Monday, 16 May 2016

Watching an IPL Match

I have always loved my cricket, so it was a pleasant surprise when my husband asked me to accompany him to a cricket match at Vizag. I have been unaware of the IPL goings on for the past couple of years. I don't really remember the reason the interest just petered off. Was it when Chennai found itself at the centre of the betting scandal? I guess so. I mean when the Champion team's owner's relative was found out being immersed with unsavoury characters with proven involvement in betting scandals and the same owner owns Indian cricket and the captain of the team also captains the country...the relationship between all of Indian cricket and the betting industry and IPL becomes kind of incestuous. Anyways that's a separate story from my IPL watching yesterday!

So, cut off as I was from the game I didn't know what to expect. But to my immense pleasure I found two heroes at the ground at Vizag! And one of them, my all time favorite in cricket, Rahul Dravid, was in the dugout right beneath our Stand! So I had a pleasant couple of hours before the match (yes, we reached two hours early because my husband said what do we do in Vizag otherwise?) doing some Rahul spotting. I hadn't even known that Dravid had moved to Delhi, let alone expecting to find him at Vizag! Wonder what have happened to my other RR favorites, Steve Smith and Shane Watson. But Rahul has got his protege Sanju Samson to Delhi with him. Rahul being simple Rahul and not Dhoni, this strategy was/is bound to fail. I mean, for what reason does one take a Sanju Samson in the middle order against line ups that has huge hitters like Pollard, etc. He is not a strategic big hitter who can make 40 off 12 balls. He is not being used as a wicket keeper, he is not being used as an opener even to hustle some quick runs. That's my un-expert observation about the game.
Now, on to more interesting stuff. Sachin was of course welcomed with a roar. All the glamorous models we see anchoring on TV were not visible. Even the cheerleaders were at the other side of the stadium, away from us. So nothing interesting from that angle. This brings me to wonder,  aren't binoculars allowed in stadiums these days? Would sure have helped some!

The lounge where we sat was adjacent to a food and waiting lounge. The constant beeline for the drinks and snacks and food became irritating to say the least. The normal humidity of Vizag became suffocating under the spotlights especially when a big black ant crept into my shirt and got mixed up with the sweat lines. The relief from the free steam bath could be had in the air conditioned food lounge if one could be confident enough to leave ones seats for sometime and one could get some standing area in the lounge amongst the moving food plates and beer mugs. Delhi won the toss and as was expected elected to field. Unfortunately for them, Krunal Pandya (whoever is he?) got into a groove and had some really big hits which took Mumbai past 200. The evening was freely peppered with sixes and I kept hoping I would get to catch one and make the TV! 

Delhi decided that enough was enough and decided to end it quickly with a rash of wickets. Fortunately I saw the end coming, being the apostle I am, and plead successfully with my husband to leave the match behind and head home after the fourth Delhi wicket was down. 

So here's to another IPL match. Only this was watched by me and hence made the difference (to only me I guess !)

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

The Confluence of Two Cultures - India and Cambodia (Angkor Wat)

Aa Ka Ma Boi, Paana Gua Thoi, Paana Gua Toro, Masaka Dharama Moro

This incantation reverberates on the banks of River Mahanadi on the day of Kartik Purnima as thousands of people descend to the banks to sail paper, straw and bamboo boats celebrating the history of Bali Jatra. The sailing of boats heralds Odisha biggest festival after Rath Yatra - the Bali Yatra at Cuttack.

At the turn of the last millennium, Odisha, or Kalinga as it was known then, was a major sea
faring nation and controlled many of the sea routes for trading in South East Asia. Its
influence spread far and wide, from Sri Lanka to the Malay peninsula, Bali, Sumatra, Cambodia.

One can still witness the many similarity of culture and architecture in Bali and Cambodia with Kalinga. One spectacular result of this confluence of cultures is the World-renowned Angkor Wat temple at Cambodia.

As one gets off a bus and looks onto the grand Angkor Wat temple near Siam Rep in Cambodia, one is hit by a sense of absolute déjà vu. It is like staring at a temple from Odisha in a distant land. The surreal feeling continues as one goes deeper into the temple. How can something so similar be created in a land so far off where the features of the people and language are so alien?

Built in the early 12th century AD over an enormous 500 acres compound, Angkor Wat is the centre of a long lost city civilization. The Khymer architecture, as it is known, has obviously evolved from the Indian subcontinent, especially Kalinga, whose influence seems to have been the greatest. The temple structure uncannily mirrors the Odishan temples built between 6th cent - 13th century AD.

The ancient texts of Odisha are full of stories of sailors sailing off during Kartik Poornima, when the tides were favourable, to Bali, Java, Sumatra, Khambuja (Cambodia), Sinhala (Sri Lanka). We celebrate Bali-Jatra to mark the occasion. One can imagine the maritime sailors making their way to far off lands to trade in spices, silk and jewels - drifting to far off Cambodia. In the process, leaving behind a piece of their own culture with every journey back to the homeland. Maybe some settled for longer and started building as per the traditions of home. The stories from back home were woven into the cultural fabric of the lands where these sea farers went into. There has been evidence of Kalinga presence in Funan (ancient Cambodia) from as far back as 3rd century BC. Legend has it that the Funan Kingdom came into being when a prince from Kalinga married a Naga princess.

Buddhism started its spread from Kalinga when Emperor Ashoka embraced the peace of Buddhism in the 3rd century BC after the Kalinga war. It made its way to the Indo china region and found expression in the culture and architecture of the region. The many evidence of Buddhism in the culture, history and architecture of Odisha is similarly reflected in Cambodia.

The Jagannath temple according to many historians is a result of the intermingling of Buddhism and the tribal ethnic local worship of the Jagannath idol. The peaceful iconic image of Buddha has permeated the original tantric cult of Jagannath to give a widely accepted peaceful and all knowing God to us.

The Angkor Wat which started as a Hindu temple got taken over by the spread of the cult of Buddhism. The original image of Vishnu that formed the main deity of the temple was replaced by an image of Buddha. The Angkor Wat was taken over by Buddhists sometime in the 13-14th century.

Vishnu reposing under the Vasuki is to be found co-existing with Buddha in meditation under a peepal tree. The floral motifs associated with Hindu temples, are widely found in the temples of Angkor.

Like the Avalokiteshwar that we worship in our temples in eastern India, the all pervading
Avatar of Buddha/ Vishnu in the form of avalokiteshwar is also found at Angkor.

Like the temples of Odisha, the Angkor Wat has numerous carved images along its sides. There are hundreds of poses of Apsaras along the walls of the temple. The poses of the apsaras remind one of the various classical dances of the subcontinent. A full apsara dance has many similar mudras or hand movements and poses as Odissi. It is much slower though in enaction. The storylines of
the dance are similarly from the Ramayana or Mahabharata. The churning of the ocean is a scene that is repeated many times throughout the temples in the region, on the railings, bada or pedestal, and the carvings on the side of the temples. The big spires at the end of the halls
are the sikharas that are visible to the naked eyes for miles around. A lotus ribbed head stone completes the sikhara, similar to the temples of the subcontinent. A Lion guards the entrance as in most Hindu temples.

The temples at home, like the Lingaraj or Jagannath temples, are built like a cascade of hills with the pyramidal roofs ascending, with the tallest structure, the "shikhara" over the sanctum sanctorum, at the centre, like a mountain reaching out to the sky. Similarly, the temple structure of Angkor Wat resembles that of a mountain. International historians liken the structure to Mount Meru, the abode of Lord Shiva. Kalinga historians have sometimes noted that the structure could represent Mt Mahendraparvat in Odisha. Mahendraparvat has been mentioned many times in ancient Cambodian history.

Whatever maybe the real story of Kalinga and Khambuja, it is amazing how the cultures merged in such a significant manner in those far off days when the only means of communication was over the waves of the mighty oceans, in roughly constructed sails and wooden boats.

Cultures have clashed and intermingled and carried forward with a new meaning from times immemorial. Even if they are carved in stone. Especially if they are carved in stone. As these mute and vibrant observers of history in stone testify.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Oh Kolkata! A Sunday Mid Morning Walk on Park Street

Flurys Park Street Kolkata
Some things in life never change. Like a Sunday morning on Park Street. There maybe an entirely different Government at the Centre. The country's political and social landscape may have changed beyond recognition in the past decade. I might be older(and wiser?) by a decade. More importantly there maybe an entirely different Government in Kolkata with the leftist flavor gone perhaps for ever...but Kolkata in many ways fortunately remains the same!

CLosed Park Street shops
A stroll on Park Street looking for a hair parlour and reviving old memories made me realise how much had gone by in the last 9 years but one could get no inkling of it here! The roads were a virtual empty stretch. In Kolkata's premium shopping and businss district it has been a source of constant amazement to me how it can sleep so utterly on Sunday mornings. No cabs, no lining up at exclusive shops, little pedestrian traffic, no jay walking or hustling to flag down a cab, no street vendors. All the pricey shops lining the Park Street utterly closed with massive shutters down. Its a Sunday in the true sense of the word, a day of no activity. So Worldwide while businesses vie for the weekend traffic and crowd and business, Kolkata preserves its serenity and how!
Park Street on Sunday
 I knew for a fact though things would start moving after one o'clock when the early diners would start coming to the lovely restaurants...the Peter Cats, the Trincas, the Silver Grills and the rest or even before that as late breakfasters would throng into Flurrys. True to my belief, old faithful Flurry's was a flurry of activity...while new entrant Au Bon Pain was virtually empty. There were of course the new additions of KFC and Mc Donalds which looked delightfully empty to my prejudiced self.

 At the end of the street (coming from the Park Circus area) Apeejay House stood steady in its regality (RIP Brother Pauls) while the stylists at A N John remained as snooty as ever! So after cutting my hair at a new parlour (Oxygen), since I couldnt convince the A N John's stylist to cut my hair as per my requirement, I completed my wanderings through the much beloved streets around Park Street with the universal cure for a hot sultry morning with a stop at Saturday Club.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Can't a President Have Fun? : Obama Selfie Pic

 Obama Selfie - Cant a President Have a Bit of Fun?

Well apparently not. Not at a funeral, not with a pretty lady Prime Minister of another country, definitely NOT with a selfie and apparently NOT with the first lady Michelle looking disapprovingly away!

The list of DONTS for Presidents have increased. You DONT take a smiling selfie at a funeral.

As the Memorial proceedings of Madiba were going on, The Prez Obama interacted with World leaders as one is supposed to do. At some point during those  interactions, the President whipped out his phone and took a "selfie" with the pretty Prime Minister of Denmark Helle Thorning Schmidt with Britain's Mr Cameron looking on. And the world (or the cyber world) erupted!

What followed was miles and miles of tweets, retweets, opinions. And more opinions on why is Michelle Obama looking so glum!

However what I feel is that - come one the Prez is a man - let him have his selfie! Madiba wouldnt have objected. And more to the point - it kept up with the spirit of celebrating Mandela's life!

Friday, 6 December 2013

Watching Old Man and the Sea with Tom Alter - Bhubaneswar

Well not exactly...

'"The ocean is very big and a skiff is small and hard to see," the old
man said.  He noticed how pleasant it was to have someone to talk to
instead of speaking only to himself and to the sea.'

I had an amazing experience recently, watching the "Old Man and The Sea" performed on stage by Tom Alter and supported by Sufi dancer Zia Nath.

Tom Alter did all the talking himself as he spent nearly 1.5 hours on stage enacting the famous role of the old man adrift on the sea. Alter' performance was of such intensity that one felt really adrift with Santiago on a skiff checking baits, tackling a marlin, fighting shark attacks, thinking about the day's baseball, DiMaggio and the boy. You knew the old man wouldn't give up especially when he reminisced about an arm wrestling match with a much stronger opponent that went on and on till the pectators almost left for work on the next day. Santiago' fight with the fish was beautifully interspered with such stories as a much adored novel came to life in an amazing fashion.

The play had a Sufi background and Zia Nath provided some beautiful moments of dancing. Her rendition at the end was of awestrucking, speechless quality (how many turns did Zia do - 5000? I asked her but she said she didnt keep count)

The play was by Shivani Tibrewala.

Talking about the play the next day, Alter likened Sachin Tendulkar's spirit to Santiago's!

The play was staged during the Times Literary Festival at Bhubaneswar last week and seeing the crowd and it's rapt attention I wondered why we didnt get more such plays at Bhubaneswar. As I write this veteran Theatre Artist Anant Mahapatra's group "Utkal Rangmanch" is producing Theatre in Motion with some great plays screened at Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata. I can only hope Theatre in Motion also travels to Bhubaneswar!