Feb
20

21 Again

Is it already a month yesterday? Do you know when one-month anniversaries get importance? When you are dating the first time and experiencing the feeling of being in love, when you are newly married, when your baby is born, when you get your first job and the first salary arrives. The first ‘month’ anniversaries are special – like this one was yesterday!

A month since that historic, incredible, unfathomable, improbable, I-still-can’t-believe-it-happened-even-though-I-have-watched-the-winning-moment-a-millions-time WIN!

What am I talking about you ask? Why are you even here if you have that question in your mind?

I have not written on the game in 6 years – many reasons – moved countries, jobs, professional life got super busy, could hardly watch matches live, but most of all minimal or zero emotional investment in the team. How did this happen – maturity with age, ability to rationalise, ability to get over debacles, ability to detach, too much cricket?

My 20s were not my best decade personally – lots of ups and downs, but it was my best decade as a cricket fan. That team of the 00s – that team had my heart, mind and soul – it still does. I get nostalgic and I hunt the youtube videos often, or I bring out my DVDs to reminiscence their improbable wins, most of which I witnessed live on TV. I lament that I don’t feel the same connect with the current lot – the game has changed. I don’t feel the same euphoria of a win or the same dejection after a loss. Cricket has been my first love and like most first loves are not successful, this seemed too seemed to be fading away with time. I was hurting, but willing to let go.

And then 2020 hit, one of the worst years of my life (I won’t be wasting this precious space lamenting on the whys of it!) and one of the worst years universally. With all sports stopped due to the pandemic, it was a miracle that cricket even resumed and India managed to get on the plane to Australia; while we managed to catch a break to India from UK. It meant I could get up in the wee hours of the morning and follow the series. Given the time zone in UK, it’s impossible to follow matches in Aus – I simply can no longer stay up all night! I did not feel the euphoria of the 2018-19 series win in Aus, because I could hardly watch any games live, but this series was different. I was on a break, at home in India, no work pressures and no time zone constraints. 5:00 am wake-up call – that I can manage!

The excitement of the day-night test at reasonable hours in India faded away with that debacle of a 36 all out in the 4th innings at Adelaide. What had I just witnessed! How could such a professional, well trained outfit collapse like that – I mean this wasn’t the 90s to remind us of 81 all out! But then it was still 2020, I mean, I knew I was not going to get any joy in my life, what was I expecting? That cricket would serve me one? It had in the past, at some of my lowest points in life, it had come to my rescue; but 2020 was against everyone, so what chance did I stand?

Although collectively, it felt a lot worse, I still felt a weird kind of optimism that this team would bounce back. This bowling unit that we have built in the last 4-5 years that’s the one that gives you hope. Despite no Ishant , Bhuvi and Shami (injured in the first test ) the unit was still lethal that could give us a fighting chance, hell maybe even level the series. I don’t have the same confidence in our batting unit unfortunately, all I wanted was them to make a match of it and put up scores that our bowling could defend.

I thought the win at MCG was one of the finest comebacks given what had transpired at Adelaide. I can’t even imagine the pressure on Rahane – average run in last few years (although his record away has been good), made a crucial mistake that cost Kohli’s wicket in the first innings at Adelaide, and then the horror-show of 36 all out. To lead a deflated team from the front with one of the best centuries I have watched, to be aggressive from the word go with his bowling unit– it was one of the finest displays of batting and captaincy I had watched. Not to forget the delightful partnership with Jadeja, whose presence not only lifted the spirit of the team but also added more strength to the team composition. He gets runs and wickets, but his fielding provides an extended arm to the bowling unit, literally and metaphorically speaking, because he will invariably affect a run-out or pressure the batsmen into making a mistake. And then there was Shubman Gill, may god give us all Gill’s confidence to get through 2021. The assurity and calmness he got to the crease was fascinating to watch from a guy who is only 21 and making his debut in Australia! Unfazed, not enamoured by the occasion, felt like he was meant to be at the grand stage! What a delightful, easy on the eyes that debut was! The team did not miss Kohli, Ishant, Bhuvi, Shami – let that sink in and won at MCG to level the series.

And while we were revelling in the win, Umesh got injured in the match and so another debutant Navdeep Saini came in to the attack at Sydney. Jadeja got injured during the first innings and could not bowl in the second. India was getting hammered and looked down and out after 3.5 days. A target of 407 was set, Rohit and Gill both out on Day 4 evening and we all were convinced it was matter of time the batting would fold away. But we were now in 2021 and not 2020, so miracles seemed a possibility, a faint one, but still a possibility – a glimmer of hope that was ignited by the audacious stroke play of Rishabh Pant. Only 23 years of age – much maligned or hyped by the word ‘talent’. He formed a unique partnership with Pujara – the stoic warrior man of this team.  Losing Rahane in the first over of the day had no impact on Pant’s mindset, who changed the course of the game. I missed the morning session of the SCG test, I cursed myself a lot but I did not budge from my seat for the last two sessions. The Pujara-Pant partnership reduced the chance of the Aus win and actually made an Indian win look probable. If Vihari had not pulled his hamstring, Jadeja was not with a fractured arm and Ashwin’s back had not broken away – India would have gone for the win. They just pulled all the breaks once Vihari got injured. It was a matter of one wicket for Aus to get to the fragile Indian tail with Jadeja almost unlikely to bat with a fractured wrist. Aus’s famed world-class bowling attack failed to get that wicket for 2 whole sessions. Let that sink in too.

The rear-guard action by Vihari-Ashwin took me back to VVS-Dravid partnership of Kolkata 2001. Not in the same mould in terms of runs scored, but both partnerships crucial to the end result of the team; a wicket gone and it would have meant series lost.  Sydney was a draw, but it made me happier than I was at the win at MCG. I can’t explain this feeling to my friends and family, who don’t follow cricket and look at me with concerned looks as to why am I celebrating a no-result in a match after 5 days. Why am I ecstatic at the batsman crawling at SR of 14 and 30 for 4 hours, when I don’t care about 400 runs being scored in 4 hours. Have you been able to explain? Teach me how! I seem to have failed over the years.

We went to Gabba – Aha the fortress of the Aussies. See ya at Gabba mate is what we heard Tim Paine say to Ashwin at Sydney. Ashwin with a broken back could not turn up at the Gabba, neither did Jadeja, nor could Bumrah and no Vihari either. What kind of cruel joke was God playing I thought? India without all their first and second choice frontline bowlers and their captain/main batsman and another seasoned batsman! Two debutants in the series – one could not be home for the birth of his first child and the other for his father’s last rites. There could not be more odds stocked against you ever!

Thank god for the coaches and team management’s foresight to retain the net bowlers and a wider squad for the entire duration of the tour. We had to field a bowling attack which had collective 13 wickets (two of those were from Rohit Sharma) amongst them vs Aus’s 1000+. Siraj in his 3rd test was the leader of the attack, Saini 2nd test, Shardul 2nd test, Nattarajan and Sundar debut. Good luck to us I thought, if we take this match into Day 4 or 5 it’s a win for us! I kept saying that all we had to do was focus on not losing the match to retain the trophy; the real pressure was on Aus who had to force a win to win the trophy back.

With this inexperienced bowling attack, we bowled out Aus in their backyard for 369 – how was that not a win? I was pleasantly surprised. Aus could have raced to 450+ and we stalled them. But as confident I’m of our bowling line-up to save our face, I’m equally confident of our batting line-up mucking up when not needed. And so, it did, we were 186-6 with all batsman getting starts but not staying for long. What played out for the next 36 overs was one of the happiest moments I have experienced as a cricket fan. Oh! The joy I felt watching that Shardul-Sundar partnership unfold in front of me – I fail to find words to describe it! It was like having ice-cream in the rain! Do you know the feeling? Have you tried it? The unexpected happiness of it all – at that point I couldn’t care if we went onto lose the game, the bowlers and these two had given me sufficient happiness to overcome the loss.

Every time we were put on a backfoot, one soldier came forward and hit the ball out of the park – every single person in the team put their hand up! When was the last time we saw this kind of effort from a team? When was the last time you felt this unadulterated joy? Their partnership restricted that Aus lead to 33 – a number famously associated with the Adelaide test of 2003. Could we? Would we repeat it? Nah! This was good enough, don’t build unnecessary hopes!

And then Aus got bowled out for 294 and we had to chase 328. The highest run chase at Gabba until then was 236, 50 years ago. Aus had last lost a test at Gabba in 1988 to the then mighty West Indies. I mean talk about odds stacked up against you – India was staring at Jack’s beanstalk!

I was scheduled to fly back to the UK on 19th Jan, something I could not avoid for personal and professional reasons and I made my peace with it – that if India hunts this down, I will miss the most epic chase or series finale ever! I was confident we would draw the match and watched the first session play out at the airport lounge. I boarded my flight in peace knowing I would not land in UK to the news of a series loss. But then to switch on my phone to tweets, DMs and multiple WhatsApp messages from my friends and my core twitter cricket circle gave me the shock of my life!

How on earth did we effing chase the score how? Gill in his debut series played a solid 91? He is 21! Pant again the mastermind? He is 23! Two successive match altering knocks! Rahane attacked with a 6 off Lyon showing intent, Pujara bruised and battered but held one end strongly, Sundar upping the chase, taking it from a draw to win with that audacious hook for a six off Cummins – Cummins the best test bowler in the world, Sundar on his debut! This again after that no-look six off Lyon in the first innings. He is 21! Siraj got a fifer in Aus’ s second innings – he is 26. Who are these guys?  Where have they turned up from? Do they know no fear? Are they never in awe of the occasion? Do they realise they have pulled off the greatest escape ever – If Houdini were alive, he would be cheering them aloud!

Is this an illusion or a dream? What did we witness, or did we just hallucinate? What on earth happened! How did India win a second successive series in Australia without 9 of their main players? It’s been a month and I still don’t have the answers, do you? I read lots of articles, lots of lovely quotes, lots of tweets – I tried to make sense of what we had witnessed session after session, innings after innings, day after day, match after match since that debacle in Adelaide. I cannot rationalise it; I cannot fathom it. After the high of Kolkata win in 2001 and the test series win in Chennai that year, I never thought I would witness a miracle again on the cricket field – and that too after the disaster that was 2020 that had sucked all hope out of mankind. But in 2021, I was witnessing one again!

I said at the start of this post, I was beginning to disconnect from the game emotionally, and here I’m today, celebrating the first month anniversary of my new found love for the game.

I feel like I am 21 again!

Feb
27

Hawa Hawai – The Queen who Ruled our Hearts!

It was the winter of ’88 and it was our first overnight school trip to Nasik – few 8-year olds attempting to master the steps of Hawa Hawai. Mr India had taken the country by storm and Sridevi with her dancing skills and 1000 expressions had stolen every girl and boy’s heart. Her expressive, lovely doe-eyes, her graceful movements, her impeccable comic timing, her fearless attitude – all combined in that 6-minute number, put us all in awe of her forever.

Little did we girls know then what a fine actress she was; we were not really exposed much to the world of Tamil and Telugu cinema, where she was already an established actress. I had watched none of her previous films or probably have minimal recollection of watching any before Mr. India.

Mr. India is a movie that will always remain close to my heart for many, many reasons – the kids, the story, Anil Kapoor’s innocence, Satish Kaushik’s memorable Calendar, Amrish Puri as the most favourite villain Mogambo; but over and above all – for Sridevi’s stunning portrayal of reporter Seema. It was a multi-faceted character –  a fine example of how a woman should be – fearless, independent, and compassionate. There was no doubt why she was such a hit amongst the kids, especially girls.

As I became her fan, I started to watch more of her movies and few years later ended up watching Sadma, the first time in Tamil (Moondram Pirai) – thanks to the awesome films that DD National showcased on the Sunday afternoon slot at 1:30 p.m. I cried like crazy and kept asking my parents why won’t Viji recognise Cheenu, he took care of her when she had lost her memory, someone get her memory back, make her get off from the train and remember him. The irony dawned on me many years later, when I was old enough to understand. Sadma was one of the most heart-breaking films I have ever watched; the credit for that rests with Sridevi and Kamal Hassan for their outstanding portrayals of Viji and Cheenu respectively.

I ended up watching many of Sridevi’s hits before Mr India, well after the release of Mr. India, thanks to VHS rental libraries in those days.  Then came Chalbaaz and Chandni, and though the latter is not one of my favourite films, I can never forget how beautiful she looked in those gorgeous chiffon sarees which almost became her trademark. Remember the song – Tere Mere Hothon Pe

Chaalbaaz was a complete riot and Sridevi single-handedly overshadowed a star cast boasting of Anupam Kher, Rajnikant, Anu Kapoor, Shakti Kapoor and Rohini Hattangady; hell, she even managed to get Sunny Deol to dance! Na Jaane Kahan se Aayi – The song stayed on top of the charts only cause of her amazing dancing skills and expressions!

In 1991, Yash Chopra gave us a path breaking movie in Lamhe. The movie was well ahead of its times and probably why people could not digest the plot line; but I loved it the first time I watched it and l Iove it even now. The star cast was excellent, the script and dialogues simple, yet poignant and it showcased love in innumerable forms. I cannot pick a single favourite song from the album – all numbers equally hummable. I can’t recollect the umpteen number of times we performed to ‘Morni’ at various occasions! Sridevi again pulled off the impossible – she outshone all the heavy-weights in the star cast that included Waheedaji. Her portrayal of Pooja stole your heart and you kept cheering for her to win her Kunwarji’s love! And even in that serious storyline – the comedian in her struck gold with an equally fantastic actor Anupam Kher; the result was a laughter riot in this medley from the 50-60s.

Her comic timing was exemplary and probably her most underrated talent – just watch this Charlie Chaplin act she pulled off with ease in Mr. India or her hilarious act from the song in Chaalbaaz; you will know what I mean.

 

As much as she was known for her fine acting skills, she was an extremely accomplished dancer and I will just let you all watch a few snippets from her ‘Tandav Nritya’ performances in some of her films.

 

She did not give any major hits in the late 90s and then took a sabbatical. I tried watching some episodes of Malini Iyer but I could not continue beyond a couple of episodes; as I did not want to lose any memories of her that were so ingrained in me while growing up.

I made my peace that she had retired for good because not every superstar can reinvent themselves like Amitabh did later in his career. How wrong I was about her! Come 2012 and she came back with a bang as Mrs. Deshpande, aided by a lovely cast, terrific script, fresh director and superb soundtrack; Sridevi took me back to my childhood days. As I watched her dance to the beats of Navrai Majhi, she had wooed me back! I realised that the kid in me had never left and I was back in being in awe of her!

I watched English Vinglish – First Day First show in the Theatres and realised how much I had missed her in the movies. Madhuri was/is my favourite (and there is a loads of Marathi bias in that fandom), but I loved Sridevi to bits and her playing a Marathi lady from Pune was the ultimate icing on the cake.

Since then I have been eagerly waiting to see her in new roles and redefine her career as Amitabh did; and then suddenly out of nowhere, the news of her demise hit me on Saturday night. I can’t quite understand how someone you have never met can bring that feeling of emptiness in you once they are gone. Sridevi was such a huge part of my growing up – especially made those late 80s and early 90s so memorable. Her death brought back all those lovely associated memories and I realised after all these years, I can still recollect most of them vividly.

I still cannot believe she is gone. For the next few weeks, I will go back to browsing YouTube for her videos and movies, and listening to Hawa Hawai in a loop – and when the song plays, that memory of us 8-year olds trying to master the dance step (5:44 onwards in the clip above) from that song will keep coming back.

You will continue to rule our memories dearest Sridevi, even when you are long gone, because you were the only Queen that ruled our hearts!

Jun
29

Harp – Book Review (BlogAdda)

First of all thanks to Blogadda for this opportunity and the patience they have showed. I feel terrible that I could not complete my review in the time they had requested. My work and personal commitments + travel took up most of my time in the last month. These are the most busy times at work and I found it difficult to devote time to the book and then write the review.

I volunteered for the program with intention of getting back to blogging + increasing my reading which has slackened severely in the last few years. I envy those who can manage work, travel, and finish books in the time one takes to finish off biscuits. When Blogadda tweeted about wanting bloggers residing in Europe to be part of the book review, I decided to volunteer , wondering what the topic of the book would entail.

The premise of Harp by Nidhi Dalmia seemed very interesting. The setting in the late 60s – a time when India was in teens and her young generation was eager to seek adventure in the western world. The young breaking free from the norm and the age old traditions. A rebellious streak, a daring to try something anew and nursing a fearless craving to travel the world. The setting Europe – which has some of the most beautiful places on the planet.

Ashok the protagonist , born in an educated business family, joins his father’s Dairy products factory soon after college. He is the only son with two sisters and enjoys many privileges compared to his sisters, given the attitude of parents & society to sons vs.. Girls. Much against his parent’s wishes, he earns his scholarships and ventures out to Europe, to intern at different dairy companies. And on this journey, he encounters many a romantic adventures.

This is where my interest stopped, I waited for Ashok’s character to build up, his romantic affairs, the build up to meeting different women on his journey, establishing a reason to get together, his struggles in the new land, far away from the comforts of home or his relationships with his parents and sisters. I barely read through 30% of the book – neither did the language work for me nor the characters; I kept waiting for the story to take a turn.

Europe has some of the most picturesque towns and cities and I was most disappointed that the author did not manage to bring alive the beauty of the surroundings in her book. I kept craving for the minor details that would paint the romantic setting associated with most places in Europe. The writing was immature , where the story had a stop-start-stop-start narrative. The sentences felt cut and there seemed no flow from one sentence to the other. If this was a first attempt, it surely needed lots of editing. Ashok’s character seemed weak, more driven by lust than love or genuine attraction. His interests were randomly established and just felt forced when he met the women. I did not feel any connection or curiosity to what happens next with the central characters.

I did try my best to give this book a shot to complete but I just could not. If the book is good, you will find a way from the busy schedules to complete it but sadly Harp did not motivate me enough to finish it. I hope the next books I volunteer to read for this program manage to hold my interest for a longer time than Harp did.

Oct
08

Baked eggs in Avocado

Since we are on avocado , here is my next love – Eggs! I have never figured out how folks survive without eggs – there are so many ways to make them and have them. So one of my colleagues mentioned to me that she had scrambled eggs and avocado one day for breakfast; and could not stop thinking about me given my love for both these food items. This was stuck in my head and I kept wondering how could I combine the two instead of making separate items. So I thought what if I bake the egg in avocado, and then all I did was checked online if avocados could be baked directly in the oven and viola!

I took 2 avocados (ripe) and cut them in half. Removed the seed and scooped the flesh out leaving a thin layer on the skin. I sliced out a small portion from the oval skin portion from behind so there was a flat base for the halves to stay steady on the tray without the egg mix spilling out. In another bowl, I took 2 eggs, added milk, italian herbs, chilli flakes, coarse black pepper and salt to taste. Mixed well and poured it steadily with a spoon in the split avocado halves.

I had pre-heated the oven at 180 degrees and then put the tray with the avocados inside. I kept them in till the egg mix was well cooked. Once the layer was formed and solid I removed the tray from the oven. Of the scooped out avocado made quick guacamole to serve on the side. The result in 20 minutes preparation time below – another quick fix delicious appetiser for any avocado-egg lovers you know and a good item to convert new folks to avocado-egg lovers !

IMG_4695 

P.s: You can also add mozzarella cheese as a topping when the egg is about to be cooked. Melted cheese just adds more yumminess to the already tasty dish!

Oct
08

Roasted Potatoes with Guacamole & Hummus

My latest addiction (ever since I got to London) is Avocado. I love all things avocado and guacamole. In fact, my sister is jokes that I will stuff it into any food item just so that I can make an excuse for a new dish attempted! I also love potatoes – I mean who does not? Roasted, mash, boiled, fried, as a veggie , in biryaani,  in prawns or chicken/mutton/kheema curry – I love potatoes in all forms.  So I was thinking how can I combine these two items and hunted for some recipes online to chance upon the one below with the added delicacy of hummus!

I took 4 medium sized potatoes and semi-boiled them, soft enough to scoop out the insides to form 2 equal hollow portions from each potato. Then rubbed some olive oil, rock salt, coarse pepper and italian herbs (dry mix of basil, oregano and parsley) to them. Then I put them on a baking tray and placed them in a pre-heated oven (180 degree celcius) and kept them in for 20-25 mins till they turned light brown.

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Then I mixed guacamole and hummus (bought the ready mixes available in Marks&Spencer Food). You can even make them at home – recipes easily available online.

Then I stuffed the hollow potatoes with the above mix, topped the stuffing with half sliced cherry tomatoes and some cheese to serve it as a perfect appetizer.

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Try it out – the hot potato + cold guacamole/hummus combination is absolutely delicious and one of the easiest starters to make when hosting a party!

Aug
14

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

If you have ever chanced upon this blog and landed up on this post and yes this one too from my cricket blog – you should not be surprised when I tell you that I can’t wait to watch this movie! 

http://youtu.be/w_Ky4KPzKwY
It releases this weekend. Cavill here & Fassbender in the latest X-Men edition are competing for too much panache in their movies – it is too much to handle! 

Jul
22

Slam Books

As years go by you can only dig them up and read the wonderful words everyone wrote and the promises made ………..only to realise none of those mean anything, anymore to anyone who wrote them and you are clinging on to threads broken a long time ago! 

Apr
28

Garides Saganaki

We have a delicious family-run Greek food restaurant Mosfilo near our place. I tried the Garides Saganaki (shrimp saganaki) and fell in love with it. I have been wanting to try this dish at home for ages since I first tasted it. I hunted for the recipe online and found many variations and finally attempted it at home. It is an extremely easy recipe. This is the recipe on YouTube I followed and here is the final result:

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Garides Saganaki

Apr
28

Chicken Enchiladas

For a quick fix dinner on a work evening – this dish turns out filling and very easy to make. 

Main Stuffing :

Boil chicken cubes 3/4th in hot water with 1/2 chicken stock. Heat 2 tablespoon olive oil in a pan and sauté crushed garlic (3-4 cloves) , fine chopped onions (2 small) red/green/yellow pepper (one each) fine chopped, canned tomatoes, salt, add chicken , spicy fajita mix , chilli flakes, oregano and fresh parsley. Then add 2 cups of chicken stock, let it simmer, once water dries out half way add sour cream and some tomato sauce, let it cook on slow flame. Add cheddar/mozorella cheese to the mix. 

White Sauce

Heat 1 ½ tablespoon of butter in a small vessel, add 1 ½ table spoon of maida (Wheat Flour) and stir well. The mixture should stay in liquid state. Then close the stove, let it cool down a bit and then add cold milk, shredded mozzarella cheese, salt and pepper. Mix well to form thick white sauce.

Enchiladas:

Take tortillas ( I used the wheat ones here) , spread butter, put chicken mix,white sauce, corn and cheese.
Fold and place on baking tray, add remaining white sauce, gravy sauce , cheese and bake for 15 minutes

   
 

Apr
28

Avengers : Age of Ultron

I do write about movies that I hate and vent my frustration here, like the time I wrote about Cocktail & Bodyguard; but you can imagine how bad the recent edition of Avengers was that I don’t even feel like venting it out against it. Maybe I have attended a zen like state in ignoring bad movies or maybe it was so damn yawn worthy that it is not even worthy of my rants anymore. I’m so disappointed with this Marvel edition that I would rather watch Dolly ki Doli once more. 

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