Tuesday, May 23, 2017

AB - AB De Villiers

In the series of biographies and autobiographies I read recently, AB turned up at Rajesh's home in Bangalore. The book starts with AB picking up a key moment in his life, when a brother's friend, much older to him, picks on him for misfielding and throws his cap down and tells him he does not deserve to wear that. All of eight or so, AB decides (or has already decided to be a fighter - not a star but a fighter). Young AB makes the older boys pay by fighting on and on, and not getting out despite all their efforts. That incident signifies what AB is like.
Pan Macmillan, Rs. 599. 322 p
The maverick batsman and fielder who seems divinely gifted is perhaps so - he is a Catholic who believes that he is doing god's work in this world and is merely the medium. He also quickly shares another incident when in the journey to his heights as an international cricketer he has an epiphany to remain humble. That's something AB imbibes and remains humble to this day.

AB recounts his early days at his home with his two older brothers, mother and father. He was privy to good schooling, to elite schools, rugby, football, hockey, swimming, tennis, cricket etc. Young AB wa s a tough competitor and played both football and tennis apart from cricket. The final call was between cricket and tennis and he chose cricket. Was there an incident of him getting hit on the head as well - I think so - maybe a concussion? Anyway he quickly dispels all those stories about him being the young scientist, hockey, swimming, badminton, golf etc and says they are not true.

Somewhere early on while playing tennis he is taught the discipline that is required to make a champion.
- Hit 1000 balls a day
- Prepare correctly for every practice session and match
- Routines for kit, equipment, water, nutrition
- Write brief notes for yourself about the game pan, read it
Surely anyone who does all that will be a champion. Ask Andre Agassi.

His mother was a sportswoman and a stickler for discipline and AB was taught to respect the opponent and the equipment. He writes about his school, growing into the junior team, playing for South Africa A team and visiting India (Lucknow). He recounts his friends Dale Steyn, Morne and Albie Morkel and the rise to the senior side.

Much of his cricket he played, he admired Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis and Mark Boucher. He talks of how his career took a turn for the better when he met his friend and later his manager who taught him the value of REPS. R - Recognise the line between success and failure, E - Enhance key relationships, P - Prepare for life after cricket and S - Stay close to the cross. He takes AB into a dark stadium and helps him visualise the high road - what he can give to the audiences by playing to his potential. the joy, the excitement. AB realises that and aims higher and his stats show a huge difference after that.

In his talk about South Africa and Protea fire, AB recounts meeting Madiba. AB is a songwriter and a singer, loves his music and quotes so many songs in his autobiography that you know how special it is to him. One song he mentions is of Johnny Clegg and Mandela - Asimbonanga..

I remember listening to Johnny Clegg, who was introduced to me by Chhaya, Shobha's cousin, back in 1992. Superb stuff.

AB recounts meeting Jeffrey Archer, who sends him his books every time he writes one. He writes about the IPL, the money, parties. I can never forget the way he took on Dale Steyn in one of the most savage attacks I ever saw on the cricket field in an IPL - and AB describes it ball by ball. But his description does not do any justice to what he actually did - truth be told AB's humility comes in the way of making his biography as exciting as his batting. He writes about how badly they wanted to shed the tag of chokers and how the Proteas still hurt at their inability to bag any major championship. I liked the little green book concept he starts where the book is given to one member of the team every day and he writes something about the game, about others, about himself - with specific rules to write stuff that help the team.

And then he writes about his love and now his wife Daniella and how can music be far behind when he speaks of love. So he brings up David Gray and his 'This Year's Love' and Elvis Blue's 'Lighthouse'.

Fittingly I like his belief about how the team is not 11 but 30, including the support staff. And he ends with a Virat quote - I will play forever - says Virat. AB obviously has other plans. 

Anjali - Involved, Uninvolved

The IPL final broke many hearts - especially the Pune and Dhoni supporters. After the exit of her favorite team Sunrisers, Anjali shifted allegiance to Pune. The final swung this way and that and what appeared to be a cakewalk for Pune turned into a nightmare and they lost by one run.

Shobha and Anjali were quite shaken by the loss.
'Next time, I don't want to get involved with any team,' said Shobha watching the post match proceedings.

'Yes,' said the more intense fan. 'No point getting involved if we cannot get uninvolved.'


Monday, May 22, 2017

Aradhana - Movie Review

Hadn't seen this 1969 classic, and now stand corrected. It's full of twists and turns, red hot romance and fabulous songs. The movie kicks off with 'Meri sapnon ki rani..' and never loses steam after that. Check the poster out - its a full nostalgia trip - their expressions, those beautiful faces.

An airforce pilot falls in love with a pretty girl in town (meri sapnon ki rani). They are almost married and in a rainy night they slip up on their passions (roop tera mastana). Cruel fate strikes and the officer dies in a crash but not before leaving his fiancee pregnant. The fiancee tries to give up the baby for adoption anonymously and then adopt it back in the morning legally thereby avoiding the stigma of being an unwed mother. But cruel fate turns another twist and her baby goes to another house. The man of the house if a gentleman and asks her to stay as a nurse for the young child. Enter cruel fate as the younger brother of the lady of the house and he has eyes only for the nurse. In another cruel twist of fate, she finds that her son (now unofficial) stabs the rascal. Nurse takes it upon her and goes to jail. When she returns she finds her son has grown up and become an air force pilot and all ends well. Primarily the movie is ended before fate turns another cruel fate.

But nice songs "Baghon mein bahar hai", "Gun guna rahe hai", "Kora kagaz tha yeh man mera" - though I hate 'Chanda hai tu'. Always hated it. Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila Tagore share a fine chemistry. Done and dusted. Would love to watch it with a few of those times.

Ace Against Odds - Imran Mirza and Shivani Gupta

I believe Sania has more tennis left in her and was wondering why the biography now. It's written by her father Imran Mirza and journalist Shivani Gupta and pretty much outlines her growth to become an icon in Indian and world tennis.
Harper Sport, Rs. 499. 238 p
The book starts dramatically. Sania and her parents miss a flight in the USA due to some scheduling issues and the flight crashes - this was when she was six. They take the same flight next day and arrive at their destination only to be covered in the national news. Sania spends a bit of her childhood in the USA when her father attempts to start a business and settle down but within an year he gives up and the young parents return to Hyderabad with their daughter - who has already picked up a liking for tennis.

Sania's early indoctrination into the game, her mother's determination to get her into the coaching classes, and the trouble the parents take in taking her to and fro tennis classes etc is well documented. A budding skating career is nipped when Sania falls and is knocked out unconscious for a while - and after that her mother threw away her skates (or something like that). Early promise is recognised, a coach says she will win a slam, and she starts winning tournaments at the Under 10 level. This brings into focus the sacrifices and troubles the parents took while giving their daughter all opportunities. Imran Mirza, a cricketer himself and one who moulds Sania's attitude by telling her to go for it and not nudge around, buys an old 1000cc Maruti, dieselifies it and the family of four (with her younger sister in tow now) travels to places as far away as Trivandrum and Ahmedabad. I marvel at Imran Mirza's driving skills and patience and even courage. Sania wins all the tournaments with consummate ease and is picked up to represent India in the juniors. She starts playing international tournaments, wins prize money, has a hilarious African experience, a yellow fever quarantine and then graduates to the seniors.

The years of uncertainty in the senior pro level. Her injuries and the pain. Her comeback and the golden period are documented but its a story we know a bit of. As with other celebrities who have achieved much in their younger years we sense that disappointment and hurt at the way the media behaves and misinterprets them when all they are trying to do is do a good job despite the pain and the injuries. The controversies that erupted rather unnecessarily about the fatwa (explained well by the cleric in the book), the engagement and heartbreak at breaking it off, the Mecca masjid controversy and even her marriage to Shoaib Mallik which was so badly handled by the media. But she has always handled it well with her typical gutsiness.

As she moves on to conquer further glory, it is clear that sportspersons who reach that level of achievement start early, need parental and coaching support, put in far more hours than the others and most importantly have a deep desire to be a champion in spite of the pain and uncertainty and doubt. It is what is mentioned in the article 'How to be an expert' as well. A growth mindset, a routine that they do not miss and great support system. I am pretty sure there will be another book written after Sania is done and dusted with her tennis.

Whatever she has achieved is wonderful but what she has given women and girls in India is perhaps even more. A way to live her life on her terms and not take any crap from anyone. For that one thing, Sania will always be someone I will admire. And she does it with a smile, an energy that's infectious. Another wonderful role model in a world that seems to be having so few. But I wished the book had waited a little longer - for the simple reason that her journey is not over yet - and until the discovery is complete, the story will not be.

The Story of Jim Carrey - Jim Carrey on Oprah

Visualised his successful life when he was broke. I don't have this yet, but it's out there and I will get it. - Jim Carrey on Oprah.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Fedora - Movie Review

A down and out producer has a script that is perfect for an ageing movie star Fedora. But Fedora, an ageless beauty, is reclusive and does not respond. The producer chases her to Corfu and finds that she is closeted with a doctor, a Countess and a secretary and a driver-bodyguard. His attempts at meeting her come to naught but he persists and meets and his script is rejected. But not before he comes to know that Fedora seems to be in trouble and is being kept there against her will.

The movie begins with a scene where Fedora jumps in front of a train and dies. The producer then cuts back to the time he met her once - on a set when he was an assistant director - and the two spent a night of passion in his car in Santa Monica. What he discovers at her funeral is a story that's better than any script can ever be. The one who died is not Fedora - as he finds out when he sees her twenty year old hands. But like the real Fedora says, who will play my role?

It's so incredible that you feel that it's real life. Superb irony and ending. Fabulous story. Highly recommended. 

Flamingoes at Sewri

Every year thousands (between 10000 and 20000) of Lesser Flamingo es migrate from Kutch, Gujarat to Mumbai's Sewri, a phenomenon that has been occurring since the 1990s.
Sewri bunder
The reasons why Sewri and its mudflats at low tide is unknown and theories range from the food available to the flamingos due to the proximity to mangroves, a passive symbiotic relationship with the mangroves each one feeding off the other and such. Food available to the flamingos as well as the other birds like stints, herons, egrets, sandpipers, plovers and ibis consists of a variety of marine life such as fiddler crabs, fish and small invertebrates.
When the tide is low the mudflats (coastal wetlands that form when mud is deposited by tides and rivers and found in sheltered areas such as bays, bayous, lagoons and estuaries) become feeding ground for the thousands of flamingos. They are constantly at it, not taking a break to look around and watch the scenery etc. They are constantly eating or searching for food.
The Sewri mudflats are not too far from Suhita's place and we all hopped into her car, joined by Preeti and Leya, and headed off. At Sewri we met Miskil and Kabir and a few thousand flamingos. I remember naming my first cricket team, the only one I had an opportunity to name, Flamingos, simply because they sounded exotic. But once I found that they were not as glamorous as they sounded I changed the name to Falcons.
Dramatic sight

But anyway, flamingos it is.