Monday, July 31, 2006

In the Name of the Father... Part IV

When does the tension end?

I take my ignorance of finance to extreme heights. As a salaried individual (with a wee bit of confusion... two jobs in one financial year), all I need to do for my tax returns is to add up my two Forms XVI.
I - however - fax the two forms to my dad in Calcutta, who does the calculations, fills up the Saral, xeroxes the documents I need to attach, ticks (in pencil) where I need to sign and sends the whole bunch back to me! I put the whole thing in an envelope and stand in a queue (for 7 mins) to complete the winning run. Even in this, I almost managed to screw up by using a wrong sized envelope!
Net net, I do not get harassed by the IT department alone. I drag my family into the whole sordid ritual.

In between all these, I had several conversations with my dad. After the obligatory imbecile-proofing of his already idiot-proof instructions, he asked, "How's Tina?"
"Okay", I said, "She is fine health-wise but with the baby kicking the shit out of her and all sorts of other aches & pains, she is extremely tense and dying to deliver. Once the bugger comes out, only then will the tension end."
Pause.
My father sighed. The 59-year old said to his 32-year old son.
"The tension never ends." Click.

A sobering thought. Now, what do I look forward to?

Bibliomania

There was a time when I suffered from this obsessive, compulsive disorder of books... If I decided on a book, I had to have it.
If I set my sights on a particular author, I did not rest till I read all his works. One which I can remember immediately is Geeta Mehta. I read her A River Sutra, loved it and decided to read the rest. Raj (a fictional biography of the princess of a state), Karma Cola (a tongue-in-cheek account of the hippy influx into India) and Snakes & Ladders (assorted essays on contemporary India).
Then came Vikram Seth. I started with A Golden Gate, when A Suitable Boy was published and there was a blitzkrieg of publicity (probably, the first time an Indian author was marketed aggressively). I started with his earlier work for no other reason except that I could not afford the Rs 500, 1300-page just-released tome! I went through his entire list (almost) which included From Heaven's Lake, Beastly Tales and one more book of poems which I do not recall right now.
Of course, I became a die-hard fan of Vikram Seth after Golden Gate, which is a million times better than the soap-operatic Suitable Boy. The technical wizardry of the sonnets was quite mind-boggling.

One of my favourite expeditions was my hunt for Marie Seton's biography of Satyajit Ray.
This landmark book was required reading for all Ray aficionados - and I discovered to my horror that the damn book was out of print for an inordinately long time. I scoured all major book-shops, libraries, second-hand book-stalls of College Street, depots of some major book distributors of Calcutta... in futility.
Till I spotted the book in one of my friend's (Kochi, for those of you who know him) house. I still cannot forget the thrill of seeing the partial title (Marie Set...) on the spine of the book, which was hidden behind the first row of books on the shelf. I borrowed the book from him, had the entire thing photocopied and bound.
I will not go into the other expedition of finding the cheapest photocopy shop in South Calcutta. And the techno-commercial discussions I had with him on how much he will charge to have one double-page spread of the book on one A4 sheet. I remember that I could not xerox the pages with photos on it because they required more ink and hence a higher rate!
A long time later, Penguin had the wisdom of re-issuing the classic for a princely sum of Rs 495 - and I snapped it up (20% discount too, courtesy Strand Book Stall, Bangalore).
But somehow, the charm of the earlier expedition was unforgettable.

I have undertaken similar expeditions for a screenplay of Shatranj ke Khiladi.
Robin Wood's book-length critique of the Apu Trilogy (which I eventually found a Bengali translation of).
Rushdie's The Satanic Verses, which was (is) banned in India - but I convinced my father to pick it up on a business trip.
Two collections of autobiographical anecdotes by Sagarmoy Ghosh.
There are more, but I need to glance at my bookshelves in Calcutta to remember all of them!

All my trips to the Calcutta Book Fair were preceded by meticulous research and preparation of a list of books, complete with their publishers, date of publication and price. Given my meagre resources, the discounted value of this list corresponded so exactly with my budget that I barely had money for the bus home. Benfish and other such gastronomical luxuries were only to be salivated at!

The last time I made an effort for a book was when I asked a friend (Nilendu) to get me a copy of The Other Guy Blinked. I was working in Pepsi - and Shashi Kalathil (who was the VP - Marketing, then) had recommended the book very aggressively. Nilendu did all the dirty work when he managed to locate a second-hand copy at Amazon and shipped it down to India.

Why do I suddenly feel a tinge of regret?
I have just finished a biography of Hercule Poirot (an extremely well-researched book in which the author has collected stray pieces of information from all his stories to construct a chronological life-story). And I see on the back cover, that there is a similar biography of Miss Marple by the same author. Except for some cursory net-surfing, I have given up on the search and I know that I will not be able to find this second volume.

The irony is not lost.
God has now given me the means to buy a book or a record if I like it enough. But he has taken away the enthusiasm (time?) to look for it.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Happy Birthday, Mamoni

My mother shares her birthday today with two of her idols... Jacqueline Kenendy and Gary Sobers. And like them, she is a flamboyant, attention-grabbing Leo. When she is in full flow, nobody can get a word in edgeways! When she is in a room, she grabs attention like no other!
Now, flamboyance and gift of the gab is something I have forgotten to inherit from her. Though my entire clan vouches that I am a spitting image of hers in every other way. (You only have to watch us both eating hilsa to get the picture!)

Yes, that. And some of my most enduring traits are all her doing.

Chocolate, for instance.
I crave, demand and snatch chocolate almost in the same way as cocaine addicts hunt for their daily fix.
A recurring story of the family is how I embarrassed my mother in front of her mother-in-law (God forbid!) AND her friends (aarrgghh!)... somebody gave me a 5-Star bar which I started to unwrap but ended up making quite a mess with my four-year old fingers. When my grandma asked me to take my mom's assistance, I promptly reported that she would eat it up if I did! I swear I have no recollection of this... though I have to admit grudgingly that neither of us are beyond this!

And literature.
She was an English Literature student and topped her University in the MA examinations. She took her final exams when she was some 6-months pregnant with me - and my later ease in learning & loving the language is dutifully attributed to the Abhimanyu Syndrome.
And I appreciated at a very young age, the difference of diction between her (educated in a convent run by Irish nuns) and my father (educated in the heritage-laden, Bengali-medium Hindu School). On how the word 'shirt' is pronounced, I knew, "Ma boley thirth, Bapi boley tharth". Well, I had not got over my baby-talk but I knew the finer points of English diction!

And of course, movies.
There are not too many mom-son duos who dutifully discuss the best entry scenes of Hindi film heroes... but we did (which I have dutifully chronicled here).
My mom had collected every single Stardust that came out between their first issue and the day she got married. Not only did she collect them, she had them bound in volumes for scholarly pursuits of future generations of film-buffs. She did not have to hunt for them, as she gave birth to one!
And her two loves - romantic movies and Shakespeare - merge in a brilliant scene of Saptapadi (a huge huge huge Bengali hit!) where Uttam Kumar plays Othello to Suchitra Sen's Desdemona! We warn each other by SMS whenever Saptapadi is shown on TV!
During the days of Chitrahaar, there was a gap of about 5 seconds between the song starting and the title coming on. Mamoni managed to name the song almost every single time in that gap! And in the remainder of the song, she managed to squeeze in a brief summary, critical appreciation, social impact and future replicas of the film!

One thing - I thought - I had NOT inherited from her was her sentimentality.
She cries at patriotic songs (not very rare). She cries at weddings (even if she is from the boy's side!). She cried at Maine Pyar Kiya (understandable). She even cried at Koi Mil Gaya (huh?). I ribbed her mercilessly on this. She once told me that the scene she cried the most is the one in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, where Shah Rukh and Jaya meet after a very long time. And I was at my sarcastic best!
However, about a month back, there was K3G on TV. And the scene came on. Shah Rukh entering the mall. Jaya sensing his presence. And then the meeting. I suddenly realised that I had a lump in my throat. I did not exactly cry but I had to make an effort not to.
Maybe it was because I had not seen her for quite some time. Maybe the stress of an impending fatherhood was getting to me. Or, maybe it was the genes showing up late.

We have an eccentric custom in our family. We never wish each other Happy Birthday. We call on birthdays, send gifts & cards and take detailed descriptions of festivities. But we never speak out the words (which irritates my wife to no end, because she is prone to singing loudly on the phone!). I called her in the morning. We talked about the weather, her school and my crazy travelling. I didn't say it then.

But, I will say it here... Happy Birthday, Mamoni.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Missing Calcutta

What do I miss about Calcutta?

I miss the sarcasm of the traffic snarls.
Unlike the silent aggression of Bombay and the obtuse obscenities of Delhi, the Calcutta traffic-participant is humourous. Trenchantly so. A jaywalker is asked if he has left home with his wife's sindoor box. Conductors are prone to stop buses for pregnant women with a mischievous "Slow down - kid alighting".

I miss the sophistication of humour.
While all of India is going ga-ga over Ajit jokes, Calcutta moves in a higher plane of humour. A Sardar taxi-driver in a bright turban is Sikh Transit Gloria Mundis. The reality of Jesus Christ's end is no longer a Crucifixion, but a Cruci-fact. If you know what Gul means in Bengali, you would understand why Aesop's Fables is called Aesop-Gul!
And of course, the subtlety. Where else would road names be changed to have the American consulate be located on Ho Chi Minh Sarani?

I miss the erudition of the common man.
Taxi drivers quote historians to explain origins of road names. Cinema ushers talk about the symbolism of jerky camera movements in French New Wave films. Booksellers give you recommendations for gifts if you tell them the age & medium of instruction of the giftee. Traffic policemen quote Galileo to stop entry into one-way streets. And bank clerks save money to fund their annual Book Fair purchases.

I miss the humility of celebrities.
Satyajit Ray, till he was too ill to do so, answered the phone himself and replied to all his fan-mail personally. Famous authors sit in batches during community lunches along with fans and patiently answer questions on their characters' motivations in between the fish and mutton.

I miss the missionary zeal in gastronomical matters.
Columbus, on sighting dry land, was not happier than the Calcuttan who discovers a hole-in-the-wall near his office which serves the world's best fish fry. People travel miles on Sundays to get mutton from one particular shop. Men come to blows while discussing the best biriyani joint in town. Inability to distinguish between Ganga hilsa and Padma hilsa is deemed to be a curse on the dynasty. Vegetarians are treated with a sympathy usually associated with terminally-ill patients in other parts of the world.

I miss the ability of the populace to assimilate the entire living universe into Calcutta.
Apart from obvious suspects, even people with extremely tenuous links are accorded honorary citizenships on account of spending an infinitesimal period of time in the city or with any of its citizens. Amitabh Bachchan. Steve Waugh. Rahul Bose. The latest being John Abraham.

To take refuge in a cliche, you can take a man out of Calcutta but...

... You cannot make him forget the beautiful girls of Presidency.
The phuchka-s near Deshapriya Park.
The glitter of Park Street.
The verdant green of the Maidan.
The same Maidan erupting in a million-strong celebration with the Book Fair.
The multitudes who brave malaria & pneumonia to attend the Dover Lane Music Conference.
The innocence of theoretically analysing political ideologies.
The incessant flow of coffee & conversation.
The helplessness in seeing the city's lifeblood seeping away.
The pleasant incredulity of seeing the life coming back in.
The joy of seeing people browsing at Landmark and Crossword, taking down a wish-list and then going back to Barun-babu in the para to get a 10% discount. AND a critical appreciation on the wish-list!

To quote an ex-Calcutta poet...
Calcutta - if you must exile me, wound my lips before I go
Only words remain and the gentle touch of your finger on my lips
Calcutta - if you must exile me, burn my eyes before I go
Before I go into the night
As the headless corpse in a Dhakuria bylane
The battered youth his brains blown out...

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Rain

What brings on a bout of nostalgia the fastest?
Sometimes, it is the sight of a train.
Strains of old songs, heard not seen. Over the static of radio.
Smells of flowers. Everyone has their own favourite.
But mostly, it is rain.

Something about the slanted trails of water on the window panes. Something about the smell of damp earth. Something about the running a hand through wet hair. Something about the whiff of hot samosa with a tangy chutney. Each one of these is such a wonderfully alive sensation that it overpowers all the five senses simultaneously.

And memories come in a rush.
Of the Naughty Boy shoes getting all wet as the knee-length PT socks clinging to the skin. And there were puddles all the way home. Unavoidable.
Of the fights in the school bus to get the corner seat, so that you can sit with your back to the window and feel the drizzle on the collar.
Of Mrs Nandi, in her damp saree and slightly smudged kohl, folding her umbrella on the main staircase.
Of organising an impromptu football match after bunking a lab period. And having more fun skidding in the mud than actually kicking the ball.
Of not going to office during the summer internship and sitting on the balustrade of Marine Drive, waiting for a jumbo wave to drench you completely.
Of walking through a spice plantation in Thekkady and being unable to decide the better smell. The Nivea cream next to you. Or the cinnamon in the air.
Of zipping down a highway as the sound of the raindrops rise to a crescendo, beating a mesmerising rhythm on the windshield and the wiper.
Of lounging around the couch with some onion fries. With the stereo playing Mera Kuch Samaan...

As Gulzar saab would say, "Ek akeli chhatri mein jab aadhe aadhe bheeg rahe the... Gila man shaayad bistar ke paas pada hain..."

Saturday, July 22, 2006

In the Name of the Father... Part III

Lamaze and Beyond

Hugh Grant has done more damage than you think. Apart from exponentially increasing meeting times thanks to every yuppie trying to ape his bumbling, mumbling stutter, he has acted in a super-duper box-office bonanza called Nine Months. A movie in which he starts off as a bohemian slob and then transforms into a ultra-caring super-dad who ends the movie trying to put his daughter to sleep (without waking up his wife)!
Then there is Ross Geller. This anthropologist is not the brightest light in the harbour – as borne out of the fact that he took ten years to decide that he wanted to marry Jennifer Aniston.
Bottomline – being part of the blood and gore of a normal childbirth is de rigeur for the dad-to-be. There are some misguided souls who even try to convince the nursing home to let them into a C-sec operation as well but hopefully, they wear red shirts to see bullfights.

Anyways, my wife has ordered me to be a part of the birthing process so that (according to ‘What To Expect When You Are Expecting’) greater father-child bonding can be brought about right from Hour One. No hopes of repeating the family tradition of father & son bonding over a glass of Scotch at the Saturday Club!
And to ensure that I don’t stick out like a sore thumb, I was also instructed to attend pre-natal sessions of Lamaze (pronunciation guide: rhyming with namaaz) training with her.
Given the fact that Ross attended similar sessions with his ex-wife and her lesbian partner (Friends is amazing, no?), there was not a hope in hell that I could have dodged it!

So there I was… along with two other couples – each comprising of one nos. nervous wife and one nos. sheepish husband.
The session was on breast-feeding! Obviously a topic in which a father has a pivotal role.
The session started off innocently enough… merely with a plan to put Nestle (or at least their Infant Food Division) out of business! The take-out of the first half hour was that in case you do not give a baby mother’s milk, you might as well spray Flit in its face. Because, breast-fed children have healthier constitutions, higher IQ, better life expectancy, cleaner collars and sexier girlfriends!
Then came the interesting part… the DIY instruction! The placement of two fingers around the aureole and one underneath for support had looked incredibly attractive when Shakila did it in the morning shows at Tiger Cinema Hall. But somehow, with a wife beside me and two more completely bemused couples around, it only managed to psyche me into taking copious notes. I was told that there were further actions to show how to unclasp a feeding bra and feed a baby in Borivili Fast without anybody knowing – but then, I had my nose in the note pad!

As if that was not bad enough, there was the small exercise of practicing breathing for the labour. Which starts off with long, deep breaths at the beginning building up to short, fast ones during the peak. All fine – except that the sound of the instructor’s short, fast breaths (with the tongue touching her teeth) is typically associated with clitoral stimulation in Samantha Fox starrers.
Was I only the sick man who willingly watched such movies of doubtful antecedents and equated the good doctor’s intonations with actions of depravity? Well, ALL the husbands were trying to get the brand name of the split AC. So…

The next session is on assistance during labour… Boy, am I looking forward to it?

Friday, July 21, 2006

Inhi Blogon Ne...

Interesting.
When I tried to access my blog, I could not do so. Neither could I access any other specific blog on blogspot.com. However, I could access blogger.com, which is the home page, log in to my account and make a post. Only difference is that I could not read my post. The rest of the world can.

So, if the basic purpose of the government ban is to stop dissemination of ‘seditious’ information, then that has failed spectacularly. We have not managed to stop Al Qaeda (or whoever exposingtheleft or hindunity are!) from spreading the message, we just about managed to stop them from making formatting changes!
Of course, there is a scarier thought here… In the whole of India, isn’t there a single software engineer who can block a particular part of a domain name? Do we need to block ALL of blogspot instead of just 5 particular pages? I mean, this is strangely reminiscent of Hanuman bringing back an entire mountain instead of one herb!

Of course, I will not get into the ideological debate as to whether it is right to censor a site or not. Because, someone (in this case, the government – and along with them, the ISPs as well) who does not have the aforementioned technical competency would surely not able to comprehend any logical argument put forth on this issue.

So there I am… banned!
Thanks to all the blogs who discussed matters which are ostensibly more important than Gulzar's lyrics and Amitabh's doctorate... I mean, do we really need to 'expose' the 'left'? Chill down, guys... and I will tell you this wonderful story on how the name of the film - Mr Natwarlal - came along!

I am sorry I said Brazil would win the next World Cup and not India.
I am sorry I put a photograph of Zidane and not Sachin.
I am sorry if I have made communally biased statements while talking of Hindi film names!
I will never do it again… and now can I please have my blog back?

PS: A colleague just said that I deserve to be banned for the atrocious pun I have made in the title! Har har de har…

Saturday, July 15, 2006

If There is a Paradise on Earth...

A delayed flight. (What else can you expect of Deccan?)
A missing colleague.
And I find myself telling the driver to take me to the Tunde ke Kabab ka dukaan...

I had eaten the famous kababs but they had been a rather hurried affair at office lunches. They were good - but I had had better!
So, after getting suitably chastised at a gathering where I dared to say that Al Kakori Al Kauser is better than Tunde, I decided to try it out right in the horse's (goat's?) mouth.

Congested galli.
Anaemic constable pointing out a No Parking sign.
Nonchalant driver pretending to be deaf.
"Kahan hain dukaan?"
Points out a nook. Lit well enough. Not exactly Taj Residency. But what the hell?

The exact name seems to be Grandson of Tunday Kababi: M U Eating Point.
The grandson is posing in a picture on the wall. With Dilip Kumar. Yusuf saab looks well-fed enough and is smiling in an avuncular sort of manner.

The menu board (on the wall) is sponsored by India Gate Basmati Rice (Badhaye aapki parivaar ka shaan).
Thirteen items on the menu. Including Cold Drink (Rs 10.00) and Mineral Water (Rs 15.00).

Beef Kabab - Rs 12.00. Mutton kabab - Rs 24.00. Mutton Biriyani - Rs 30.00.
What's for the veggies? Roomali Roti, Paratha, Sheermal and the aforementioned drinks.

About a decade ago, a group of classmates used to devour beef kababs by the dozen from a shack outside the Statesman House of Calcutta. But decide to stick to mutton this time. (Ah... the courage of youth!)
Placed order for a biriyani and kabab. Hardly had I taken out the phone to compose a message, the friendly waiter was back. A steel quarter plate of the kabab and one more of the biriyani.

Gingerly spooned in a bit of biriyani. Not bad. But as I said, I have had better...
Now a spoonful of kabab... and the world stopped for a moment. As the granules of mutton elegantly melted along the palate of my entire mouth, I could not help but draw a gasp of breath...
Unbelievable. Cannot think of any adjective.

The waiter hovered around the table. As I poked out the second piece of mutton from under the rice, it turned out to be more of a bone with very little meat on it. Did not notice it all that much since it was so very common. The waiter scooted off – and came back with a chunky piece of mutton on a plate. Dropped it off on my plate, murmuring something under his breath.
Such service!

4 packs of biriyani and 4 packs of mutton kabab are now safely loaded on to my overnighter. Because the moment I stop feeling stuffed, I will start getting withdrawal symptoms. Planning ahead is the secret of a happy and successful life!

Total bill came to Rs 280 (including a Pepsi).
Felt almost guilty to have taken away so much good stuff for so little.
Left a fifty-rupee tip.
Remember me, pardner – I will be back!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Runglee Rungliot


As a fanatical Brazil supporter, I had seen this bald man condemn me to a cumulative wait of 8 years... So, why did I feel inexplicably sad when I saw this picture? I mean, served the bugger right for running circles around Ronaldo, no?

But then again... as a fanatical Bollywood fan, if Materazzi did say what the media is reporting, Zinedine Zidane did not behave like a bull. He behaved like a hero. Like all men of epic proportions, he did not do what the world wanted him to do. He did what he felt was right.

A momentary madness... a history of on-field rage... suicidal tendencies... all that are fine. But you do feel more than a twinge of sympathy who considers his personal honour to be bigger than the biggest prize of the game.

As for Runglee Rungliot, it is the name of a famous tea-garden in North Bengal. It means... This Far And No Further.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Minority Report: Names of Filmi Heroes

For all its national (and international) credentials, Bollywood is suffocatingly unidimensional when it comes to names.
Salim-Javed at their peak and subsequently the Chopra-Johar clique managed to keep the names uniformly North Indian. And then, for the most part, kept them in the Punjabi lexicon. Never venturing into beyond the upper Gangetic plain. And forever shunning any words that require the confluence of teeth, tongue & lips!
So, it is Rahul. Raj. Vicky. Rinse. Lather. Repeat.

Hence, when one tries flashback a little, only a few names of substantial strength come up... names from the minority community. Minority, from the point of depiction in mainstream Bollywood. Which includes all that is not included above!

* One of the earliest example is of the buxom Christian girl, who wanted to make friends like never before. Bobby Braganza asked a super-chubby Rishi Kapoor - "mujhse dosti karoge?" - and red bikinis have never been the same since!

* In Prahaar, a makeup-less Madhuri Dixit played an irate, Anglo-Indian girl who was completely in love with one part of her boyfriend and equally pissed with the other part. Shirley Pinto walked straight out of Bandra Village and right into our hearts.
But then, a very boringly-named Dr Sushma (of Sailaab) doing the koli dance in the yellow nauvvari has ruled our collective consciousness far more!

* Forest Ranger Jan Nissar Khan took on the collective might of the timber mafia but landed up in jail for a crime he didn't commit. Double jeopardy and an Andha Kanoon saw him extract revenge like no one else can.
The black-jacketed, cigarette-twirling Rajanikanth paled into the background.

* With a debut as a South Bombay lothario called Rocky, Sanju Baba never looked to go beyond the Aman Verma and Ballu/Bhola. Until he hit pay dirt as Raghunath Namdeo Shivalkar, who went from the Chembur chawls to become one of the biggest dons of Mumbai.
Vaastav was never so stark on the silver screen.

* What do you call an alcoholic, petulant but charismatic Bengali?
- No, not Ritwik Ghatak, you fool! I meant, in the movies!
- Devdas Mukherjee, of course!

* NASA scientist. Closet patriot. Guilt-stricken, Kinley-drinking NRI. The oh-so-real character from Swades had an equally realistic resonance in the name.
Mohan Bhargava - your neighbour from across the street. The one your mother constantly compared you with.

* After a lifetime as Vijay Verma, AB finally got away from Ganga-kinare and became the icon of the idealistic Marathi middle-class. In hand-knit pullovers and out of laughter clubs.
Vidyadhar Ramkrishna Patwardhan of Viruddh became an extension of the Saaraansh Headmaster.

* Oiled hair. Short kurta. Jhola. Eccentric boss. And most importantly, a moustache!
Ramprasad Dashrathprasad Sharma was such a boring name that it became interesting. More so, when he conjured up a clean-shaven brother by the name of Laxmanprasad Dashrathprasad Sharma.
Don't believe me? Ask Farah Khan!

* Aamir Khan's name in his first film: Raj.
Aamir Khan's name in his fifth film: Raj.
Aamir Khan's name in his ninth film: Raj.
Just when you thought he was taking the fight to Vijay Verma, Mahesh Bhatt ripped off It Happened One Night and came up with one hell of a street-smart, motor-mouthed reporter.
Name? Raghu Jaitley.

* And finally, the latest kid on the block.
In Armani suits and muted make-up, you have women matching men step for step in the corridors of power.
Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for Corporate Czarina Bipasha Basu as Nishigandha Dasgupta.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Brazil did not win...

...And I am shattered.

You see, Brazil did not WIN. Do I repeat myself? Not quite… as there is a not-so-subtle difference between winning and getting a trophy.
Not very understandable for most but a difference nonetheless!
For example, every World Cup between 1974 to 1986, Brazil won handsomely – but never got the trophy. They presented a breath-taking ballet of piercing passes, deft dribbles and incredible step-overs & body feints.
But sooner or later, personal genius, ruthless gamesmanship or plain bad luck took it all away. But, the important thing was they won!
And from Sao Paulo to Santragachhi, a generation grew up with more heroes than walls had space for posters!

Zico. Socrates. Falcao. Junior. Careca.
They were all heroes in the truest sense of the word. And they were quite irreplaceable in the epic of world football.
It was only natural that the epic needed a hero. More than a victor, it needed a giant who lost – but fought the way wars were supposed to be fought. Like Achilles from Greece and Karna closer home, Brazil won without getting the trophy.
The mad Italian in ‘82, the sticky-fingered frog in ‘86 took it all away.

As I was drum-beating Brazilian victories this time, it was feeling a bit strange because this was not the Brazil I had grown to love and worship.
Ronaldinho was the best striker of the game… but he claimed to have sacrificed his natural game for the team. But why?
Ronaldo was… ahem… tiring easily but why were they not bringing on Robinho, whose exciting runs down the left flank brought back really happy memories?
There were attempts to play safe. To borrow a cliché, they were trying to win matches instead of hearts.
How the hell did Australia come close to scoring?
And Croatia walk away with the laurels?
How come that 24-pass jewel of a goal was scored by the Argentinians?

Instead, Zidane became a Brazilian. He went up and down both the flanks… he tapped the ball over Ronaldo’s head, around Juan’s outstretched legs and what not? His skill and charisma was as if he walked straight out of the ’82 Brazil team…
And at the end of it, Brazil neither got the trophy. Nor did it win.

So, is this end of the world as we know it? Well, not quite…

Look four years ahead…
Zidane and Figo would have retired. Henry & Christiano Ronaldo would have grown a beard waiting to be fed.
Ballack & Klose would be huffing their way to retirement.
Cambiasso, Riquelme and Crespo would be 30+ dinosaurs. Lionel Messi would be the highest paid club footballer. Also the most overpaid.
Beckham would have starred in a movie. Rooney would be in jail for murder in a bar brawl.

But Brazil’s Magic Quartet would still be there… but the names would have changed. The bench would have become the starting line-up… and there would Kaka-Robinho-Adriano teaming up with Ronaldinho, who would have returned to make amends.
And that is beauty of Brazil.
As the French tri-colour unfurled in Frankfurt on Saturday, there are millions of 19-year olds weeping on the streets of Rio. Four years later, they will be on the bench waiting for revenge.

And there will be stuff movies are made of.
Sorcerers in gold-and-green will pit their skills against the walls put up by European football machines.
Skilful gymnasts will weave past the hacking boots of the Africans.
Smiling assassins will pump in dozens of goals against the hapless Asians.

Don’t know about the trophy. But Brazil will win again.
Hold your breath… Only four years to go.