Friday, January 29, 2010

Nuisance Value...

It was one not so fine a day last week, when I woke up rather early in the morning. Not that I’m any enthusiastic about shunning the warm quilt and rising in the small hours, running joyously around to welcome a fresh day. And that wasn’t any different a day too. But the thing that jolted me out of my deep slumber was some strange noise. For a moment I felt as if I was having a dream (read : nightmare) of being held captive in a cinema hall and being made to watch a song sequence.

But as I rubbed my eyes and got the ragged old wheels of my mind to turn, I realized that it wasn’t a nightmare. It was something real, and much worse.

Once again, after a few weeks, some bright-minded people had put up big loud-speakers about the place which were blowing to the best of their capabilities. Presently playing ‘bhajans’ to some God on the tunes of a cheap item song. I couldn’t remember what the song was like, but recognized the familiar tune.

Having been woken up, after repeated attempts to bury my head deep beneath heaps of pillows, I finally gave up and readied myself for a day full of high decibels of spirituality.

By about 3 pm in the afternoon, the stuff really started to get to my head when some guy (supposedly the one in charge of the sound system) decided that this was his chance to hog all the attention and started shouting on the microphone.

Well, all that he seemed to shout was either a ‘halii’ or a ‘heliou’ instead of a ‘hello’, which made it all the more irritating. So, I set out towards the source of the sound, to give whoever it was, a good piece of my mind.

Here I would like to mention that our house is situated at just a street’s distance from the banks of where the Ganges once used to flow. As the water has moved quite a distance away, the land adjoining the bank has been occupied by numerous temples and ‘ashrams’ which organize some sort of religious functions or the other every few days, and let the neighborhood have a good deal of it.

The present event being no different was a ‘maha-yagya’ of sorts as I could see on big banners as I moved towards the particular ‘ashram’. No sooner had I reached the place when I saw a big crowd entering the premises in the form of a procession with a couple of big luxury cars in the front. No wonder carrying the chief guest who claimed to be some ‘shankaracharya’ from somewhere.

Assessing the lack of any options to get myself to the source of the sound, I was forced to retreat and wait for it all to get over.

After two unbearable noisy days, I finally heard someone announcing the arrival of the Divisional Commissioner himself to grace the occasion. I felt a big relief on the prospects of it all coming to a much needed end.

The commissioner came, gave a speech and left, not once giving a look to the numerous big-sized loud-speakers hooked on to every nook and corner which were performing at their best. I am quite sure he didn’t because the noise continued with some increased whim after he left. A particular person was sporty enough to request the organizers to plant a couple of big-sized loud-speakers right on the roof of his house…

And that was when I lost it. It was already dark when I reached the spot. The ‘pandal’ was absolutely empty, with an assortment of pictures of gods and goddesses exhibited on a podium, and with the sound system blaring at full volume with no one at the controls. I saw a guy approaching who pretty much looked like one of the organizers what with a bearded face, a ‘tilak’ on the forehead, dressed in a pair of jeans and pullover and with a small bag in his hand.

He mistook me as one who had got late in ‘paying’ (no pun intended) my dues to the gods and hurried towards me to get the work done. And that was when I let it all loose on him. The blaring loud-speakers which made me shout at the loudest made me all the more heated up to let him have it in no uncertain terms.

He : Yes ??

Me : I want to get this shut. RIGHT NOW !!!

He : Why ? (he actually had the nerve to ask me…)

I don’t quite remember what I replied to that, but I shouted without a stop for the next five minutes.

I then gave him an option to either go and get the sound-man immediately and stop the nonsense or otherwise, he’ll be a sound-system short.

I don’t really know what made him decide to go and fetch the guy, whom I saw coming ever so nonchalantly, until he saw the look on my face and hurried a bit. But to my relief, he quickly stopped the system. That was peace for the rest of the night.

Though they were at it again the next foggy morning. But by now they had cleverly turned the loud-speakers to a different direction (towards the city zoo which is in our area too. I really pity the poor animals) so that I wouldn’t bother them again. This nuisance continued for the major part of eight days, making life hell for whoever came in line of the high volume of the loud-speakers.

It just goes to show how people misuse religion in our country and can get away with murder in the name of religion. (they actually do…) I had a good mind to report them to the police station. But seeing that they had the patronage of the commissioner himself, I felt it would all be of no use.

I would like to inform everyone reading this that there is a particular ‘Public Nuisance Act’ through which you can complain about any such nonsense that troubles you and others, specially in the name of religion. (IPC Public Nuisance sections 268-295)

In these months when kids and students are ever so busy preparing for their examinations, it is all the more important that we put our foot down on such stupidity. There are old and ill people in neighborhoods, schools and offices that need a certain degree of quietness to function. We, as responsible citizens need to raise a voice against such acts of public nuisance that affects the lives of one and all, and not sit back and tolerate it all in the name of religion.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Visit to a Test Match...

I did it again !!!

For the second time in my life, I went to see a cricket match. It’s not that I haven’t been to any more cricket matches before. In fact, I have rarely missed any being played in my city. But here I’m talking about going to watch a cricket match all alone. And that too, a ‘Test Match’.

Yes. In these times of T-20s and T-10s, when some people are even bored enough of spending a full day watching a ‘One-day Match’, it is highly unlikely that any normal person would so much as even think of going to watch a Test Match. And if there is lack of company, it would be all the more un-imaginable for a normal person.

But here I’m not referring to any normal persons. I’m talking about myself…

The opponents being Sri Lanka didn’t help any bit to make the prospects much exciting. But for me, there is something more, much beyond mere excitement about watching a cricket match live.

I had already made up my mind to watch the match as this would probably be the last opportunity in my life to watch two of my favorite cricketers in action in my city. And that was reason enough for me to ignore anyone who’d suggest that such a plan wasn’t worth it.

I still hadn’t bought the ticket till the eve of the match due to two of my friends who still weren’t sure if they would be able to make it. As it was mid-exam-time for bro, he had already been excluded from the scheme of things. Somehow, I managed to agree to one of my friend at his suggestion to wait for the first day to see how the match progresses. According to my friend, it wouldn’t be too clever to go and watch the Sri Lankans bat all through the first day if they decided to do so, considering Team India’s bowling form. This seemed a bit sensible and so I decided to wait, hoping that India doesn’t bat first.

But keeping up with my luck as ever, I was greeted with the news of Team India winning the toss and electing to bat, first thing in the morning.

I spent the rest of the day praying for Sehwag’s form so that he continues to bat and India doesn’t loose any wickets. I just couldn’t afford them losing any more than one wicket for the day. But by the evening when I was returning home after getting the ticket, I got the news that India were two down. That sent my heart sinking. What if ‘HE’ gets out before day two even starts….

But thankfully, for once, just once, my luck stood its ground. SACHIN TENDULKAR and RAHUL DRAVID were still not out overnight. At last, I would have my wish.

I reached the venue well before time and was pleasantly surprised when I could actually get so close to the ground while still driving and not being stopped some ten kilometers or so as usually happened in the past. I parked the car and moved on as more and more people poured in from all directions. But today, something was strange. And it took me a short while to understand what it was. The ever so aggressive police men who were all around the ground like ants around a box of sweets, didn’t actually look their usual aggressive self. There was a strange laid-back attitude I could observe in them.

And then I remembered the news in the morning’s newspapers about how an IG of police had thrashed a cricket fan who managed to get close enough to Sachin to shake his hands while on practice the earlier day. It would have been a trivial and very normal incident had it not got some media attention. But it did. More so, because the fan at the receiving end was none other than one Sudhir Kumar who has now become a sort of mascot for the Indian cricket team. The guy who, you can easily spot during India's matches with his face painted in Indian tricolor and Tendulkar painted on his back, with the map of India on his head.

And this piece of news getting to Sachin’s ears didn’t help much for the police. Much to their embarrassment, the top officers of the police force were confronted by Sachin accompanied by Sehwag who wanted strict action to be taken against the guilty official. The officers tried to make excuses but were left ashen-faced when Sachin demanded for an identification parade to be held if they couldn’t find the culprit. This resulted in not only Sudhir getting free VIP access to all parts of the ground but also a lot of respite for other cricket fans who otherwise had to face the wrath of the police just for nothing.

This was just a part of what makes Sachin so different from any other celebrity.

I had taken my seat in the new stand which was still only about twenty percent occupied. The two teams were already on the ground practicing various skills with their respective coaches. I could make out that the members of Team India appeared more relaxed as they jogged around while throwing a ball or two. On the other hand, the Sri Lankans were busy in a tough practice routine. Though I could make out most of the Indian cricketers, I still couldn’t find the two I was looking for.

And just then I looked to my left near the pavilion end where two batsmen were busy hitting balls in the nets. Usually, when the batsmen practice their batting in the nets, there are numerous kids who are from the various training sports hostels who run around picking up the balls and throw them back to the bowler. But here were two cricketers who, in spite of being the biggest of icons, were humble enough to pick up the balls near them and hand them over to the little kids without a hint of arrogance. Something that is usually found lacking in the new and young players.

Watching them go about their business with sheer dedication was really inspiring !

During the next half hour, I realized once again as I have often realized in the past, that what a difficult task is it to play for one’s country in front of thousands of shouting people. Specially when few of those people are as uncivilized as one can be. I could see a group of men shouting profanities at not only the opponent team, but also members of their own team who passed by after completing their practice session. It surely must feel like a performing cage for the players with such people getting on their nerves. It is more than enough if they can so much as ignore such a crowd and still get on with their game.

At last, it was time for the day’s play to begin. Something I was really waiting for. And the reception to which Sachin stepped on to the field was to be seen to be believed. By now most of the stand was occupied. Mostly by highly placed Government officials and their families for whom it is a status symbol to go and watch a cricket match without having to buy their tickets. In fact, these days people seem to have an attitude for getting free ‘passes’ to watch the match which signifies their so called high contacts. As if they are doing a favor to the players by coming and watching the game.

The match had started and the crowd in our stand got a bit animated when the Team India fan Sudhir was joined by a certain ‘Chacha Hindustani’ who is gaining fame as well during India’s matches. Amidst all the action, there were the odd derogatory shouts for the Sri Lankan players who would be fielding near the stand. This, in spite of repeated announcements and even numerous written warnings that no sort of racial comments would be tolerated towards any person during the match.

And we cry foul at the racial abuse Indians face in places like Australia…

Meanwhile Rahul Dravid completed another century in his already long list of centuries, much to my own pleasure. I really can’t understand what our problem is. Here is one player who has been performing consistently all through his cricketing career but people just don’t seem to let him be in peace. The stupid selectors finished off his One-Day career sighting his age being the factor. But why can’t they replace him in the Test team ?? Because they know they cannot.

Hats off to one of the most dedicated, disciplined and talented cricketers we have seen in our lives.

Before things got much settled, Sachin lofted one and was walking back to the pavilion much to everyone’s shock and disappointment. But here is one person who gets an equal applause when he departs as when he enters.

By lunch time, the Indian dressing room had more batsmen who had been dismissed than those who weren’t just as our stand had more of those pot-bellied and balding police men seated comfortably munching away at their free lunch packs than the real, cricket-loving crowd.

The rest of the day was mostly uneventful, what with the Indian batting line-up being cleaned up pretty quick and the Lankans getting a solid start after a first-ball hiccup. Well, a large group of young boys did make things somewhat ugly for the people in our stand during the second half. But I guess we in India have become used to tolerating all sorts of nuisance makers in our daily lives.

I returned to the parking area only to find a flat tyre on my car. But I was pretty content with the achievement of watching two of my most favorite icons in action which has always been a great inspiration for me. I, for one, do not go to watch a match just to shout and have a blast. It’s just my way of getting some good inspiration for myself.

******* I had written this post more than a month ago but couldn't manage to get enough time to post it here. *******


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