Jan 15, 2008

Kick starting Chennai trip with a bang!

As I walked amidst the crowds in Terminal B of Newark Liberty International Airport, I started to feel sleepy mentally preparing myself for the prolonged transit time at the Airport before my next Jet Airways flight to Chennai. It was then that I saw this guy sitting at a table furiously typing away in his Blackberry phone. I was afraid that I was mistaken. Surely it couldn’t be him. So I did some rounds around the table he was sitting in, taking in his face from all sides to confirm, and indeed it was him! A.R. Rahman!!

I wanted to go and talk to him but he appeared busy. So I put my bags in the table next to him and was pondering for a few minutes. Then finally I made up my mind and went to him. It was a true “pepsi ungal choice” moment. “Helloo, Rahman saaraa?? Ennala nambave mudila saar, naa ramba sandhoshamaa iruken!!!” (Ok, it is an exaggeration but you got the drift). So here I was speechless. I said ‘hello’ and he smiled back and said ‘hello how are you’. And then I asked the dumb question of the day,’ what are you doing here?’ (Ok, you meet Rahman like this and try starting a conversation). He said “I am going to Atlanta for a meeting and what about you’. I told him about my trip to Chennai. And then some random guy came and also started questioning. Rahman was a bit flustered and this guy immediately asked him if he can take a photo with him. R said 2 mins later even as he was furiously typing something in his Blackberry. I took the cue and told him that it was nice to meet him and went and sat in another table.

After a few minutes Rahman himself came to me and told me that he is going to find some lunch and if I would join him!! I was more than happy. I bought pizza. Rahman said he hates pizzas so much so that he would puke at the sight of it. Moreover he wanted to avoid non vegetarian food as it is the ten day period of Muharram and so he got a salad bowl. I joined him in his table at the food court. It seems he had come to Newark in Jet Airways and so I asked him about the flight as I was traveling in Jet for the first time. Basically I was trying to keep a conversation going as I was too thrilled.

He was going to Atlanta for a meeting. He talked about his plans to start a ‘music conservatory’ in Pallavaram, something akin to a musical college, specializing in Western Classical music and is hoping to rope in some faculty for that. I was surprised about the genre of music and I asked him why Western Classical music as it is not quite popular in India, to which he replied that precisely that is the reason for it to be the focus for the school. He explained a bit to me about Western Classical music and how many composers had drawn inspirations from it including Ilayaraja, MS Viswanathan and himself.

Then the topic shifted to some of his works and I asked him the question which I always had regarding music composing. My doubt was whether the lyricist and the music composer sit together while making a song. He clarified that mostly nowadays it is the tune that is made first and then the lyricists come up with lyrics that suit the tune but sometimes it might be the other way too.

At this time four Sri Lankans came to Rahman and one of them asked him, “Sir, are you AR Rahman?” Rahman was amused and he replied in the affirmative. They were obviously happy and expressed the sentiment to him. They also smiled at me and wished me probably thinking that I am some close associate of Rahman (felt full pride at this moment however worst you think it is). They requested him to stand for photos with them and he acceded. After the end of the photo session he asked me if I would be around for some time as he wanted to go to the restroom to freshen up. He left his laptop bag and phone with me and came back in a few minutes.

He then inquired about me. He was interested in knowing about the job prospects of students who complete their degrees here. On knowing that I studied in Ohio, he said that he came to Cincinnati once for a show and that he liked Ohio very much. I then told him that I had been to his show in Chicago and complimented him on that. According to him it was a logistics nightmare performing on a place on one day and then taking a flight and going to another city to perform again. But he said he is a bit used to it now and moreover seeing people dance especially to Tamil songs energized him. He asked me what my age is and when I told him he smiled and said,” that is half my age”. He also cautioned me on the ‘big, bad world’ I would be in now that I am going to start working soon.

He asked me if there was wireless internet available in the lounge we were in. I told him that I already tried for the access and saw that it was not free and it requires some login. He stated taking out his laptop but then put it back inside and surfed the net using his Blackberry. I think he came across some news item about the new Tata Nano because he commented on how the new Tata Nano is revolutionizing the market. I opined that it would also clog the roads now. He agreed and said how Chennai traffic is at its worst and he is not even able to come out of his house nowadays.

I asked him about the news that Rajini is doing Robot with Shankar and he did confirm it. I said when are you starting the work and with a smile he replied “It has already started”.

It was then time for him to board his flight. I asked him if I can take come photos with him too and he obliged. He then said goodbye and went away. Two hours with AR Rahman! Man, if that isn’t luck….

P.S. My luck streak continued in the flight and I got seats in rows in which there were no other occupants! There were few others who got seats in such rows and we all comfortably stretched out in the seats for sleeping like a train berth! :)


Jan 6, 2008

Aussie high-handedness

I am not sure which is more despicable: an on field umpire trusting a fielder for a doubtful catch at a crucial juncture of the match or a captain eating his own words publicly in front of a global audience. India has been at the raw end of many unfortunate umpiring errors in matches abroad but none more than the just concluded match at Sydney. Its just that for some reason or the other just when India plays some good cricket, all the good work is undone by the umpires. We saw it in England before. We saw it in South Africa. And its happened in Sydney now. India has been very consistent in Test matches last two years or so. This is especially due to their good performance outside India.

I am not going to talk about Bucknor's decision to Dravid. Bucknor, who generally takes an hour to give a decision even if the batsman gets clean bowled, was quick to give Dravid out caught by Gilchrist. Its a different story that ball was no where near the bat. Umpires do err. But to be so consisently inconsistent against a team is frustrating to say the least.

The icing on the cake (or salt onto the wound whichever you feel) was done by Benson. I have seen batsmen stand for more obvious catches. If the Umpire has a doubt he consults the leg umpire. If they are still unsure, the third umpire is called up to see if the catch is clean. But on this occasion Benson thought it to be prudent to go by the word of Ponting who was not even the catcher. The ball was caught by Clarke after a bounce. The thing that irked me the most is Ponting's indication that the catch is clean! He was not the catcher and he cannot claim that. If his argument is that he was close by Clarke and so can vouch for the catch, it shows him more clearly to be the liar he was at that moment. In the post match conference, Ponting argued that before the match the two captains have agreed to respect the judgement of the catcher for close catches, instead of going to the third umpire. Obviously that applies only to the batsmen who are to take the word of the catcher and not the Umpire. Benson is an idiot to listen to what Ponting says as to the legality of the catch. If he relies on the players to make decisions, then what is the third umpire for. He might as well ask the batsman the next time if he thinks he is out lbw.

Add to this Gilchrist's appeal for a catch off Dravid's pad (which was upheld) and Ponting's appeal for a catch off Dhoni's pad (the ball hit the ground and Ponting also grasses the catch) you have a perfect pattern for the day. Video replays clearly show Ponting grass the catch and when questioned his reply is : "There's no way I grounded that ball. If you're actually questioning my integrity in the game, then you shouldn't be standing there,". So he assumes that nobody has the right to question him. A clear case of Aussie high-handedness.

If you think this is as bad as things can go, you are wrong. The Australian commentators were acting the clowns. Especially Mark Taylor who was justifying the action of the Umpire. How can a person be so pathetically blind to the obvious. Its normal to swear allegiance to a team. But you cannot call a bluff by trying to hide the plain truth. Taylor said that the umpire Benson was right. The reason is, in his very own words while commentating, Benson had to take a decision and he could have asked Bucknor for help or asked the fielding team as to the validity of the catch. And he chose to do the latter. So he did what he can do and so he cant be blamed. Probably he assumed that the third umpires are wax dolls installed to fill the seats in the stadium.

I can now sympathize with the adrenaline rush of all the psycho killers in the world who go running around with an axe because I felt highly inclined to do the same with Taylor and others. They had other similar excuses and they even cited the Ponting-Kumble pre-series agreement about taking the word of the catcher as if it is a written code of conduct and so batsman should not question the fielders word. Just imagine if things had been other way around and Australia experienced these things in India. The moment they set foot on Australia, Ponting would come out openly against the umpiring standards, verbally thrashing the umpires and how Indian players did not uphold the spirit of the game and were a big let down for 'him'. And ICC will not penalize him for breaching the code of conduct for openly complaining against match officials, while had any of the Indian did that last night a disciplinary action would be initiated immediately. And the Australians accuse Harbhajjan of being a racist!!

I wonder how Kumble managed to remain sane at the end of the day.


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