Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Olympic Gold Quest

Sigh. The Olympics are over.

After the grandiose Moulin Rouge style mash-up extravaganza that was served up in the closing ceremony (Jessie J performing with Queen? Really?), its time to reflect on India's participation in the games. But after 'liking' Facebook pictures of our medal winners of course :)
'Olympic Gold Quest' was one excellent program that has started reaping benefits after years of effort. This all-time high medal count should keep getting better through the games in 2014 and 2016 if only more and more corporate money flows in.

As a thriving democracy, we will never have the 'Olympic factories' that create medal winners in certain autocratic nations. I mean looking at the things they do and more, its just assuring that we are not them. Neither can we have the American/Australian model of Sports where it is tightly integrated into the University system. But better infra, improved training and better publicity will take us a long way from here. We don't need to remember Mary Kom or Sushil Kumar only every 2 or 4 years. They need media coverage and our constant support in all competitions. I mean, who even knew that the boxer lady was a 5 time world champion? Now that our wrestler hero has a few crores assured as prize money, it should encourage more talent coming into the games. He makes us proud, compared to another Sushil Kumar who is a disappointment to the offices he holds.

That said, our national sport definitely needs an overhaul. They face their own set of problems, but surely more is expected out of them. As the foreign coach put it (and it comes from a foreigner who sings the Indian national anthem, really!), many of our hockey players were merely happy being Olympians and with no fight to win. Last place in the Olympics in our national sport is a national embarrassment. On the other hand, Germany which won the hockey gold just got the job done with some sheer talent and discipline. And probably half the population in this football-crazy nation here didn't even bother to notice.

Our sportspersons need to be role models. And that will come if they give their best. I don't care if they endorse more brands of sugary aerated drinks and earn loads of money in the process.. The bottomline is - they must perform, and inspire generations to compete more.

We get it. We are not generally athletic and well-built as a race. We usually aren't half a mile tall like Phelps or Missy Franklin. We lack the endurance and stamina of the African-origin races. But certainly we should do great in areas requiring more skill - shooting, archery, badminton and table tennis (damn the Chinese!), right? Well, we did win in violent/combative areas like Wrestling, boxing, shooting et al. Gandhi would have been proud. :)

In the end, no sportsman who represents the country must EVER worry about how they would earn their livelihood when they stop competing. Ever.

But certainly we need loads of money channeled in more important places in society, right? Millions still need to be pulled out of poverty, sanitation facilities, water, electricity are the basic issues which need to be addressed first, right?
Yes, we need more money into infrastructure, but development of sports cannot be overlooked. The sense of collective pride that a nation gets through the victories is priceless, not to mention the added interests in sports and fitness that contribute to the overall health of the population.

To all our medal winners - you did great! A Silver and bronze is still one at the top, amongst the best of the best in the world. And sometimes the best ones too do not get their hands on that glittering metal.
Ask Federer and the Brazil football team.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Chak de India!

So Team India wins their inaugural match at the World Cup!

Great start to the tournament. Hope this continues, and who knows - we might have a good shot at winning it all. Of course we were the mighty champs a few decades ago till the Aussies and the Dutch came over and told Pillai n Pargat to go fly a kite. The last time we won the World Cup was in 1975, and since then most laurels, including Olympics (last was in 1980) have eluded us Indians.

Many folks have reason to believe that Kapil Dev and his underdog triumphants in 1983 were responsible for taking away the limelight and shifting the national obsession to Cricket. Not that we are complaining - how else would we find another God called Sachin. But the point is - slowly and steadily, since the 80s, hockey didnt even matter any more. It was just a piece of general knowledge that kids mugged up in school - regarding Hockey being the national sport of India. That was it ! Seriously, guys - how many of us know about Dhyanchand any more? Not the new generation born in the 90's surely.

But I digress. This first win is what counts, and is a great performance by the team. Specially after all the disputes between the team and the federation that happened all these weeks earlier.

But today, I couldn't help but remember this incident a few months back when I was in Pune. The Indian team was at the Balewadi Sports Complex at the city-outskirts, and training under the Spanish coach Brasa. Barely 4-5 kms away from our place, it felt nice reading about them in the papers - Balewadi has surely great facilities. But here's the thing - the team were served Chivda for breakfast!! I'll say this again, lest you missed it - yes, they were served Chivda! And it was a small piece of dispute covered in the local papers.

Now I personally have nothing against the humble Chivda. In fact as a self-respecting (and expanding) Gujju foodie, I place it highly on my light snacking lists. Laxminarayan chivda from Pune is one of the great delicacies that go divinely with ginger tea. But chivda for hockey players? Really? I mean imagine our team fed on a 'healthy' diet of chivdas locking horns with a big, muscular group of 11 Aussies stuffed with Eggs, bacon, milk, sausages and fruits. Sorry, but the match was lost at the dining breakfast table itself!
A piece of the story here.

This gives an idea about how a national team is treated if they happen to be playing any sport other than Cricket.

But well, the 1st win is great, especially against Pak, so its time to rejoice! Bring on the chivda,.. err Champagne (German Sekt, if you please) and pray that this great form continues for few more weeks for the boys. In absence of live-TV, I shall try to remain connected through youtube highlights, if I can find them.

PS: Overheard from a twitter feed, this: 4-1 win to India confirmed! Unless Pak government denies that these 11 players are Pak citizens. Lol. (via @rameshsrivats)

Sunday, February 07, 2010

While I was away...

... here's what the world was searching for...

And must say we Indians need some image building exercise in the world..

But hey, before you say either 'Holy shit' or 'We are like this only', the Western world is not spared from convenient stereotyping either. Here's what the world thinks about Les Fran├žais!

(Hopefully more would come up in this dormant blog, and it would not be these snippets from the web, but actual words penned down by yours truly)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Flashes of delight in gastronomy

I love food.
So does our entire extended family. Ya, I know what you thinking - who in the world would not like eating? But saying that I was a gluttonous omni-voracious foodoholic would be quite close to describing the real me. Though as I reached my late 20s (sigh!), my gastronomic habits have become more sober, much closer to normal, civilized people.
Still remember the days in college when we used to devour our food like there was no tomorrow. And then our gang of hungry souls was solely responsible for putting out of business at least two all-you-can-eat food joints. God bless them.

Speaking of which, it brings me to last month which was a complete delight for the tummy. The folks were here in Stuttgart and that resulted in such great culinary wonders that not for a moment we felt we were away thousand miles from India. So here is a small walkthrough over what we treated ourselves with.

Caution: If you are somewhere in office or on a diet or craving for food, DON'T read further! Reading ahead and looking at these pictures could give you serious cravings, withdrawal symptoms and greedy tongues.

Yellow spongy bliss.
Khaman dhokla has been the snack of choice for every self-respecting gujju fond of food. Though not made as ubiquitously like the humble idli, it is a well known dish even to non-gujjus.

Top up these yellow steamed cubes with heavenly alphonso mango-ras and puris and it is a already on way to being one of the best lunches ever.
Whats for dinner, btw?

The Handvo is a relatively unknown dish from Gujarat, more so like a savory cake made by baking ground pulses with veggies of choice and a tasty mustard-spice tempering.
(the pic wasn't intended to make the Handvo look like Pacman, but here it is)

A completely microwaved stuffed Karela (bitter-gaurd) and potato dish. Loads of jaggery and spice, cooked to perfection, over the veggies, topped up with coriander and sev.

Sinfulicious Daal-Makhni made by the missus, with generous amounts of cream and butter falling just short of the annual dairy produce of New-Zealand.

And here comes the most famous export of Gujju-land after Mahatma Gandhi and the Ambanis. The awesome Pav-Bhaji. Probably the most coalition-friendly dishes of all - a delightful mix of mashed up veggies and pav-bhaji masala and topped up with.... well see for yourself.And yeah, eaten with the humble paav, buttered and browned.Bliss!

Nice little south indian breakfast of bowled upma , only the coffee replaced by aromatic ginger-tea.

Speaking of South-Indian breakfast, how about masala idlis washed down with saffrony Alphonso mango milk-shake?

And now the Western Breakfast. Pancakes with a generous dollop of Apricot Jam. But mixed with Indian ginger-tea again.

Paalak Daal and jeera-rice go well if you in a mood for north-south collaboration. And why leave behind cool refreshing peach-flavored ice-tea?

A very gujju coup.
Gujju bhakhris (parathas) with a most tradtional eggplant-potato curry. Just yummy!

Lemon Slice-cake does the trick to cheer you up on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

And since we mentioned desserts, an Apple-pie with the best light-brown crust in Stuttgart will do just fine.

And to round up this yummy array of savories, we have yet another gujju dessert. The always-underrated Doodh-paak. Yummylicious thick flavoured milk with copious amounts of dry-fruits and saffron.

I'll leave you now drooping with saliva and running to the kitchen/fridge for some life-saving eatables...

Friday, June 05, 2009

Why on Earth....

... are we killing the planet that keeps us alive in the first place?

Global warming is not a myth anymore. Its wide-ranging effects are being seen everywhere, in form of melting glaciers, extreme temparature changes, floods, hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes and what not. It is true that we are cooking up our planet faster than we can imagine.

So, on World Environment Day today, lets do our bit and try being better Earth-citizens.

Picture credit: www.aboutmyplanet.com

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

If (with apologies to Rudyard Kipling)

Really really bad joke of the day...

Question: What did Jackie Chan's father say to him when he was small?

If you can keep your head when all the east asian baddies around you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can dream - of surviving 3 thousand assorted bruises and cuts
And yet perform the next stunt, no ifs no buts

If you can cope with Hongkong and Hollywood alike
And treat those two imposters just the same

Yours is (every stunt on) the Earth, the legacy of Bruce Lee mixed with Oriental humor and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be Jackie Chan, my son!

* An uncanny flash of PJ struck when coming across an old Jackie Chan flick while browsing channels at my bored apartment in Brussels, missing home and the missus badly.
* Note to self - Must.... have.... Chinese food today...

* Image courtesy: dimsum.co.uk

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Tweeter ke do aage tweeter....

Tweeter ke do peeche tweeter...
Bolo kitne tweeter?

Bad attempt at mixing Bollywood nostalgia with a new internet phenomena and squeeze some humor out of it... But you can't blame a man for trying.

Well, Twitter was around a good 18 months ago... And I had joined-in a year back or so, expecting this to be just one of those new jigs in the social networking wave. Suddenly, come 2009, Twitter is THE place to be!
Everyone around now is a Social Media junkie, every other person is a Web 2.0 expert, and everyone is following everyone (not in the strictest literary terms, but you get it)

Yes, a few celebrities on the Tweeting A-list means good news for fans. Forget mainstream media, forget agents, forget 3rd party info - you can get the goings-on in the minds of celebrities right from the horse's mouth (or so I'd like to believe)

Blogging was for people with a serious urge to write and reach out. Tweeting came out to be great for those who didn't have time to sit down and blog. But people are doing just the opposite. More time is being spent on tweeting and status updating every day! True, social-media habits of people can take you by surprise. I wouldn't have ever thought people would actually have fun writing small twitbits about themselves, and reading up twitbits about others, totally unknown ones too!

Now if you'd excuse me, I have to go and update my Twitter page to tell the world that I am writing a blog. Then I'd update my facebook status that I am tweeting about writing a blog. Then my LifeStream account will get updated with the useless fact about me that I am updating my facebook status about tweeting about writing a blog!

image courtesy: http://www.readwriteweb.com

Update: (14.May)
Can't help but post this video. Awesome! Thanks to Alina for sharing this.(if your browser cant see this - get flash installed)


Friday, February 27, 2009

Movie-inspired tourism


This article on a prominent travel site did not surprise me a bit. I'd mentioned in the previous posts how there were 'Slum tours' being conducted in Mumbai. This one just reaffirms it and says, '....Mumbai, and particularly its 175-acre shantytown Dharavi, are experiencing a boost in tourism....'

Slumdog Millionare is now in the league of masterpieces like LOTR, The Sound of Music and Casablanca.
* flashes a half unsmile, midway between straightness and sarcasm.

What 26/11 did to tourism, Slumdog is reverting it back equally and more.
I'm wondering what we'd say to this...

Friday, January 30, 2009

Underdog Millionare

Much has been said about Slumdog Millionare already.
My two rupees:

The movie is entertaining, yes. But is it extraordinary enough to sweep the oscars? I don’t think so.
Part of the joy in the movie is in the expectation of what happens next, and you begin rooting for the slumdog as he keeps answering correctly and the viewer is engrossed in unraveling the links himself. That's possibly the biggest achievement of the screenplay. And of course some of the shots of Mumbai, slum-life and the kids are breathtaking. More on this here. However, from a superiority point-of-view, I don’t think the movie should be a huge oscar winner. Even ARR who’s got 2 nominations, has done much more brilliant works compared with the mediocare soundtrack (by ARR standards)

If we discount as creative-leeway, the too many horrific incidents coincidently happening to the same set of 3 kids, the screenplay and portrayal of the slum life was pretty much accurate. However, this seems to be a bit too extreme and would cause a lot of heartburn for proud Indians (like me) in the way the west rejoices at the sights of poverty in the developing world. Believe me, I have even seen ads for ‘Slum Tours’ in Mumbai, promising the curious foreigners a glance into the poverty thats so ingrained in Mumbai-life.
Yes, the movie thrives on stereotyping, but then many good successful movies have done so in the past. So maybe if it wins, I wouldn’t be surprised.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Year Two Thousand and Nine

So an eventful year comes to an end.
The world came torn apart by mad bankers who played poker with the world economy, the mother of all presidential elections came to an end, making an African American the most powerful man on earth, a handful of youngsters tore apart Aamchi Mumbai (making it stand up stronger and more determined than ever).... and on a personal front, we both celebrated our first 12 months of the institution thats called marriage.

Christmas time is an empty kinda thing here in Germany. Streets are void, the snow is chilling and people are all inside their homes. So unless you have family here with whom you can spend your 4 days of vacationing, stuffing yourself to the ends of obesity in the process, you (read: all desis) MUST plan a trip out somewhere. Europe gives you quite many options to do that, though they are fairly limited during the cold winters.

So what was it be this time? Salzburg - the land of Mozart and the Von Trapps (remember the Sound of Music?)
After a good 3 days and a hugely overjoyed wife, we both are back to home, although not without a considerable hangover which (obviously) wants the vacations to never end.
The highlights of the trip surely being the Untersberg trip - up in the snowy peaks, and the trip to the Beer Museum - StieglBrau that was followed by a number of complimentary glasses of freshly brewed Austrian speciality washed down the throat.

Its that time of the year.
The aftereffects of too much beer
Makes you feel funny in the head,
And you say instead...
Meppy Christmas and Hairy You Near!

Have a great 2009 everyone!