Monday, August 13, 2007

Coach for Life

We had stepped into the bad world of Senior School where Class VI was the junior most class. We lived every moment of ours in virtual fear of offending some senior, knowingly or unknowingly, and the whole batch getting to bear the brunt as a lesson. It sure worked. We did make mistakes, but never ever repeated them. One thing was engrained in us. We had to be good at atleast one thing. Academics were excluded from that list. The list included extra curricular activities only. One needed to be in either of the sport teams, debate, declamation and dramatics or had to be an athlete to be able to garner points during Annual Athletic Meets, inter house and inter school. Topping the chart was a team member of a respective hockey team - class, house and school. A big struggle was to get into a hockey team, a bigger survival battle to remain in the team. The biggest fight ofcourse was to be in the playing eleven. There was no mercy for average play.

I remember picking up the hockey stick for the first time in my life. The would-be players were short-listed rather easily. One needed to score a goal from the top of the D with the goal keeper trying to save it and then needed to stop a super speedy ball coming your way, hit by a player. The ones who were able to do both were called in and the others, brushed aside. We were asked to report at 0500 hours next morning for our first practise session. Now, did that feel good? Everyone started dreaming of wearing the school color, warming up, running around and playing hockey for the school. The thought changed the way we walked after that day. We had become special. The challenge started only now. (Boys were divided into four categories depending on height and weight and a multiplying factor. We were in the lightest category, ofcourse.)

Mr. B N Khanna (he was nick named Shera, because of his temper) was announced as our coach. Mr. Khanna was never a popular teacher. He was not a celebrated coach either. He was a stylish man, though. He was known more for being the only teacher on campus who smoked, boozed and lived life like a tiger. Hence, his nick name. He had a real short temper too. But he was an irresistible personality. Boys used to wait for his history classes where he would enact the Moghul onslaught with the sound of the sword coming out of its scabbard, blood splashing and elephants and horses roaring all at one go. He was a live wire when describing ancient and medieval history. Modern history was not his forte.

True to his image, the moment we arrived on the field, sharp at 0500 hours, his first sentence was, “I will make life miserable for you.” He sure did. The first one week, we did not even touch the hockey stick. Everyday was a fixed regime of running 10 lapses around the field as warm up. It was followed by standing exercises, followed by sit ups and other exercises, finally rounding up with another 5 lapses of the hockey field. The last 10-15 minutes were theoretical sessions about rules, regulations and general information about the game. We used to wonder, whether what people say about him is true. If he really knows how to play hockey!

One day, after an hour and half of rigorous physical exercises when we were physically tired of the exercises and mentally getting tired of not playing hockey, Mr. Khanna asked the team to line up on the 25 yard line with our sticks. He asked everyone to keep the ball on the line and carry it on the line from one width of the field to the other. This was simple, we thought. Of the 15, none of us managed to keep the ball on the line the whole width. That’s when he smiled for the first time. With the sly smile of his face, he commented, “If you cannot do the simplest thing of carrying the ball in a straight line, how do you think will you play hockey?” We had no answer. But I guess, he realized we were not enjoying the sessions. He arranged for a friendly match with another amateur team. We were out of our breaths by half time, finally losing miserably and worst of all became a laughing stock for all. He had retorted, “If you can stick on the field for 70 minutes without the ball; with the ball on your stick, you can do anything.”

He may be smoking hard and boozing regularly. There were days, when some of us were late by a minute or so for our 0500 hours practise session. He was the first person waiting for us to arrive, everyday. We would get tired straining on physical exercises. He completed all exercises along with us and would be raring to go. After a while, though, we were running out of patience with no sight of playing hockey. Just then, he started the basic dribbling sessions. From that day, everyday there was something new added onto our training schedule. But the one and a half hour physical drill was a constant. Before our first official match representing our school, Mr. Khanna made us play against the next senior category team in school. Although, we lost the game, Mr. Khanna was visibly pleased. From the first game itself in the tournament we knew we were a better team. Although, we lost the first game, we had made no changes in the playing eleven through the 70 mins and still had fresh feet. Through the tournament we gained in confidence, in points and popularity. No one in school had expected us to reach the finals. We did. The whole School walked up the venue to watch us play. In the finals, we played the same team who beat us in the first game. We disappointed everyone, most of all, ourselves. What we gained were, fit mind and fresh feet.

What Mr. Khanna taught us during those training sessions remains with us still. The importance of being fit; playing as per a plan and presence of a super star never ensures a win. Respect the value of the other to ensure your win. In a team, all are equally important, even the reserves. And although, he never explicitly stated it, I think he wanted us to learn more about life. Be healthy to think healthy, always have a back up plan and every individual has her/his bit to contribute. On her/his given day, anyone can become a super star.

I think that’s how super stars are made. There is a Shera behind each of them.

This piece is inspired by Chak De India, the movie. This is a dedication to Mr. B N Khanna, our hockey coach, who taught us a lot about life. Because, he knew, hockey was our life.

(One thing is for sure, we need to change our national game. It cannot be hockey. Not because we are no good at it anymore. We were, we are and we always will be a team feared by one and all. I feel, as a nation, we don’t care about hockey. We have stopped taking hockey as a game, forget as a national game. In one of the youth channels, a live question-answer round on the street brought out our ignorance. Out of ten people interviewed, seven did not know what our national game is!)


Monday, August 06, 2007

Hilly Roads

It was a warm day. I knew I was excited. But I did not know why?I always wanted to go there. I dreamt of being there, although, I did not know I was dreaming. I always thought I can see future!I was finally going to see where I had been before. Do they call it déjà vu?But how did I come to know of the place? Well, that’s where the story begins. In full Bollywood style, I begin with a flash back…I had stories from my paternal folks about the place. All green during summers, all white during winters and all colors in between. Now, that was fascinating to me. At that age, you tend to love everything your Dad says and hate everything what you don’t understand. And I did know that its really hot in Lucknow in summers and winter is the best time of the year. And the thought of having cool breeze around in June and watching snowflakes in winters was an amazing idea. Who would not want to? I know I did.It was 1986 and my elder sister had already taken admission there. Wow! And she sang praises too. I had to be there. I was destined to be. Although, later in my life I did come to realise that my parents, especially my Mom, did not want to send me there. Anyhow, I took the admission test.Did I tell you about the admission test? Naah, not that I passed it in the first attempt. It was because of that test that my Dad slapped me for the first and the last time in my life!! Yeah, he is a nice guy and does not believe in the carrot and the stick narration. But, he was fabulous at keeping kids terrorized. But that day he lost his cool. And what a place it was. The AC-2 compartment of the Punjab Mail, which we boarded from Lucknow to Calcutta (I still call it Calcutta and would call it the same till I die). One tight shot, pin drop silence and the rest of the journey was a dream again! If I remember correctly, I slept through the next 24 hours till we reached Howrah station.Moving ahead, I took the test in a school in Santragachi, a suburb of Howrah district. I could see hoards of aspirants like me who had come. Watching them with their parents gave me a super kick. Some of them would be with me in a few months. I wanted to befriend all. The test got over and results were announced. I was happier than usual. I knew I did well and would be called for an interview. But I was feeling good that the slap on my face and the two-minute silence maintained by the people in the train did not go waste.Interview went off well. I answered all of their questions except one. I did not know the meaning of the word ‘recognise’. How could I? I had never heard of it. At seven, you are not supposed to? Or are you? Anyways, I could not ‘recognise’ the people sitting by my sides! I was asked one final question. Do you recognise the people by your sides and can you tell us who out of them is an alumni of the school? Or something like that…. But I could not hear anything after the word ‘recognise’. I was zapped. Dumb. Silent. My ears became warm. Eyes became watery and my palm started sweating.Ofcourse, I don’t remember if all this happened. But till today, before saying, “I am sorry” or “sorry, I don’t know”, this is the sequence. So, am sure this is what happened.

Permanent Change

The only thing permanent is change. I don’t know who said that. But am sure when he thought of that, he was married!!! Nothing remains the same.Even hairstyles change. Or whatever is left on the head! (I have come down to a crew cut!!)Ok, starting with our story…. We were destined to meet. And here goes another famous quote – marriages are made in heaven… to lead us to hell! (Am I being too sarcastic???)Anyways, moving forward… I am a Bengali, born and brought up in Lucknow. She is a Tamilian Brahmin born and brought up in Delhi. I went to Calcutta for college. She finished college in Delhi. And then both of us applied to Bharathidasan Institute of Management, Tiruchirappali, an institute and a place unheard to many. There was no lightening, no firecrackers and no whirlwinds when we met. Infact, during our two years in Trichy, we would have never thought about anything so serious of ruining each other’s lives!But I guess, lightening struck later! Almost about seven months after we went our own ways, to different cities, that destiny brought us together again and this time we could not resist the temptation of trying out ourselves. And can you believe it, from that day, we held onto our decision for another two and a half years to finally tie the knot and be pronounced husband and wife….On 12th June 2006, we got married in Delhi. I, on behalf of both the families thank all people who came to attend the function. Especially, all BIM folks – Raj, Ramya and Anu along with their hubbies, RVP, Kishore and Priyam. Unfortunately, Kishku and my roommie Hari had to leave the evening before the wedding because of their personal and professional reasons. Mukund, Raj’s brother also was in attendance and participated actively by serving the guests!Thank you all.We had a reception in Lucknow on 16th June 2006. We had a good turn out there too. I thank all people who were in attendance there.And then we left for Bali on 19th June mid night. Bali is an amazing place. We were lucky we went there during the off-season. It was peaceful, with pleasant weather and very welcoming Bali hospitality. Thanks to!We are back to Delhi now. We will now really start sharing our lives, literally. No all ladies night outs, no beer sessions and pathetic hang over mornings, no flirting around (is it???)….. Life will never be the same again…. Life is changing, slowly but surely! We can’t pin point and say this has changed or that is different. But the feeling is new, and just as they say..…We are loving it!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Breaking News III

In the last episode, you saw how the Mallick family avoided a barrage of goons, traveling with them on flight. It was a miracle that they were not on the receiving end of the merciless comments of their “smart” co-passengers. What will happen to Mallicks’ Goa holiday? Will the rains ruin their trip? Will the hooligans on the flight come back to haunt the Mallicks’? Will Mallicks’ have a fight during the trip making it a lousy break? Dekhte hain, HUM LOG!

We had booked our accommodation online. So, we had no clue how does the resort stand? We had only seen a couple of snaps on the website. The customer care person on the phone had reassured us it is a great place. We reached and then realized the meaning of the word “Country”. Our booking was made in a resort called Flushing Meadows “Country” Resort. Being the educated lot, we assumed Goa being a beach get away, there is nothing but beaches there. The Customer Care person, when asked on phone, the Customer Care had suggested the beach is 10-15 minute walk. However, the name clearly suggested it is a Country Resort. We did not realize the same, till we reached the place. It was in between wilds! A true Country Resort, nothing but rich greenery all around. No sign of any beach or water! Frustrated and cursing ourselves, taking a walk in the resort premises we found a water body, the resort swimming pool!! The nearest beach was 3 kms away. To top it all, it started raining. No way, we could go to the beach. Once we had calmed down a little, putting our minds together, we decided we needed to get drunk to forget what had happened and ignore what was around. To soothe matters a little, we had been provided complimentary bottles of beer and wine, two each. We finished all of them in an hour’s time. We surely felt better after that.

The next two days went off well as we had arranged for site seeing. Luckily, there was minimum rains and whatever did shower, was more of a refresher than a hindrance. The bus ride was fun too, with weird characters as our fellow passengers. We had a combination of Malayali family which could not stop eating, a maharashtrian couple with a sweet baby girl who never spoke, not even to each other. There was a sweet old and retired sardar couple, a Delhi-based family with young, beautiful and to make matters confusing, twin daughters and a group of six college boys who had a field day ogling at the two pretty things all through the day. We met some more ‘interesting’ personalities on the first day evening while on the ferry ride on the Zuari river. The MC on the ferry made kids dance in a group, couples dance with each other, singles dance for someone they wanted to impress. There was a lady dressed in one of the flashiest dresses you can find on earth, with equally smashing sun glasses and a highly charged husband. The husband was already tipsy, ordered some more booze on the ferry and enjoyed watching his wife dance with young boys. I cannot forget a newly wed couple who probably had a quarrel last night or during the day and were not speaking a word to each other, but sitting right next to each other and keeping an eye on each other. The lady would not smile a bit and the young man could not look either towards any other girl or at the bar! It was funny and irritating for a moment. Why would anyone want to ruin their honeymoon like this? Forget honeymoon, why would people spoil a trip to Goa like this? Anyways, holding my wife’s hands and the cool sea breeze was intoxicating enough. Who needed booze! But it was funny too, looking at people and collecting pieces to write this piece!!

On the flight back to Delhi, we were seated behind another newly wed couple back from their honeymoon. They made a perfect honeymoon couple, not able to keep hands off each other and murmuring sweet nothings into each other’s ears non-stop for the entire 2 hours. Looking at them I was finally reassured, all is well which ends well.