LiteratureSthan: Books, Beers and Beyond | JLF 2018

When a Methodist actor gets a standing ovation and the entire literary fraternity goes berserk by registering record attendance, shows that people have evolved and so is their taste in reading. This goes without a saying, Nawazzudin Siddiqui’s entry into JLF, the world’s greatest literary fest as Saadat Hassan Manto was a sight to witness.

People embraced the (to be) on-screen Manto with love and pride. I don’t think even a Shahrukh or Salman would’ve garnered the kind of response as he got. For those who don’t know, Manto was a rebel-writer and his short stories were brutal and would hit society right into the face. Toba Tek Singh, Kaali Shalwar and Thanda Gosht are some of his most proclaimed works. Do read them and let more people know of Manto’s world.


Not only Urdu or English, the fest was a magnum opus for other vernacular writers. The new-generation readers who’ve forgotten the charm of anupraas- alankars were taken for a ride by Hindi stalwarts like Gaurav Solanki and Vyasji in their sessions.

Looking at a global scale, it was a multilingual & a multicultural fiesta. Never in one’s life could one imagine a 1-1 session with an undercover writer. Sounds fascinating right! It indeed is. Suki Kim is the only person to have ever lived in North Korea as an undercover agent for immersive journalism. She is a proud author of bestsellers like – The Interpreter and Without You There’s No Us. I mean, the kind of exposure this festival gives to readers and writers, you can’t even gauge the altitude of it.

People from all corners of the world had flocked in plenty for the Jaipur Literature Festival, which happened at the Diggi Palace/ Clark’s Amer from Jan 25-29. Young, adults, oldies; everyone had a special author to look forward to.

Rupi Kaur, the New York best seller and the prodigy of slam poetry mesmerized the adolescent teens (females primarily) with her book launch – The Sun and Her Flowers. Rupi, who attended JLF two years back from the audience, surely has moved a long way in to her life. Her anecdotes from Milk and Honey left a lot teary-eyed. On the other hand, adults who are into political awareness or kids frenzied with Tharoorian swag were left awestruck by Shashi’s book launch and session for Why I’m a Hindu. Tharoor, known for his immaculate oratorship, kept the claps flowing throughout as he spoke in Hindi for an hour. It was a treat to have witnessed him live.

Foodies from the sub-continent had some equally good moments from the sessions on their literary platter. Chand Sur, the author of #LucknowCookBook, a speaker who’s 92, took the crowd with a storm with her thoughts on food; transcending time and borders. According to Sur, food brings people together, irrespective of the borders and landscapes. Irish stew in Lucknow still feels the same to her as it was in Lahore. Balochi Machli and Bhuna Gosht are a few more entrants to her memoirs of partition.


Taking the partition saga ahead, Aanchal Malhotra took the center-stage. Aanchal, the proud heiress of Delhi’s best Bookstore (Bahrisons) and the author of Remnants of a Separation: A History of the Partition through Material Memory spoke of her tales of interviewing people in Punjab, Kolkata, and Lahore and explained how food still connects so many people. Food constitutes a significant part of one’s memory as you tend to grow older, it becomes even more prominent. She also emphasized a lot on the fact that, no matter how many Kindles may come and go, physical books and Bookstores are here to stay and they’ll continue to thrive. I wish kindle had a way to preserve second hand notes and the fragrance of the gifted roses tucked in them for years.

In between the sessions you could grab a beer, chill a bit, go to the bookstore or see the fashionista brigade who were just there to grab the eye balls and had no connection with literature. Literature ka “L” bhi nahi aata hoga unhe. But, that I guess is the law of nature.

For every 5 dorks, 1 pretty instagrammer maintains the equilibrium of the universe.

The part which fascinated me the most was talking to the man behind JLF; Sanjoy K Roy, MD of Team Thought works. Roy tells how madly this fest has institutionalized the literary allure in the State. How, delegates, authors, journalists, PR guys and literature enthusiasts fly down from all across the globe and do their bit to increase the touristy quotient of the state. It has commercialized a bit, but that’s the need of hour in the emerging economy.

We – Bagga,Divij and I worked like crazy to take the best of the bytes, candid shots and kept the engagement quotient of Rajasthan Tourism’s handles up and kicking. Imagine working with a team, who had no interest in literature and eventually one fell for Rupi and the other on glamour, it captured outside the Penguin stall. One person I missed the most is Tarini. Had she been there, it’d be legendary. The bubbly, ever smiling, Arundhati fan is the most slaying (literally bole to katal) copywriter I’ve ever come across.

Not to forget, the Lal Maas on all the days for dinner and the charming buffet spread added up to divine luncheon scenes.

Keeping aside all the glittering aspects, there were moments, outside of the JLF arena; which I’m going to cherish for a lifetime – Staying in a dorm. Met Ram, a pediatrician from Chennai; Shantanu, a runaway kid; Bhaumik, Saanya,Vishakha – the Gujju gang. The best part about Gujjus attending JLF is that they idolize it a lot. After Navratri, this is their official/annual getaway ritual from home and is no less than a Tomorrowland. I got to know about other authors whom I had never heard about. Chitra Banerjee, Alice Walker, Mahasweta Devi, Alice Munro, Mohsin Hamid, Amy Tan, Kazuo Ishiguro and Neil Gaiman; who has already set the internet on fire post his confirmation for 2019.

Dil Khush Ho Gaya. Never had work sounded this interesting, thanks to AGL.
I’m not sure when do I get to attend this festival as a special delegate. So, I enjoyed like there wasn’t any coming back. I shall try to imitate Rupi though. Need to start working aggressively on my book – prose on Cricket.

To sum it up, the Lit fest was lit af. Long live literature !


Why need feminism when you have badassery in your blood !

I just finished reading Atlas Shrugged, the iconic master-piece by Ayn Rand; and must admit that it is one of the finest book I’ve read in a long time.It includes the elements of science fiction,mystery,romance and most importantly it contains Rand’s greatest work on Objectivism. In Greek mythology, Atlas was a Titan. The Titans waged war against the Olympians(Zeus & his supporters) and lost. As punishment, Zeus made Atlas forever hold up the heavens on his shoulders. You must’ve observed Atlas holding up the globe;which brings the poetic justice to the phrase “the weight of the world on your shoulders.” And, shrug means to surrender.

In the book, Atlas serves as a metaphor for all the smart, creative “doers” in the world:
the industrialists, the artists, the engineers, the professors, etc. According to her,just
like Atlas, these are the people responsible for supporting the entire world. In Rand’s
opinion, they are all mistreated and are opposed by bad government policies. So they all go on strike and basically “shrug” off the weight of the world.

Dagny Taggart, the protagonist of the novel; who also happens to run the largest network of trans-continental trains is an epitome of unapologetic bravery and independence. She is a kick-ass role model for women in business. She knows what she wants, how she wants it, and most importantly, what she’s willing to get the improbable.Her fearless approach in life makes me wonder do we really need the so called “Feminism”to succeed in life. When you have the capability to do things, rather than screaming your lungs out in lieu of pseudo attention, why not have great accomplishments ?

Another factor which attributed me to write this Blog was this new hoopla of females being granted offs for periods. Do you really thing it empowers women ? You don’t achieve equality by demanding special privileges.On one hand, we talk about women power and debate about women getting an active place in combats, and now we are advocating leave for periods. It’s like going back in time and making things worse. I know the biological clock offers a great deal of pain but don’t you think it’s unfair for the men at work. Another man in the same office puts extra 20 hours for the same money. People will tend to hire more men then.Also,any woman can fake it and take an off. It puts their integrity into jeopardy. I think it’s a bad move.

In a parallel world, we have Harmanpreet Kaur and Dagny Taggart slaying it with their
game. Dagny and Harman, both represent the new age modern women, leading from the front. They don’t believe in making excuses or playing the pity-card. They believe in getting the shit done. Harmanpreet Kaur, the Arjuna award winner and the dashing batter from Moga is a path breaker for her contemporaries and Indian women’s Cricket.

She is the first Indian cricketer (male or female) to have signed a Big Bash League contract. She recently came to limelight when she scripted India’s finest victory by slamming 171* (off just 115 balls) against Australia in WC semi final by becoming the 5th Highest run-Scorer in ODIs. Not just this,she also became the highest run scorer (male/female) in knockouts of an ICC event, surpassing Ganguly.

The way she raced to 150 from 101 in mere 17 balls, is something quite astonishing. Currently, she is the second-highest run-getter for India,after Deepti Sharma. It was out of the world power-hitting by the girl from Moga district in Punjab,something that has made her a stand-out player for India.These girls might have lost the final but the way they fought and exhibited magnificent display of character, I am sure it must’ve inspired a whole new breed of females to have picked up a bat and dream something new.

In a male dominated frenzied sport, where people used to be unaware of any match being played by the girls, people in India watched the game, supported them with their hearts and souls and even expressed their fury when they lost. I think Harmanpreet and co have done their job. The spark has been ignited.

Here is a list of striking similarities between Dagny Taggart & Harmanpreet Kaur and a tight slap on the face of all these feminazis –

1.Powerhouse of style and substance.
Just like Dagny’s speeches and unparalleled gala room looks, Kaur too thrives on her
straight-bat drives; empowered with authority and class written all over them.

“The straight line is the badge of man, the straight line of a geometrical abstraction that makes roads, rails and bridges, the straight line that cuts the curving aimlessness of nature by a purposeful motion from a start to an end”

2. Talk less, work more.
Harman was questioned by the media and even tested for dope when she hit a 88 m six in her early days. She preferred to ignore the haters/critics and let her bat do the talking. I think where she stands now, speaks volumes about her mental toughness & character. It’s useless to argue, with people who would neither refute an argument nor accept it.As Dagny professes it right from her childhood days, this is their mantra –

“I’ve always been unpopular in school and it didn’t bother me, but now I’ve discovered the reason. It’s an impossible kind of reason. They dislike me, not because I do things badly, but because I do them well. They dislike me because I’ve always had the best grades in class. I don’t even have to study. i always get A’s.Do you suppose I should try to get D’s for a change and become the most popular girl in school?”

3. Drape a cape, the situation needs
In case you seen Kaur’s game, she adjusts herself to the needs of the team. She started slowly in the semis,when India were 2 down at the start. Later,once the foundations were laid with Mithali, she pressed the accelerator button and went full berserk.And bowls too as in when required.Similar is the case with Dagny.

For Francisco, she’s the symbol of his quest to reshape the world. For Hank, she’s the wife he always wanted, as well as an inspirational teacher. For Eddie, she’s a heroic, larger-than-life figure. For John Galt, she’s the symbol of his ideals and his soulmate. Wear the cape, the situation needs. Moreover, right from sharing legendary strategies in the board roam to laying down the rails of the John Galt line to recruiting the man with the golden motor, she has performed every role her company demanded her to.

4. Defying stereotypes of the man’s world.
In terms of stats, Harman is rated above Ganguly in the knockout games and can dispatch the ball out of the park greater than maybe Kohli’s strength. It’s a brave new world, where anyone capable of doing anything significant technically and rationally,can do wonders;irrespective of the gender. Dagny too, showed immense maturity in handling topics like civil engineering, tensile strengths of materials, aerodynamics; did a better job than her brother James or any other man alive. And yeah these fields are considered to be the man’s domain.

5. Epitome of self assuredness.
Quoting Dagny Taggart once again, “You don’t have to see through the eyes of others, hold onto yours, stand on your own judgment, you know that what is, is–say it aloud, like the holiest of prayers, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.” She didn’t leave Hank Rearden’s side, rather stood by her no matter what the circumstances were -be it for Rearden steel or being labelled as her mistress. she didn’t let go of her dream to build the Galt’s line, even though it was opposed by zillion bureaucrats. She did what she thought was right, without seeking any validation from any other person. Also, had Harman thought of her neighbors and relatives while choosing this as her career, I don’t think she would’ve reached these heights of glory.

Never saw these two women whining about anything.I think they are a perfect eye-opener for everyone in the society. You don’t have to forcefully hog the limelight to be famous. Love what you do with pride,dignity, dominance and fun; the world is yours. Play with your boldness, not the victim card. Be a bad-ass, not a feminist.

Sources – ESPNCricinfo, GoodReads,

Think small – Little things should matter more.

You may be the CEO of a multinational corporation, Captain of the Indian Cricket Team, owner of a Tapri or a bank manager,irrespective of the title or profile; I think everyone has got a certain set of beliefs/principles which keeps them going in life. Some are driven by monetary gain, a few are pumped by intellect. For me, it’s the small little things that matter the most and inspire me to achieve something meaningful.

I’ve never been driven by technology or fascinated with cars, luxury Hotels and penthouses. Words have always been a greater force than numbers for me; and it will continue to be. I can’t recollect an instance where people have remembered a stat for decades; whereas words have been. Most of us assume that data is money; which is partly true. But I’d say an idea or the raw emotion/thought expressed from the gut is the real gold. Technologies will come and go. Your creative instincts sustain.

I don’t want to be friends with rich brats or political forces to succeed in life. And yes I hate people without substance; especially at work. Fakles (Fake people) are the biggest turn off. People not being passionate about their work,yet faking it to climb the corporate ladder, without having an iota of motivation, shallow yet keeping a chin full of farzi pride for no rhyme are the ones that disappoint me the most. Trust me, I have seen a lot of those.

Ab to ek Jhalak mein pehchaan ke dooriyaan barkarar ho jati hai automatically. The problem with them is they think too big and end up achieving nothing except false identity/ ego and some money maybe. Enough of gyaanbazzi. I think I do possess some zeal in my eyes. Jazba hai dost, shayad dikhega nahi. Thanks to my oriental features !

Certificates/ degrees are not too significant to me. Pat on the back from someone special means the world to me. I HATE collecting trophies or books for that matter. I don’t want to build a library and display my knowledge to pump my ego. Rather, I’d share them with people spreading more knowledge. That’s wisdom.

Things like being close to just 2-3 people who could do anything for you, having people in your life who could read you any point of time, people with whom you need not think twice before cracking the lamest of the jokes, people whom you don’t address with their first/last name, people whose names are saved weirdly in your contacts; are the one’s that matter the most. Trust me, if you have them; half your life is sorted. It’s a luxury.

Ah! The smell of a new book, a thoughtful non-materialistic gift (gifted randomly), Biryani being served, watching Cricket endlessly, seeing your parents proud and the love in your begum’s eyes -I don’t think there can be greater driving forces in anyone’s life. Little things like these set the tonality of your bigger goals.

Start finding solace in them, you can do well. I am no preacher.Everyone has to figure out their own funda. But when I retrospect the downs and ups in my life so far, I feel this should be the way. It has worked for me.

-> It’s never about going to 7 stars for brunches. Sandwich and parantha dates at Metros have been the best one’s till date.

->It’s never about clubbing. It’s always about the best of the cafes and bookstores.


->It’s never about Football (except Arsenal)/ Basketball and keeping it up with peers. It’s always about Cricket. I love it like crazy.

->It’s never about holidaying in Swiss. It’s always been about dreaming to go to Lord’s and witness Kohli play. (Mera bas chale to Honeymoon bhi Bhutan mein manau. But for that to happen, I should be alive. I am darn sure that Begum would kill me if I don’t take her to some place exotic. Bhutan is fine for trekking later but not for honeymoon – as per her.)

->It’s never about too much money. It’s all about vivid encounters with crazy people.

->It’s never about those high rise views. It’s all about petting a pup ( Long distant dream. Mommy can only keep him or me) and a peaceful potty on your warm commode in the place you called Home.

Most importantly, it is about making a difference to yourself; not others. If you are not outgrowing yourself, you aren’t moving the motor of your own leanings.

One such instance happened recently, when my rant against Cricinfo’s new website layout was acknowledged and I hope some changes are acted upon it.The whole point I cried and made a hoo-halla was because of the fact that it mattered something to me. I have grown up idolizing that website and trust me it’s the first thing in the morning I look up to. I could have moved onto Cricbuzz easily. A hit less on their website shouldn’t have mattered it to them.I raised my voice because I saw a part of my childhood being taken away from me. I had a lot of memories and emotions attached to it and I just couldn’t let it die in front of my eyes. You can call me a selfish asshole but I’d say I’m an objectivist. So, should everyone be,ideally !

Postcards sharing has become a long lost form of expression. Things like these touch my soul the most. If you mean something to me, I shall find a way to send one of those to you somehow. So, I am traveling to Rajasthan these days. The place is something. Please expect a lot of that with my updates (apart from Facebook, which is like a public notepad where I type anything without even think twice). But this postcard would be a little personal. Lesser text, more feelings. As much as I love it, I hate communicating through Whatsapp. It kills the charm of everything. Can’t abandon it due to Begum and work, too bad !

And yes, how can I forget the most touching and soul-stirring aspect – FOOD. People who share their food with me are always placed in my top-notch bracket! Honestly.

I love people who write these days.In fact, I keep talking to a lot of colleagues too, people who possess creative writing abilities but have stopped writing, have stopped expressing due to their hectic schedules. I constantly keep reminding them to take out time and let the words do the talking to their souls. Forget about the readership. You have one constant fan, who’ll appreciate their art. Time nikal jaata hai. Nikaalo. As I draft this down, I think I am doing justice to whatever I have said earlier.

Words are mightier than swords. Numbers fluctuate, words resonate !

I know it’s tough to hold the retention spans, but I if you reached this far, please do me a couple of favours –

1. Please stop faking with me.If you don’t like anything, talk to me directly. Ek dost kam chalega. Farzi chutyap nahi chahiye.
2. Start writing more. Let your thoughts transpire a new revolution. No idea/thought is good/ugly. Just write.(I am still optimistic about the day when my PJ takes the shape of a campaign)

Every little helps. Every small goals achieved like these stir your soul and help you see the bigger picture clearly.

Love & Light

Cricket, larger than life !

As a kid,never did I realise that Cricket will be an integral part of my life.
Not just does it bring back those nostalgic gully Cricket childhood memories but paves way to a meaningful life ahead.

It empowers my eyes to glitter, to fantasise and to be happy !

I think even though I’m a big time dumbass, I suck at keeping up with the technology, I find grace in being old-schooled, I have a family pack abs, I am not earning in dollars like majority, but I am blessed.
I am blessed to be passionate about something.

I have something to look forward to apart from work, alcohol and the Friday nights.

Cricket makes me a poet. It makes me worth existing. I know it sounds too exaggerated but it makes me feel alive.

If I closely respect my journey in this world,  it’s like a Test match – there have been numerous ups and downs. I failed at relationships, at my startup and many other places as friend, as a son, as a brother but Cricket never judged me. It keeps me going.

I may not have arrived to making it big with respect to Cricket but it does make me feel like the King especially when I am writing. And you know what, I will make it count eventually.

Cricket makes me realise how self belief and hard-work will actually sort everything you actually dream of.

Dreams do come true and it’s you sheer ability to dream that makes a dream, no longer a dream !

I am lucky to have witnessed Dravid, Sehwag, Klusener and Virat play.
Each one has played a significant role in being who I am. And guess what, each one has instilled me to be the weird me.

I bond over Cricket with people. In fact, most of my references at work or at social gatherings are from Cricket.

As I write prose on the sport, I feel valued deep inside. No one in this world makes me feel this special like Cricket does except my begum !

You’d be amazed to know the purpose of my life. It has got nothing to do with money or fame.
It’s all about watching the sport at the world’s best venues and the game at Lord’s would be the defining moment.

Now, why so much gyaan was offered. Let me explain –

1. I am not a motivational speaker or anything of that sort. It’s never too late to figure out what you are good at. In fact, a friend of mine who’s left everything and is pursuing her career as a voice-over artist.

2. Whenever I am extremely sad or happy, I leverage it to bring back my sanity to maintain the equilibrium. You could try too.

3. It’s one subject, I am extremely confident of. Even when it comes to addressing a gathering of thousands. I have an answer to query – what are you good at ? People spend their entire lives figuring out that.

4. It keeps my priorities straight – Cricket, Family, Pizza (in that order). It helps me declutter the best from the rest.

5. It gives me the role models to admire and to learn from.

Thank you Cricket for sorting my life ! I hope every gets theirs’ in shape through their passion.

Truth triumphs evil ! Passion triumphs boorish!
Happy Dussehra.

How does it feel to not have a job!

Ever wondered how does it feel to not have a job? I mean when you had a job once but you are no longer employed, neither are you working for yourself. It happens when either you’ve been sacked, you’ve quit or you do not know what to do with your life anymore.

It’s scary! Been there, done that. I belong to the league where I had quit my white-collared 9-5 IT job which paid enough to have arranged a good Punjabi bride at the age of 25. Instead, I ran behind my dreams, invested my time and money into my passion, found my true love in the process and started my own company which failed miserably after a year or so. But it did teach me the most valuable lessons of my life.

The failure made sure that I realize the value of money. Who your real friends are? How badly your relatives want you to fail and more importantly what I wanted to do in my life. So, coming back to the phase where my parents wanted me to go back sit in the same air-conditioned office which suffocated me every time I wrote a line of code. I was sure that I wanted to be into associated with writing, something which I really liked or the only thing you could say I was good at.

I was at the crossroads, torn apart between a failed son and a rising self. That was the phase of a few days, I mean very few wherein I was at home, doing nothing and everything pointed to just one thing – you are a loser man!

Here are the things which make you feel worse! –

a) Your parents think you have lost it. You are a just an immature kid who doesn’t have any sense of direction in life.

b) Actually they don’t think that. The relatives make them feel so. I honestly, despise majority of them for the very same reason. They make you feel like a piece of shit. Everything boils down to just two things -CTC & BHKs. It depresses you to the very core.

c) Your confidence is crushed every time when you open Facebook.

d) You overthink and every statement made by others either looks like a taunt, sarcasm or an insult.

e) You start doubting yourself whether are you the good for nothing guy, really?

f) The above point becomes too overpowering when the maid asks the question everyday– “Bhaiya aaj bhi office nahi gaye?”

g) You cut down on your hobbies, your lifestyle and and basically self-pity takes over.

h) You become desperate to not talk to anyone, you keep sinking in a cocoon.

Okay, enough of sad stuff, now the positives. –

a) Since, you do not have money at all, you learn how to survive with the bare minimum necessities. Eggs and Maggi become your best friends. Also, your liver thanks you every day for giving it a break.

b) You start valuing your skill.

c) You figure out people you can bank upon. Ultimately it boils down to your parents and 1-2 very close friends at max. I was lucky, I had another very special person backing me all the way. My Love!

d) Auto- decluttering: Time has its own means to filter out people from your life. I wouldn’t say that crap – We are all busy. We need not stay in touch but at the end, I’ll be there. Bullshit! If you haven’t heard from me in 6 months, I’ve cut you off!

e) You start appreciating small things.

f) You realize that it’s a fake world.

Ultimately, time and your passion heals everything. I too moved on gracefully in a span of a few days.

I’m not the advice person usually but this phase can fuck you big time, so, one advice I would like to give is to be on top of your game – you should be good at what you are doing/ intend to do and never listen to anyone. Go blindly with your heart. You have nothing to lose as you’ve already hit the rock-bottom and you’ll eventually earn your money and self-respect back.

Bytes to Biryanis: Fateh Hyderabad

The mid of the week is usually the most ambiguous time in the life cycle of a software engineer. Monday blues are over, tasks are stacked up and Friday looks like a mirage. On a Wednesday afternoon, tired of the same old canteen food and life we decided for a getaway during the weekend .A much awaited change- way back to our sanity! A unanimous call on Hyderabad was taken and a joy wave traversed across the lunch table.

Charminar -The first thing that comes to mind when you listen the word Hyderabad.

Charminar -The moment you hear Hyderabad.

Before I imbibe the readers with my story, let me put some light on my allies- Avinash Hegdal and Mayank Dua.

Avinash: The not so foodie, happy go lucky, damn enough of Karnataka now let’s go out of it guy! Avi is also known as the loud speaker of the team. Office turns out to be a deserted island the day he isn’t there. You can pull his leg all day long, you’ll get tired but he’ll stay at peace like a monk.

Mayank: The not so golibaaz guy anymore. He is someone who values the relationships more than anything in this world be it family ,friends or his girl( extra affection included here ).Khulla saand ,ready to take on the world right now (Just imagine Sunny Deol from the movie Gadar).

More than colleagues or friends I see them as brothers for lifetime.

Coming back! So, Avinash decided to book the tickets from Bangalore to Hyderabad, Dua sahab did it for the return and I decided to take on the planning department. There we were – Looking for a transition from bytes of code to kilos of biryanis.

On Friday July 25(which was our scheduled date to travel), the first thing I listen to in the morning is “Bro we guys are saved! By mistake I had booked the 9 am bus instead of the 9 pm one. Hahaha! What a way to sally. I had an evil laugh in my mind and I started to ponder about the bloopers to come.

We boarded our KSRTC airavat bus from the Shanti Nagar bus stop. As soon as we occupied our seats, clouds of sadness started hovering over Mayank’s head as there wasn’t any charging facility in the bus. Just imagine a guy obsessed with whatsapp (24×7) had to go through when he saw that. To add fuel to the fire was the battery symbol in his cell phone that was proudly displaying 40% charge. Woahhh! Now this was something to cheer me and Avinash, considering the fact that it could’ve helped him follow the brocode. Well, the brocode said “No whatsapp, no reading, no girls and follow the divided by N principle.” which implies that we’ll live together, sleep together, drink together, eat together and divide the expenses by N (3 in our case).

The journey to Hyderabad was a bumpy one. We reached a couple of hour’s late courtesy the flat tyre but it was a memorable one. Avinash also was the victim of brocode. His exacts words were “Yaar jab bhi main travel karta hu tab hi sab ladkiyaan kyun ping karti hain, baaki din kyun yaad nahi aata unhe yeh Avinash and Dua gave him that look – Bitch please. Put the mouse back in the house and don’t give us all that! Hahaha.

The fun part begins now –

Saturday 6:00 a.m. MG Bus Stop Hyderabad- Day 1
The so called “Planner” just woke up from his slumber with absolutely no clue what to say when bade Nawab and chhote Nawab asked him “Planner Bro! Where do we have to get down?” The thing that made them doubt my planning abilities was the reply “Saalo mujhe kya pata.Jo last stop hai utar jao. Yahi hoga! Dekho  sablog to utar rahe hain.

Waah as if it wasn’t enough .Another event triggered at the wrong time and gave me the official tag of “A Useless Planner”. As soon as we got down the bus, we were bombarded with hotel brokers from all possible directions. Panic button was pressed and it was I ,The Planner who took the charge and told one of the broker/auto  guy to take us to Taj Mahal Hotel(as per my itinerary).The move backfired as he enlightened us about the existence of 6 different Taj Mahal hotels situated at different corners of the city. I recollected from my little memory that it was Secunderabad and ordered him to take us there. He replied “Bhaiya 15 km hai! Chaloge kya?” Nawabs were left dumbstruck.

Considering the fact that we had to board the bus from the exact same point the next day and logically the hotel should be in some proximity. Then the so called “Wise Men” took control of the situation and we settled at Hotel Sandarshini Inn. When you can’t decide between your heart and brain, go for the dick. Well the same logic was applied in the hotel selection process. Not that the hotel was great or the tariff was low, the fact that we got a magnificent view near the reception counter did the trick.

the three musketeers

the three musketeers

After some spicy roadside dosas, we decided to get into an auto rickshaw for our first destination- Golconda Fort. The auto guy told us about the various places on the way ,their history and seemed to be a genuine guy till he stopped his auto in the middle of nowhere and told us “Bhaiya aapke 7 Tombs aa gaye” and we were like WTF we didn’t even ask you to get us here !We were still OK with it .The moment he asked for 300 INR for a 200 INR meter reading, saying “Bhaiya yeh to purana meter hai new rates ke mutabik 300 hoga ” and when he replied that the updated price sheet is at his home when questioned Dua sahab lost it completely. He was belted left and right with all possible mother sister words. I was the peacemaker and Avinash bhai a mere spectator (standing 3 feet away).

Once the brawl was over and the auto guy was about to leave the Saint (Avinash) popped out and told him some words of wisdom – “Bhaiya aapne galat kiya yeh!”God knows why he took it to his heart so much that he started emphasizing on the fact that he would drop us to Golconda Fort now, no matter what happens !Our Punjabi brother (Mr Dua) advised him to leave ASAP unless he wanted bruises all over his face. After a mild tussle with the security guard over the camera, we were lost in the picturesque view of the 7 tombs of Qutb Shah Dynasty. There were three kinds of people over there. First – The photographers, Second- The coochy coo types love birds and Third- US. The sight was reasonably unpleasant for our Dua sahab considering the fact that he was on a sabbatical from his love life .We have termed it as “Off season“- the time when bros before hoes saying holds good in a true spirit.

Nawabs -Standing tall at Qutb Shahi Tombs

Nawabs -Standing tall at Qutb Shahi Tombs

Finally,after admiring the beauty of the tombs and decided to save some precious calories took an auto for the Golconda Fort .We BTW, refers to the two Nawabs who did not show  any spirit in walking at any point of the trip. For the first time the auto fare was actually fair. Then arrived the biggest dilemma whether to take the guide or not. The planner acted like a small kid and after a series of yes-no-yes-no finally it was decided to include Afroz (the guide) with us .Trust me the decision was worth every penny we gave him. Afroz is a pioneer when it comes to history, facts and engaging people. He made us climb 360 steps within no time, told us about the tharkiness of the king (how he had created a secret tunnel for one of his mistress that connects Golconda to Charminar, later married her and named the city Hyderabad on her name “Hyder Begum“).He demonstrated the architecture like a true craftsman.

Golconda Fort (shepherd's hill)

Golconda Fort (shepherd’s hill).View from the entrance

Golconda Fort (View from the top)

Golconda Fort (View from the top)

After the tour we were dead tired. I, on the other hand was equally scared at the same time. Considering my lack of geographic knowledge about the city what if they ask me “What next Mr Planner”. Playing safe I told them I don’t know which location would be geographically feasible from here, it’s better if we ask some locals. Based on majority of the recommendations, we decided to head towards the legendary Paradise Biryani at Secunderabad. The auto guy had an amazing Hyderabadi accent and was really a gem of a person.

On the way he helped us in restructuring our itinerary and emphasized on going to Salar Jung museum the next day especially because of the dwarf that rings the European clock. The Biryani was good (though I expected it to be fiery spicy).After the sumptuous meal,Birla temple was right there on the cards.

Paradise Biryani,Secunderabad

Paradise Biryani,Secunderabad

The planner was at his best once again, when he suggested walking down those 3 miles. How long it’ll take, just check your GPS?, asked Mr. Avinash. 20 minutes bro! Those two got furious at the reply. Seriously Bhai it’s by car not if we walk! Considering the criticality of the situation I didn’t retaliate and calmly slid my bums in the nearest parked auto because I knew even if I don’t take the rickshaw those Nawabs would’ve charged me anyway (remember the mighty By N rule).

Afterwards we saw the display of some quality marketing skills. The auto guy agreed to take us to the hill (where Birla temple is situated) in just 10 bucks, provided we visit a Pearls shop and spend at least 5 minutes over there. Even after the extensive peer pressure Dua sahab (the only eligible contender to buy something from there) didn’t buy anything and flabbergasted us with this filmy reply “Bhai baat 250 ki nahi hai, khareed to main 25,000 ka bhi lu, saali koi value to kare iski “. We both laughed till our stomachs ached. That by far was our cheapest auto ride in Hyderabad.

Later, my darshan got jeopardized and I was barred from entering the temple because I wasn’t wearing full length pants. All thanks to my brilliant convincing skills I was allowed to go inside. We offered our prayers and headed for Niloufer Bakery to have the best Irani chai and Osmania biscuits in the town. The bakery was named after Niloufer, one of the Nizam’s daughter  who was also considered the most beautiful lady of her era. The tea was simply breathtaking. No water, loaded with milk and sugar with a slight aroma of chaipatty.After a soothing stroll at the nearby Necklace Street we decided it call it off for the day and went straight back to our Hotel. The day ended with some peaceful pegs and “Yeh Veeraniyaan”(Dua’s favourite) in the hotel room.

Birla Mandir

Birla Mandir

Day 2 kicked off with another major goof up. Finding Govind was the sole aim of our souls. We reached Ghansi bazaar early in the morning looking for the best street food Bandi (lorry) in the town. Our confusion level reached the peak when we couldn’t figure out which was Govind as we saw two lorries parked back to back at the Ghansi Rd junction with equal number of people circumcising them in terms of popularity. Then the wise men suggested the usage of GPS, which clearly indicated that it’s 500m from there.

So I switched off my data packets and we proceeded. Merely after walking some 200 m God knows what struck us; we saw a fancy lorry and assumed it to be Govind’s. We stopped there, ordered 3 plates of Idli vada and even clicked a couple of pictures. Later the planner’s photographic memory came to the rescue and the planner suggested that it can’t be Govind as I can’t see any cheese and tomatoes here, which according to the internet is his speciality. After Dua sahab’s intervention we decided to move on and the moment we saw the GOVIND DOSA board, we were ecstatic. After eating at that Lorry, I could proudly admit that it was the best street food I’ve had in ages. Govind, the guy who runs on a Red Bull, should be treated with uttermost respect for his offerings to the food lovers.

Govind ,Ghansi Bazar

Govind ,Ghansi Bazar

After a brisk affair with Charminar and the Persian tea at Nimrah we decided to check major tourist destinations off our list. I don’t know whether the autowallahs in Hyderabad don’t interpret what we say or they are over smart to take us wherever they feel like taking. Again we got fooled and were transported to Chowmahalla Palace instead of Salar Jung. Due to that over hyped dwarf story, we wanted to be at Salar to witness the bell ringing ceremony.(12 times for 12:00 hours) and asked him to take a U turn and drop us at Salar on account of some extra money. Our sheer curiosity went in vain as no dwarf turned up (kat gaya bhai bade wala feeling aa gayi), still we had a great time exploring the museum.

The sword collection was imperial. It made me get lost in my wander land of Game of Thrones. We even checked our BMI and horoscopes. Mayank’s slip read “You exaggerate too much at times. Behave yourself” and mine said ” You are bound to get ditched by a colleague of yours .Sadness is expected (which did happen in terms of travelling plans)”.After a tiresome time we revisited Chowmahalla. Vintage cars and the royal photo shoot finally reflected the planner’s hard work and resilience.

Salar Jung Museum

Salar Jung Museum

Then came the major twist in the plot.Samridhi (one of my friend from Hyderabad) called me and said she wanted to meet and keeping in account the fact that you cannot expect her to come that far because of the iron nail incident, we had to go to Madhapur (that’s where she stays).Also Shadab Hotel’s haleem was still on the list to be checked, which was in the opposite direction to way we were planning to go then. I went into a numb state for a fraction of seconds due to the fact that I had to choose any one keeping the time constraints in mind. Then the Sr. Nawab’s decisive skills, Junior Nawab’s bargaining skills and their leniency in modifying the brocode came to my rescue. We decided to meet her at Basheer Bagh (half way at Madhapur).The Nawabs could see a big smile on the planner’s face. We escaped the narrow lanes of Charminar and Mecca Masjid and with every lane crossed Avi bro was chanting “aaj to bhai ko Samridhi se milwa ke hi rahenge in an over filmy way”. Finally we met her at Cafe Bahar and had Haleem as well. My joy had crossed all boundaries.

The famous Hyderabadi Haleem

The famous Hyderabadi Haleem

At last we bought some souvenirs from the Karachi Bakery and boarded our multi axle Volvo(the one  booked by Dua sahab). We had a hearty laugh looking at the charging sockets.

Cheers and I’ll come back soon Hyderabad.

Lance Klusener – The real badass of South African cricket

Sundays are the days when I am at peace with myself especially during the afternoons. Today is no exception. As I lie down, I just close my eyes; let myself wander into the memories of good old days.

As a 90’s kid in India with cricket flowing in the arteries, it meant everything to me and it still does. Within no time I see myself playing cricket cards and I can tell you there isn’t a better sight holding the player’s card you love. The actual superheroes and sci-fi stuffs had no room inside my heart instead Sachin was my superman, Bevan the He-man and Klusener- the Batman.

Lance Klusener -My Batman

Lance Klusener -My Batman

Before the joyous moment transcends, I think it is time to get up and capture it through my pen and share the reason why this person on the card is so legendary.

Born and raised amidst the Zulu tribes of South Africa, this naive country boy ended up becoming the classiest all rounder of my era .Without bothering much about the perks of the game he did his job on the 22 yards battlefield and merrily returned to the dressing room like a shepherd would do after the dusk. He had a powerful and an intimidating character, the kind a real fighter should possess and was rightly called as the ZULU WARRIOR.

It was primarily during his military services days (after school) that he started to like cricket and drew everyone’s attention. The combination of upbringing and three years in the army contributed to a straightforward approach in his bowling – Hit the batsman’s head if you can’t hit his stumps. That was the exactly the kind of temperament Malcolm Marshall (who at that time was in charge of revamping the South African cricket at the provincial level) was looking for.

Within no time he  flourished under Marshall’s guidance, established the reputation as a man for a crisis and made his test debut in the mid 90’s as number 11 who could bat .He was a revelation as he scalped  his career best figures of 8/64 Vs. India  in that game. Zulu never stopped attacking as a bowler, the kind of exact stuff you would expect from a Marshall prodigy. He belonged to those rare breed of cricketers who not only delivered but conquered at the same time. Sadly he couldn’t last much as a Test bowler .Due to a serious ankle injury in 1998 he was forced to drop his pace and he started to focus more on his batting abilities.

He could infuse life into a match any moment by changing the dynamics either by his hasty striking abilities or by his fierce medium fast bowling. It was the 1999 World Cup where the warrior showed his real all round talent to the world. Every game he would walk in, finish off his task, go back, and behave as if nothing great happened. He swung match after match South Africa’s way: 52 off 45 balls turned the tables on Sri Lanka at Northampton; 48 off 40 sealed England’s fate at The Oval; 46 off 41 pulled the game with Pakistan at Trent Bridge from the fire.

In nine matches, the southpaw smashed 281 runs off 230 balls, without giving off his wicket. Majority of his World Cup runs came in front of square on the leg side, the area I personally like to hit in the most as well. Those hefty pulls and rock solid punches over deep mid wicket felt same to me as a teenage girl in India would feel after meeting Shah Rukh Khan. He claimed 17 wickets (18 had not Herschelle Gibbs dropped Steve Waugh) and his fielding was equally applaudable in the tournament.

However, more than the runs he scored the condescending disdain that he showed towards the bowlers in the death overs in that World Cup was a lesson in slaying on a cricket field. Well that’s Lance Klusener for you – crude, honest, and an entertaining game changer to be precise.

Zulu hitting a shot in his favourite zone

Zulu hitting a shot in his favourite zone

But the most iconic game in that World Cup or rather his entire cricketing career for which he’ll be remembered for his lifetime would be the second semi-final that was played between Australia and South Africa in Edgbaston, England.

A target of 214 to chase in 50 overs was on the cards for South Africans. Klusener came into bat when South Africa was 175–6 in 45 overs. Courtesy his big-hitting South Africa entered the final over at 205/9 with 9 to win off the last 6 balls. The two men at the crease were Klusener (on strike) and Allan Donald. Klusener scored consecutive fours in the first two balls of the over hammering Fleming through the deep cover boundary, levelling the scores and leaving South Africa with only 1 run to win off 4 balls with Klusener on strike. Donald survived the third ball with a missed run out chance at the non striker’s end .The fourth ball witnessed Klusener miss-hitting his shot to mid-off fielder Mark Waugh. Klusener went for the run, although the chances of a run-out were high and two balls were still there in the kitty. However, Donald at the other end didn’t see Klusener sprinting down the pitch for a run, and Klusener was almost at the bowler’s end by the time Donald (who had also dropped his bat) began running. By then, Waugh had thrown the ball to Fleming, who rolled it back to Adam Gilchrist who took the bails off at the other end, meaning Donald was run-out by some distance, thus ending the match with the scores level.

However, a tie meant that Australia progressed to the final since they had beaten South Africa in the group stages of the tournament. As Bill Lawry put it during the final ball:

“…this will be out surely – oh it’s out, it’s gonna be run out…oh, that is South Africa out – Donald did not run, I cannot believe it. Australia go into the World Cup Final – ridiculous running with two balls to go. Donald did not go, Klusener came – what a disappointing end for South Africa.”

South Africa choking in the semi-final. Eruption of joy for the Australians

South Africa choking in the semi-final. Eruption of joy for the Australians

SA lost their nerves when it really mattered and Australia went on to win the tournament. From there on they have inherited the tradition of choking at the crucial moments but that jinx has finally been broken by their under 19 lads. Although Klusener’s heroics went in vain that day but there was a silver lining attached to it. He went on to win the Player of the Tournament and the number 1 spot in the ODI batsmen rankings. At the press conference Zulu justified his strategy-“I always try to finish games with six balls to spare, because if there is a cock-up, the people coming in get a chance to do something. If you leave it to the last couple of balls then it can go anywhere.” – Lance Klusener

Lance Klusener -the Man of the Tournament 1999 World Cup

Lance Klusener -the Man of the Tournament 1999 World Cup

Whenever I think of Lance Klusener, I think of a swashbuckling Sparta who could slit the enemy’s throats with his all-round brilliance. His stance in particular was the most fascinating trait about his bowling. It made me go bonkers in my childhood. His calm straight head just before the delivery reminded me of a Hit Man, who was focused with a single point agenda of Killing the opponent. I can ape many bowling actions but the coolest of them is still his’. It fetches me wickets every time.

His batting style was equally stylish. From the way he would walk out to bat carrying that 2 kg wooden log, the opposition knew that he wasn’t a rookie to be messed with. He looked like a hybrid of a baseball player, a ninja fighter and a professional lumberjack. The army cut hidden under the helmet, the muscular frame veiled by the green and yellow oversized baggy shirt, the nonchalant biting of the chewing gum and the monstrous back lift added to the menace of the beast that he was.

I somehow have a fascination about the term “slogger” .Viru was called one, KP also at times and Zulu wasn’t an exception. Please can someone tell these mad critics that being aggressive isn’t about slogging? Though he never gave a rat’s ass about what those experts had to say, he mockingly replied once -” You see me hitting the ball out of the ground, but I hit hundreds of those in practice. It may look like a good shot, and it is, but you have practised it a hundred times before the game…” It isn’t luck always. Of course cricket is about luck at times….Balls go in the air and fall in gaps, but hitting does not just happen. You have to learn to improvise and swipe – and be at peace with what you do.”

He was as calm as a cucumber off the field .He would often read a book before he entered the battleground to bat no matter what the situation was and rescued his team time and again from improbable positions. According to him aggression was something to be shown on field only not in life and never took anything personally.

Post World Cup his bowling hit a rock bottom with some mighty injuries. Differences with the skipper and the rise of young talent like Kemp and Kallis doomed his career. “To be honest Lance, as fantastic as he is…can sometimes ruin a team and termed him as a DISRUPTIVE FORCE. His ability as a cricketer is very good, but his ability as a team man is not very good and he kind of can infect a team and bring down the youth…” – The 22-year-old Graeme Smith explained Klusener’s exclusion after he took over.”

Well whatever Smith, I still love him as I did in the 90’s He is definitely one of the most calculating hitters the game will ever see and you know it Biff! His excellent  strike rate while bowling and batting  and an ODI batting average of 41.10 definitely ranks him among the finest all rounder to have ever graced the game.

Lance may you live long and prosper. You are still an adorable bad ass.
Hail Zulu !! #MyRealBatman