened while leaning by the doorframe and rubbing his head, his eyes skimming over the large room, and some time passed before he suggested, “I think some years ago a man from Portugal arrived here. Academic man, about this tall, he had come for research. Since you don’t have a plan, look around a little bit and you’ll find something or the other. I will give you an idea. Maybe you will like it.”

Outside it had become warmer, hot almost, since the rains had stopped, but brown puddles remained, rippling with murky bubbles that rose and burst. A leafy side path was taken – a signpost announced a bakery further ahead. I think about that sign often now. It led to a bakery. That next to the bakery was a small chapel - St. Zavier’s Chapel – over 350 years old counted for nothing. It was in disrepair. The roof had fallen in and a green-tinged large stone with a seal carved into it lay peacefully, under creepers that had begun reclaiming the place. Some villagers had heard of the chapel, some had not, while a few had an addition to make. “St Xavier used to play here as a child with a Muslim priest, some Pir who was also famous. They were very mischievous! Can you believe it?” a local reminisced fondly. Think about it. Done? Good. Neither could I.

The morning passed as I staggered about from one area to another – it was a small place – touching walls, trying to find more stone seals, and generally marveling at how big and quiet the fort was. The seconds tend to skip by faster during times like this and, caught up in this history, you slip into a dreamy haze – I do this often – only slightly aware that there are others around, watching with growing amusement as you walk by their roadside store for the third time in an hour. It was inevitable then, that a storekeeper asked, “Are you lost?” He sat over a pile of chikkoo, and swatted away flies quite suddenly with a violence that snapped me out of my drugged mood into something more appropriate, like fright. “No, no, not at all. I’m just looking. Nice place here,” I said, stepping backward. “Hah! You are from abroad, I know,” he said, voice raised slightly. “There is nothing in Revdanda. Nothing. Nothing at all.” You know those old hunched single-eyed women with whiskers in the movies? He said it like that. I took his advice, packed my bags, and left for home.

No, not really. I asked if there was any Portuguese blood left in the village. He straightened himself, pointed at the river and said, “Go to Korlai.”

Korlai village, five minutes away, is what’s left of the Portuguese in the area, and everyday that history slips out of reach a little more. The local language, Korlai Creole, is slowly disappearing. “They teach the children one-two-three in Hindi, not our language, but Hindi! Hindi!” a villager later told me. Apart from this lingual unrest, it was a serene place. The roads were gray and of concrete, the homes were of brick and cement, and both were built on a narrow strip of land that expanded more and more until it suddenly curved and ended at the sea. From above it would have resembled a dewdrop. Behind the village was a large hill, and on top was the Korlai fort. I ambled through, happy to do nothing but walk around looking for blue-eyed villagers, certain that someone would ask me to leave. Nothing of the sort happened. They did their thing – sleeping, eating, sorting nets – I did my thing – fumbling with a camera, getting lost and squinting in all directions.

The path to the fort was carved into the side of the hill, and it was gorgeous. A steep hill on one side packed with goats and cows – agile cows! – and an empty beach on the other, barely ten feet away. Beyond it was the sea. The path wound around the hill, and ended at a lighthouse. Then there were steps (uneven stone blocks balanced optimistically on a steep slope) that were the only route to the fort. From above the sight was splendid. There was Revdanda and a watchtower! There was the bridge! From on high, everything looks interesting. Alas, the expedition did not last long. How could it, when you hear a rattle sound from tall grass and realize that you’re dressed in shorts and flipflops – completely inappropriate for a meeting with a rattlesnake?

Back in Revdanda, everyone was asleep. I stepped into the local police station and found the forces of law and order sprawled across desks and benches. One woke up and, after a friendly chat, decided that he hadn’t seen much of Revdanda himself, so off we went, into the little lanes and covered paths to find new things. “I’ve never been here before,” he said after turning his motorbike onto a new path. The path twisted and turned, and there was one final burst of green before a large tower appeared. I think we said ‘wow’ at the same time in two languages. It was in some condition – a floor had fallen through – leaving six – a tree grew on top of a half-collapsed arch on the first floor, rusting cannons were scattered on the ground. My first thought was not of the tower or what it must have been, but how my city would look centuries from now. Perhaps there would still be traffic jams and road rage and people swearing they would move to a quiet hill station in the north.

In a while we grew fidgety. There was clearly much more to see here, but where could we start? The vegetation was dense all around, and if a wrinkled fisherman hadn’t passed by, the underground tunnels – seen only after beating back many bushes – would have remained unseen. “I had heard about these tunnels,” the constable muttered when he saw the tiny doorways that were black beyond, “I heard that these are underwater tunnels to the Korlai fort.” Caught up in it all, I was willing to believe anything, regardless of the fact that the Korlai fort was two kilometers away, interrupted only by a river mouth and the incline of a hill. And when the fisherman took us to a tunnel that was blocked and had religious markings on it and he said that explorers had entered it and returned half mad, jabbering incoherently about a large hairy snake guarding the tunnel, I was skeptical, but it was a dying skepticism because Revdanda, a place with myth and history, is ripe for a mixing of the two, and really, who wouldn’t like a fairytale of their own?

This story appeared in the January issue of Travel Plus.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Just whose is that doggy in the window?

Early morning radio can be such entertainment. Bleary-eyed, barely awake, callers say the most unexpected and charming thing at this vulnerable time of the day. But today's early morning ramble will be remembered for another reason. I tuned in while a RJ conducted a quiz sponsored by HMV.

"I said, what does the 'H' in 'HMV' stand for?" the RJ repeated, prompting furious 'umm'ing and 'aah'ing from the caller. "Achcha, I'll do this: I'll give you a clue. Have you seen the HMV logo?"

The embarassed caller said no. This contest had clearly gone on for long enough.

"That's alright! The HMV logo has a small dog. Well, not that sma.."


Both paused momentarily, the caller sheepish at her mistake, the RJ probably chuckling, and a thousand Hutch employees on their way to work howling in approval.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The slight that led to potato crisps (Yum!)

Here's an article in the Guardian about crisps, and here's an excerpt describing how they might have come about:

Potato chips were an American invention, cooked up in 1853 by George Crum, a native American Indian chief employed at the Moon Lake Lodge restaurant in Saratoga Springs, New York. The story goes that one Cornelius Vanderbilt swaggered into the restaurant one day with a hankering for fried potatoes, but sent back his order three times with the instruction that the potatoes were cut too thickly. In a fit of pique, Crum eventually sliced the potatoes into waferlike strips, deep-fried and salted them, and sent them back out.

Now I'm hungry for chips, including the salt, monosodium, whatever else. If you're in India, and in the Bombay region, Mota chips make a mean crisp. Camy could be good if they weren't so warped and small. I prefer the flatter, bigger type. Does anyone know a good brand of crisps here or anywhere else?

The onset of the monsoon

By September, weather reports on television showed more blue arrows than red. It was, and is, winter’s way of arrival into the mole-like life of a university dormitory resident. Outside, the leaves may have turned a warm colour and the crispness of incoming cold may have cut through the air, but inside, buried amid books and CDs and oil paints, it was television that told us Christmas was upon New York.

The charm of winter was intertwined tightly with Christmas. Street after street hosted holiday sales and Salvation Army Santas rang bells outside major subway stations. People seemed to smile and shrug if they were shouldered on those busy sidewalks. An inexplicable haze of peace and understanding prevailed in a city where making eye contact was once grounds for a knifing. Could this have only been the doing of Christmas? The cold was a deterrent; after all, you couldn’t put your fists up because they were warm deep inside your pockets, and a shut mouth was a warm mouth.

Everywhere you looked, the pavements belonged to black trenchcoats; within the uniform was a uniform walk: upright, rigid, purposeful. It was the walk of escape from winter. Beneath their feet, steam rose from metal grating connected to the subway. If the weather was unbearable (rarely), there were the delis and home comforts of Starbucks to warm your insides. There were pizza places with names like ‘Luigi’s’ and ‘Mario’s’ that served piping hot slices. New York was as cold as you allowed it to be.

On silent Brooklyn streets, lights filtering out of windows contrasted with the darkness outside. Where there was warmth, people congregated. A meeting point could have been a barrel ablaze, a hotdog stand, but it was more likely to be around other people, for the warmth sought was also of a personal kind.

The Central Park ice rink hosted experts and amateurs, as did the one at Rockefeller Center. The sound of laughter and music and muffled thumps floated about. When it snowed, amid the floodlights, it was a fairytale. The Santas became more real, Christmas gained currency, and winter was finally proper; no more talk of wind chill or anything else, the first snow put an end to that. It was almost like being in India at the onset of the monsoon.

(This is one more in a series of pieces on Dubai and New York for DNA.)

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

No to a culture of freebies

My column on the ongoing cricket broadcast sharing issue is up on Cricinfo.

Monday, January 09, 2006

"I eat, sleep, breathe cricket!"

Sehwag's website.

Truth in advertising

Passing by a road under construction in Bandra, I noticed a large hoarding put up by a Congressman. It simply announced, "Commitment fulfilled," and explained beneath what had been committed. I found it hilarious, that sign with those two words over a scene of rubble. But that was temporary because, within a few seconds, I found it sad that fulfilled promises warranted advertisements.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The savage unraveling of a novice

It has been only four minutes or so, and I am already facing defeat. As always at moments like this one, I think of Steve Waugh and what he stood for. Steve Waugh never said die, he stepped out of his comfort zone, he was bloody-minded, he was rigid, he owned his space. And so I think of him and pull my shoulders up and hop up and down and mentally take ownership of the squash court. Meanwhile, my opponent has plotted his service, my predictable return (rather insultingly, I think), and his angled winner. It is sometimes as simple as that.

My life has taken an interesting turn lately. I have rediscovered the joys of just playing. Not playing squash, or cricket, or anything else, but just playing. It's like being back in the days of "Mom, I'm going down to play." As kids you could play two sports at the same time unthinkingly, with complete disregard for offsides or beamers or line calls (okay, maybe line calls) and just have fun, you know? Well, it's been a lot of fun lately. The concept has, I mean. Losing hasn't, and I'm quite disturbed by a habit that sort of snuck up out of nowhere. In chase of a shot that is out of my reach, a good two seconds before it passes by me, I say to my opponent, "Good shot," and then, distressed by my sportsmanship, I wish I was Marat Safin so smashing a squash racquet would not hurt. My opponent, meanwhile, has perfected this technique of making me return serve a particular way, and he then prods the ball in to a corner with infuriating accuracy. What makes it maddening is that he's gotten better at it practicing it against me. I will of course not be party to this rout and will blast my way out of trouble in a flurry of attacking strokes down the line and over his head. But this is only a vision, and the opponent sets me straight with another one of his angled winners. I tell him he's good because he plays badminton. He tells me I should anticipate a little better. I tell him I will. And then he thrashes me. My scoreline with him reads something like this in 9 or 10 games: 11-1, 11-2, 11-1, 11-4, 11-8 (when he's tiring), 11-4, 11-2, 11-you get the idea. At the end of it I will turn to him and complain about a hip, knee or ankle problem, and he will look sympathetic and gently say, "You were better today than last time," and I say next time it'll be better.

That's the thing with sport, the unbelievably daft thing with sport. You get beat, you feel bad, you recover and goad yourself in isolation, and return to get beat once again. But you see, it's not the beating that matters. That part you ignore. It's the hope of the thing that counts. I know I'll beat my opponent one day. How soon it comes I don't know, but I know it'll come one day. I'll probably throw a party but more likely I'll feel all miserable because now that I've beaten him, I'll be waiting for the losses to pile up once again.

You've got to be mad to play sport when you're thoroughly outclassed.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Measuring sanity in a land of no perspective

The mistake was made when he first set off, but even that does not matter anymore. He might rue his conception instead. Now that was a bad idea, he thinks slowly, the thoughts forming gradually as he trudges onwards step by step towards a horizon that promises nothing. Had it not been for his birth he would not be lost in the Rann. (And do you see where this is going?) With no future ahead he instead reaches reflexively for the past. But there is no respite here, not even in past glories, the things that keep a lifeless man going. The only sound he has heard for days is the crunch of crusty dirt beneath, and with every breath he has inhaled the sharp pungent odor of salt. This salt has entered his head, it has seeped through his skin. Now everything is bitter. Even if he is found (highly unlikely) and the effects of the Rann wear off, what will he do about the sour residue?

Men are overcome by madness in the Rann. Women too, for equality’s sake. For days they can walk confidently towards a shimmering horizon, but sooner or later find themselves less sure of what lies there. By now, this is inevitable, they will have realized the ground beneath cannot be trusted. From above everything appears the same. But beneath the parched, cracked surface, a spot of water turns the ground into an adhesive quicksand. So if the next step cannot be trusted, how can they progress? Survival depends on a series of such small challenges.

Exhausted, he may not move at all, instead choosing to be stationary. All around him the mirage shimmers, and there is nothing but flat ground from end to end. And so, wherever he stands is the center of the world. He does not want to be at this center, but at the periphery, the boundary between desolation and civilization that can be crossed over anytime.

The sky is an oppressive entity, as much a part of the land as the land itself. Between the two lies claustrophobia. How can a clear sky, otherwise so light, press down so heavily? It is a place to lose all perspective because there is nothing to compare with. What is size in solitude? What is speed when there is no barrier to break? It is a blank board, ready for rules to be written. A lost man can swagger about here, unsure of where he stands but sure that no one is watching.

Of course he will be lonely. But he will not dwell on those things, will he? His eyes are on the vanishing point, where a mere ripple on the horizon will send waves of hope through him. If it is another mirage he waits a little longer before hoping next time. It is not like the desert. Deserts have dunes, and so there is hope; the rise of every dune could conceal something. Because the Rann is flat, there is no hope. So there is a trudgetrudgetrudge towards godknowswhere. In a perverse way it simplifies things: there is nothing to worry about except a longer life. Can you see it now? – “Lose yourself and your worries in the Rann!”

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Birth announcement

Cricinfo Magazine was launched today and, on going through it, it felt like all the effort had paid off. The magazine looks beautiful, absolutely beautiful, but I'm biased. The first issue couldn't have been handled more lovingly when it arrived at our doorstep; indeed, the moment we heard the rustle of a packet at the entrance, a few of us were off like a shot to the front door to grab the first ever copies. Let's just call mine copy No. 2. No prizes for guessing who the fastest was.

The quality of writing around here, most readers of Wisden Asia Cricket will agree, has been superb. This one's no different. It has Haigh (my favourite), Roebuck (for those who are inclined), Kesavan, Zatta, and many others who I'm forgetting. There are two wonderful interviews of Rahul Dravid and Greg Chappell, and a grand feature on fast bowling. I know this is sounding like an advert but, dammit, I'm proud of this magazine.

And the really thrilling thought for me is that it's only going to get better. How? Wait and see.