Saturday, April 09, 2011

Café Tales IV

It’s an orange with a straw stuck through it. I’ve never noticed the Tropicana logo before. Or maybe this was a new logo and hence the stopping in my tracks. A bit unnecessary, you might say, stopping in one’s tracks to look closer at the logo on a juice box. I agree, a tad unnecessary, but it happened. Trust me, I speak the truth. I thought about the design process that was responsible for this logo. “We want people to know that Tropicana is fresh and natural!”, I can hear an excited 27 year old marketing wizard yell. And then I wonder why someone would get so passionate about orange juice. A tad unnecessary. “I get the message, though” I tell the marketing wizard. I’m sure she heard me.

I look at the jug of Simply Orange nearby. It’s a dollar cheaper, so I pick it up and walk towards the milk aisle.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Wankhede Dreams

Not one person in the vicinity is sitting. We can sense the moment coming. Kulasekara runs in, the crowd’s “Dhoni, Dhoni” chant lowers in volume as the Sri Lankan pacer gets closer and closer to the crease. And then madness. Dev and I, amongst 33,000 other fans in the stadium, see the ball sailing in the air. Hugs everywhere. I find myself hugging 4 people at once. I look at the guy who tried to take one of our seats earlier in the day and we laugh together in joy. I look towards the ground and I see Bhajji running on to the field, waving an Indian flag as he meets his crying team-mates mid-pitch. More massive hugs. I turn back towards the ground again and I see Sachin. The big screen captures his jog towards his team-mates, his child-like smile lighting up his face and ours as fireworks light up the sky.

wc champions

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Virat Kohli utters the quote of the decade, a quote that easily overshadows his crucial 35. The crowd roars its approval.

Dev mentions that the man is our age. Everything is surreal at this point.

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We walk out of the stadium at around 1am. The cops and army personnel slowly allow themselves to entertain high five requests from fans. There is an outpouring of gratitude towards the security team, the unsung heroes of the night.

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The streets outside Wankhede are a sea of blue. I am confused, unsure how to celebrate. Some chant, “Jeet gaya bhai jeet gaya, India jeet gaya!”, others congratulate each other. Some take pictures to show off to their friends, others dance to the honking tune of car horns. I, well, I do all of these. And then I run around waving my Indian flag until I see a guy with “Shekhar” on the back of his jersey. Picture is taken.

wc shekhar

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We’re starving. During the India-Australia quarterfinal, we didn’t eat during the second innings and India won. So.

I see Tamil actress Namitha sitting in Shiv Sagar, lucky enough to get a seat in the packed restaurant. Dev grabs a bottle of water and we continue on our quest for food.

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A kind restaurant owner helps us get a table faster than expected and we share it with a couple of guys who’ve flown in from Dubai to watch the game. Over food, we discuss the match, our lives outside cricket, the greatness of Sachin, the boldness of Dhoni, joining in for a couple of India chants before bidding each other good bye,  congratulating ourselves on the victory.

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marine drive people

Marine Drive is packed with people. Songs are being belted out from car stereo systems while fire crackers are burst at an amazing frequency. I chat with some fans who couldn’t get tickets to the stadium but had come over to Marine Drive to revel in the post-match celebrations.

I stand facing the sea, taking it all in. I see the Queen’s Necklace shimmering.

Life is beautiful.

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We take a cab back to Dev’s at 4 in the morning. I fall asleep in the cab, exhausted.

But this time, I don’t have to dream.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

The Greatest Gift

Do you remember that straight drive Sachin hit three years ago, a bewildered Lee looking in awe, the ball smashing into the advertising boards, all the while Sachin retaining that pose of artistic perfection? I watched that shot thousands of miles away at Jester auditorium in Austin, bowing down to the projector screen, asking for more. Yesterday, I saw Sachin hit a straight drive for four at Wankhede. There are many older than me who claim that the birth of their first child is the greatest moment of their lives. They have probably not been 100 meters away from a Sachin Tendulkar straight drive for four.

When Sachin walked back, caught behind off of ferocious, deadly Malinga, I sat quietly for a bit with my face buried in the flag I was waving around just a minute ago. Had I just seen his last one day inning? I slowly rose to my feet and applauded, and so did the rest of Wankhede. He said a couple of words to the incoming Virat Kohli before continuing his walk into the pavilion. Virat Kohli carried Sachin Tendulkar on his shoulders later that night, “well, he’s carried the burden of a nation for 21 years, it’s time we carried him on our shoulders”, he said. Last night was poetry in action.

There are these fleeting images – Yuvraj, Kohli, Raina egging each other on, Harbhajan dismissing Umar Akmal and shaking his head in wild, unbridled joy, Yuvraj roaring into the night after vanquishing Australia, Zaheer yelling, “Come on!” after breaking up a partnership with smarts rather than speed , Dhoni’s calm smile after hitting Kulasekara for a world cup winning six. These images will live with me forever.

This Indian team, these men in blue, looked to the accomplishments of Sachin Tendulkar to motivate them, to see pressure in the eye and use that as a catalyst for greatness. This Indian team has conspired to win the cricket world cup, to provide Sachin a joy that had eluded him for far too long. But when you look past the trophy, you realize that they’ve shown the little master that they can win without him. And that to Sachin should be the greatest gift of them all.