Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The jump of my life

110 ft above the ground. Tied by an elastic rope on the legs. A hooting crowd of about 500 men and women. And a brilliant Mysore palace in the front! There couldn’t have been a better setting for a ‘Bungee’.

I don’t really know when I first got interested. One of my earliest memories go back to a program called ‘Ushuaia’ (on the name of a South American city at the tip of the continent) on TV. There is just one word that you could then assign to it – Crazy. So it is, in every sense of the word. And as I do for all crazy things, I had to get interested.

Though bungee-jumping amuses mostly the brave-hearted, it is more amusing to see some not-so-brave-hearts going to test their limits. As it turns out, their limits are as shallow as a frying pan!

When you are being lifted in the crane-lift amidst hundreds of cheering onlookers, It feels as if a great stuntman is about to perform the most stupendous task on Earth. Confidence surges and you can even feel adrenaline rushing through your arteries – heavenly experience for the first timers! And soon you are there – on top of the world – literally.

It feels great. As long as you are not looking down, that is. The problem starts when you suddenly realize that this is not your house’s terrace, but of more than 10 times higher than that. What seemed confidence earlier if fear now. Howsoever many safety systems you wear, the first thought in mind is,” What if this rope breaks?

You would instantly realize that almost everyone in this world is interested in your jump to the ground. And the more dramatic the decent – the better it is.

The instructor in the lift asked me to stretch my hands straight outwards and bend down in a diving posture. Having analyzed the best position to jump with a friend on ground, I had little doubts as to what makes a perfect jump.

What I failed to reckon was that the perfect jump would necessitate a reasonable frame of mind. But when you are looking down 100 ft from a hanging lift, reason cannot not hold ground. Can it?

I moved a foot further on the platform, only to pull it back in absolute horror. It was damn scary. The worst thing was that the junta was getting crazier as I was getting terrified. To suppress my fear, I vigorously started waving my hand, kissing in the air and screaming at the top of my voice.

The instructor then tried to push me again. Just trembling down, I pulled my leg back again. It was only after taking two more deep breaths, that I could control myself to finally make the decision to jump – come what may.

Then I leaped in the air. Exactly as a novice swimmer would dive – leg first.

We noted on ground that it takes about 55 seconds of free fall after which you oscillate in the air for some time to come to rest about 2 minutes later.

It does not feel anything other than sheer weightlessness and racing pulse until you get the first jerk. You come to rest after a series of such jerks only to be happy about entering into the elite ‘I-too-have-jumped’ category. On ground, it did feel spectacular indeed.

It took me about half an hour to get full control of my nerves. It was only then that I could reflect on what makes ‘bungee’ ever so popular. It is amazing to realize the fun a man gets when he tests the limits of his tolerance! Only to know that he comes nowhere close to the ultimate while he always thought, he is doing the best.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Myself and 'The Rising'
I was watching "Mangal Pandey" the other day in the afternoon. To say the least the first half of the movie barely has a story and has only a sequence of vaguely related events. Amidst the near boredom, apart from beautiful Amisha and Rani and of course a brilliant Aamir, I slipped into a conversation with myself. The first thought that came to my mind was "Why am I here?". "Stupid", somebody said, "you are here to watch a movie !! What else?"

"No. It is not just the movie", I asserted, "It is about my existence. Tell me why am I here?". The voice said "You are here as a small part of a bigger, larger scheme of things. You have been assigned a role on this giant stage and a time will come when it will unveil itself in front of you". "In fact, it is even apparent in front of you even right now. Just that you have to search and find it out for yourself", the voice continued.

"But, if it is supposedly so apparent, why am I not able to see what it is?", I asked. "And why am I expected to search around for it when it is obvious that it becomes much easier to accomplish if I get to know it right now? And wont it be better if I could start gaining the necessary skills well in time?". The voice answered "This is precisely the reason why it is not known to you. There is a unique task waiting for your execution which completely suits your talents and capabilities. It is not explicit now as the day you know it, you will stop growing and your decline will begin".

"But, if it is so suited to each person's capabilities what could the task be for me? I am not able to find any single person with exactly similar set of interests and likings as mine". I added, "the trouble is that I am not too sure if I am going to fit in the role I am offered. Or am I expected to learn to be one of the 'common', 'normal' person and be content with the mainstream..."

"Hello....!!". No voice heard. "Are you there...?? ". "You can't do this to me everytime !! I need an answer....dammit!!". Poor me.

Aamir Khan is now terribly boiling over the 'lie' told by Captain Gordon. He goes over to him and tells him that they will no longer be friends - and better not talk to each other. Then, comes the intermission. 'Mangal Pandey' ends. 'The rising' starts.

I am still thinking. "Does this idea of 'first war of Indian independence' really appeal to my peers as it did to these old - and now deceased - mutinaise soldiers?". Freedom to most (of us) is a birthright and, guess what, they never had to fight for it. 15th of August comes like a 'much needed break' for most. It becomes yet another marketing opportunity for media and consumer goods companies.

Freedom seems so natural that 'free market', 'free speech' and even 'free software' is fast becoming the order of the day. I just wonder what it would have been to be living in a slave country. Perhaps, we should again have a phase of colonialism. The best way to make people learn about the value of a thing is to show how fragile it could be. Isn't it?

Monday, August 08, 2005

The super-power of large towns

India, they say, is a rising super power. An economy which is precariously placed to eventually take a slot just after the mighty US of A in a matter of just four decades from now. Considering that it was in the shackles of a foreign power just about 60 years ago, this would be no mean achievement. You are just left to wonder if one century could make such a huge difference to a country. And if this dream would ever become true?

It has become a fashion these days to compare India's performance with "the-fastest-growing-economy" - our much respected - and envied - neighbour. The first thing, people say, you notice when you reach Shanghai is the pace of life. Coming back to our very own 'Shanghai-to-be' Mumbai too is an experience in itself, albeit of a contrasting kind. The traffic jams and clogged roads just seem to be a fatal arterial blockage obtructing traffic, business, and eventually lives of millions who commute through them.

A resident of the mighty 'Dilli' would be proud on reading this. Proud of their roads and now their very own 'metro rail'. But their joy gets transformed into gloom as soon as they reach their offices. What welcomes them daily is the omnipotent - and perhaps the most regular thing in the city - powercut. "What use reaching office early?", one gasps, "at least you could get some fresh air while you were on road".

The most dreaded Indian city for Americans is 'Bangalore' these days. The trend of jobs getting 'Bangalored' has now become a phenomenon. IT, the powerhouse of the resurgent India, is headquartered here. The weather is great. The infrastructure is non-existent. A typical example of growth-before-planning, this city exemplfies all the problems faced by any other big city in India. The number of people who go to office is growing while the width of roads has matured. And for good reason now, many big companies are either moving to the outer Bangalore or 'out of' Bangalore. While the state government fights with centre over petty issues on the infrastructure projects.

But put your brains together and try to go to the root of the problems and you will realise that, a change is happening. At the most this situation is more becuase of the growth happening inside the cities than the stagnation they face. True, they are the dirty showcases of an 'India Shining' but they are nevertheless the best we ever had. This is the first time over decades when the governments are learning to be service-oriented. This is the first time since independence that we sincerely realise that our cities are in virtual shambles and felt the need to rebuild them. The citizens now demand 'improvement' and in due time they may actually get it.

India is a democracy and a professed one at that. With all its divergent opinion making mechanisms, there are bound to be delays. We cannot compare India with the west simply because they prospered all the early modern age looting the likes of India. And on top of it, the early Socialist, Non-aligned policies did more harm than good to the infrastructure of the country. When, we finally had to open our economy, we were living on a rubble of an economy and cities.

Today, the citizens are gathering courage and a will to actually make a difference - themselves, if the government cannot. When did you hear of India refusing foreign aid in case of a natural calamity and actually sitting on the donors' table for a change? When did you hear a minority girl 'talking' her attitude on court? When did Indian companies felt the need to acquire majors in foreign land? And why does a city that gets back to work in exacly 24 hours after a huge bomb blast? A feat that even London could not accomplish. Sure, the spirit is of perseaverance. The will is to make a difference. And even the acts are getting together !!

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

"Padoge likhoge banoge nawab, kheloge koodoge hoge kharab"

This oft repeated saying captures the essence of typical Indian mindset about sports. But for a few exceptionally talented and committed people and gifted backgrounds for others, India would not have at all made any mark at the international sports scene.

Perhaps anyone on the street can cite the reasons for lack of even a single Olympic gold in past 20 years. The prime among these reasons is lack of money and professional management in Indian sports. The sponsors say that without necessary following, it will be a waste to put money for charity's sake in sports. There was this international Volleyball tournament going on in Chennai. The game is popular in that part of the country as was evident from the TV news footage. And mind you, in sports other than cricket, football or tennis, this is a rare sight. Still the federation found it difficult to find sponsors to support the event. Reasons unknown.

Even if the tournaments are able to support themselves financially, there seems to be no will whatsoever that ground facilities could be provided so that the game can actually grow and finds enough young talent to sustain itself. An international fencer who is forced to sell 'chuski' on road and still his passion keeps him motivated enough to find time to teach local youngsters. But there is no appreciation of his service for past so many years. Not even a mention in the list of Dronacharya nominees.

There are other hockey stars of yesteryears who are forced to sell their hard earned gold medals to get some food. Star player pledges that he will never allow his son to follow hockey. Then there is the honourable president of IHF who switched career from police service to Hockey admin and is not relenting his claim over the 'throne'. Can success in ousting terrorists in Punjab help any bit in defending goals from opponent strikers? Perhaps.

There are some leading legacies in sports today. There is Padukone father-son and Prakash Amritraj's academy of tennis. There are people like Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and Anju Bobby George who constantly keep winning without any significant world-level support. And then there are people like Bhupathi who are working to bring the international talent to India by organising perhaps a WTA tourney.

These are not just exceptions. Even the monarchy of IHF has recently organised the 'Premier Hockey League' with the support of ESPN-Star Sports to bring the glamour back into the sport of Hockey. There are silver linings. Sometimes quite a few. But surely this is a long way to make India a great sporting nation. I just remembered a comment by a former Arjuna awardee for TT, Indu in 'We, the people' (NDTV) " The sporting culture is just missing in India. Even if there are some sporting stars, most of them consider themselves too lucky to be there on the horizon". Well, that just captures the essence of it.

Update (26th Nov 2010): It is amazing to re-look at this post 5+ years later. We just finished second overall on home ground in CWG 2010 with 38 Golds (101 overall.. wow!). And of all the sports, we are scoring Golds in Track and Field events in the Asian games. We have virtual monopoly in Boxing as I write this. I mean WOW, when I wrote this post, Athletics and Boxing were nowhere in my mind. This have indeed changed, we have come a long way. But look at China - they are close to getting 200 Gold medals alone in these Asian Games. Way to go! But our progress is nothing less than remarkable. Mera Bharat Mahan!

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Imrana v/s Shariyat: Fighting anarchy

I believe that rape is the most heinous of crimes. Perhaps even worse than a murder as the victim does not even have to live to bear the pain.

A lady in the interior of Indian heartland was raped - and rather conclusively - by her father-in-law. For her, the family's 'honour' in the society had a paramount importance. Seeking justice she referred to the religious overlords whom she expected to show at least some degree of sympathy. May be as a respect for her faith in them.

It is just amazing to hear that not only have Shariyat been unable to provide any kind of respite to her, they have just made life tougher for her. A 'fatwa' has now been issued to her ordering her to accept her father-in-law as her husband and to discontinue living with her husband and children. Whatsmore, they have even figured out an obscure method to 're-unite' the family too involving marriage, divorce and remarriage of the couple . As of today, the matter has been taken to a higher - and perhaps, more sympathetic - court for a better justice.

Men have always treated women as an object of pleasure. Perhaps everyday, you get to hear about rapes by neighbours, in-laws, brothers and even fathers. One can only gasp and see the condition worsen. Worse still, is the apathy that we show towards crime against women. We, living in cities and hi-fi societies simply fail to acknowledge the severity of the crime, assuming ourselves to be totally insulated. These days, even the newpapers do not sell without a few of these 'masala' stories.

Imagine your reaction if one of your some dear ones was raped on road !! It happens exactly the same way for any of the 'victims'. On top of it is the distortion introduced by system of law and courts. One can only wonder what happen in the time to come. Can we ever make this world any safer in the time to come?