The deafening silence of words

“Pujara square cut that ball, jumping into the air….the point fielder took the pace off it, but the ball will still reach the boundary. Pujara moves to 74 with that” – the commentator thundered into the microphone with these details, like he was reporting from the front lines of the Normandy Beach on June 6th, 1944. One can argue that the analogy is apt, because Pujara’s insurgency against the second new ball was a crucial battle for India to win and it could turn the tide of the overall war. The real problem though was that Sunny was ‘reporting’. Those 30 words added zero value to the audience who has already witnessed everything he said on HD Television. They might have as well watched it on mute.

For the untrained eye, the 540 balls bowled in a day of Test cricket could be mind numbingly uneventful. A bowler walks tens of yards to his mark, then runs in really fast and bowls one outside the off stump, only for the batsman to leave it alone, so the keeper could collect it and throw it back to the bowler, who will do this all over again.

Except, the bowler is not just running in. Every muscle motion in his action has been carefully chiseled at the confluence of science, art and the human spirit. It has been designed meticulously to add every fractional kmph possible on the ball, stopping just short of permanent damage to the bowler’s body.

He is not hurling just another spherical object. The cricket ball is the most romantic of sports accessories. The symphony that the leather can create with air, ground, saliva and sweat is the stuff that can inspire poetry.

So, when the batsman is leaving it outside his off stump, it is not lack of action. In the .45 seconds he had to make this decision of negotiating the object traveling towards him at 148 KMPH, he has factored in the trajectory of the ball, whether the shinier side is, which way the seam is positioned and hence which way the ball will swing. He has also analysed where it is likely to pitch, what the bounce in that area is and whether it has cracks. Subconsciously,  he has matched all this data with the location coordinates of his off stump and whether any of the aforementioned potentially compromises it’s well being. And then comes the “percentage”. If he could rock back on his right foot and caress the ball into the 12 odd meters between the gentlemen standing at point and covers, could he have enough time to run 22 yards? Probably. But then, the man at cover has a reputation and this ball is likely to travel towards his left, which is his ‘right’ side. Is one run worth the risk of losing his wicket at this stage of the game? NO. And that is when he lets it go past him.

.45 seconds can be a very long time.

Cricket-ball-on-grass-575

That is just one of the 540 battles that happen in a day. And all great battles need to be immortalised by great literature. That precisely is the role commentary plays in test cricket – it augments mere reality into high drama. No, I am not talking about the iconic moments – Richie Benaud on the underarm or Tony Greig on the desert storm. Those must be easy I assume for the orator. It is between those moments that you need an artist in the commentary box. To  paint the mental tension around a puff of dust, put a defence in context, spread-eagle the anatomy of a cover drive, notice a grip, a crack, create legends out of men, women and their exploits, smell a rain cloud, searche for irony in statistics, make you laugh, set the stage for a decision, notice wrists, make you cry…

But alas, what we have had on show in Indian commentary lately, has just been reportage. Stating the obvious, hyperbolic reverence of heroes and having stock lines to describe situations. There is rigour and dedication in it probably, but certainly no art. No wit. And as a result, it tragically takes away from the TV watching experience rather than add to it. I know that Murali Vijay stepping out to Lyon in the last over before lunch was a ‘lapse of concentration’. I know that ‘a wicket here could turn things around’. I know that ‘keeping the scoreboard ticking is important’ or that ‘it was a well directed short ball’. What I am craving to know is the story and the emotion behind them. The nuance of the incident.

Commentary is a relief to a game like music is for the movies. They both have to compliment each other. If Morricone or Ilayaraja had just played sad or happy music corresponding to the footage, those films would have lacked magic. Lacked the spell. I yearn for Ian Chappel’s insight or Bumble’s wit or Dada’s genius or Cozier’s trivia. Mostly, I think I just miss Harsha. Sorely.

Here is an example of what commentary can be:

As I type this line, I just heard “This is an important innings by Pujara. A big first innings lead for Australia would not have been good news” and some one else concurred “Yes, India getting a sense that something will happen in this game now”. Then went on to add “there is every reason to believe India might even take a lead now” (we are 16 runs behind at lunch with 4 wickets to go). Another just cracked a joke I believe, but I can’t remember what it was. Must have been a ‘brain fade’.

Pro tip: If you want something on audio that remotely matches the intensity in Pujara’s eyes today, may I recommend muting your TV and playing this instead:

 

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the unbearable cruelness of radio…

Wine was born in the middle east, exactly in the same countries where it is banned today. There was a time when people mixed wine to purify sea water and make it potable…

The rebel group in Syria asks:”why this outrage over chemical weapons? we have been dying for years and the ‘method’ they use to kill us is what really bothers the outside world now?”

Steven Soderbergh never did a screen test of Michael Douglas and Matt Damon for ‘Behind the Candelabra’. It could also be his last film ever, as he wants to take a sabbatical to ‘tear down everything he knows about film making’ and start as a ‘primitive’ again.

Jim Morrison did not write ‘light my fire’. Robby Krieger did and he composed its first version as well. But it is the tweaked Ray Manzarek version that eventually made it to our ears. Among his many inspirations for that piano riff was Johann Strauss.

Joseph Kennedy – the patriarch of the Kennedy family outlived nine of his children and also went through the mental illness of his daughter Rosemary, whose lobotomy he ordered when she was 23.

Pandit Ravi Shankar hated the Woodstock. He calls it an experience that he had to endure. He felt that the people in the audience were like ‘water buffaloes’.

Sarah Polley, who won multiple awards for her film ‘Stories we tell’, found out during the filming of this documentary that her father was not her biological father. The film was about the life of her mother, in the words of her family and friends who knew her.

For more than half a decade now, I have started a majority of my week days listening to anecdotes like these, in first person, thanks to a certain Terry Gross – the legendary host and executive producer of ‘Fresh air’, on NPR.

It is a radio experience like no other: the art of conversation so evolved that the audience becomes the third person at the table – whether they are driving on a San Francisco Interstate (where I first heard Terry on air) or passing the Sultanpur metro station. If you are one who likes the pursuit of information and experiences, then you will love the Terry experience – like how an entire generation before us did!

The art of interviewing is a delicate craft. Far beyond the worlds of Arnab Goswami or Charlie Rose or Simi Garewal or Tim Sebastian or even David Frost, there exists a realm where the interviewer has no ego. No temptation to judge. There is openness and wit, admiration and panache. Indulgence and Honesty, even. That is Terry’s realm. And you should take a trip there. It is a delightful place and I go there every morning, almost. And over the years, it sort of feels like the right thing to do while driving.

And then there are days when I forget to update the podcast or the phone runs out of juice. Well there is always the local Delhi FM, I assure myself. And with great indulgence and patience, I drift on from 91.1 to 105.7, patiently and intently waiting for that one sound. One sound that will hook me and make me take my finger off the scanner…..dinkachaka, realty ad, Ranbir’s last film’s song, prank call by RJ, realty ad, dinkachaka, ranbir’s new film’s song, prank call by ‘guest’ RJ….wait….what is this? wow….94.3 has changed programming to entirely English music? That is refreshing….at least a change from about 10 other stations playing the same genre….lets listen in….’Good morning! This is Kris, your host and coming up, Bryan Adams with Summer of 69…are you excited???’…..

On those days me and my car decide in favour of silence. Just us and the road. You should try it some time…

The travels of my shaving cream…

Even as I write this, Burkha Dutt is writhing in orgasmic fervor on the TV screen in front of me. Revelling in the drama of the situation and getting into her zone, with her voice breaking almost at will and her vocabulary scaling new heights in dramatization. This is her thing!

As I watch this newscast from my couch all weekend, I think to myself….’isnt this a dream newscast for a terrorist’? Isnt this how they would have exactly wanted to script it?…..20-30 of the best journalistic minds in the country fighting between themselves to prove who can ‘magnify the fear’ better and who has the best ‘drama’ on offer?…..for heaven’s sake, they even have a ‘highlights’ sorta music video every hour or so….just in case you had forgotten any of those images.

I rewind back to the early morning hours of Thursday, when I got out of my hotel room in Mumbai after being huddled in front of the TV all night. Though I was ridiculously far away from all the ‘action’ of the previous night, I ask the bell boy something I have never asked in my life before “Is it safe to go out now?”.

30 minutes later, I reach the domestic terminal and it was a shocking sight. Not because something changed, but because Nothing did. It was exactly the way I left it two days back. Well, actually no. There was a lone cop standing with a semi-automatic.

Ten minutes later, I pass through security and for the 22nd time in the last 2 months, my super-large shaving cream canister, my 500 ml Davidoff and packs of matches – all in the front zipper of my laptop bag, make safe travel through the X-ray tunnel, without tickling the attention of the guard. My mind is shouting out to him “common!! see it! See it atleast today…..this is the morning after a terrorist attack and there is enough room in that canister to blow up the plane I am taking”. But No. He gets out the rubber stamp, and mid-way over sharing a joke with his colleague, brings it down on my tag.

(Even as I write this, Arnab Goswami has just repeated the words “These are visuals that are coming to you exclusively on Times Now and no other news channel” for the 104th time in the last 48 hours.)

As I board the plane, I am convinced about one thing. You dont need an international conspiracy to blow this country up. You dont need a meticulous plan. You dont need a terrorist ourfit. You can do it at will. All you need is just a desire to die and a few hours of your time. So, lets not pretend that something has been breached. There was nothing to be breached. No fucking thing.

The Director of HR of Infosys just popped on screen, demanding the right to bear arms. Fair enough (are you listening Mr. Terrorist? Is this panning out like you planned?). And Milind Deora pops on screen talking about Mumbai like as though it is a neighbouring country. Dude, you are the MP from South Mumbai, for cryin out loud!! But the most appropriate sound byte in all these 4 days came from RR Patil. Surprisingly, everybody is calling it a gaffe. Absolutely not! I think it is the most honest, objective and pragmatic assessment of the situation. A masterstroke.

“Aise bade bade sheharon mein aise choti choti baatein hoti hai”.

Bravo, my man! He is right. A much much larger thing could have happened. And no, the cop in the police station in my vicinity, weilding a lathi and a modified version of the 1880 “.303 Musket” is not gonna stop it. The fact that the “.303” was a big hit in both the World Wars, notwithstanding.

Shut the fuck up!….and while you are at it, get a life!


Really?

So an entire court in Bhopal – the judge and all its employees, are going to be paid a day’s salary (at least) for hearing this case…coz this is obviously more important for the nation’s judiciary than the 15000 cases in the backlog on murder, rape and robbery.

The girl is 21…..and the first woman in generations of billions to be ranked significantly in world tennis….and this is the best you could do as a sports photographer? having her sort out judicial volleys in addition to Venus’s and Maria’s?

This is so ridiculous that it makes a Lindsay Lohan drunken driving case an epic court battle of global implications, in comparison.

In my opinion, if anybody has to be sued for insulting the flag in this picture, it is the darned photographer for choosing this angle for the object in the foreground…..

Reductio ad absurdum!

Elsewhere…


A bunch of die-hard patriots burnt the effigies of Mark Benson and Bucknor, last week….The two men responsible for all the injustice that life has thrown their and their families’ way. The two men standing between mankind and world peace.


My theory: Lack of good sex is inducing a chemical imbalance in these perfectly normal looking men, which is making them indulge in this stupidity. I cant come up with a better explanation for why a man will spend a fine monday afternoon, burning straw!! Patriotism, my foot.

The only thing crazier than this is CNN IBN coming up with a novel initiative to show their support for the sons of the soil, by launching an online petition for revoking the ban on Harbhajan…seriously? Do they even realize what a ‘hearing’ means? Isnt it ridiculous to demand a specific outcome from a judicial exercise? Should they not be asking just for a ‘fair hearing’??? well….I guess thats about as much as you can expect from news channels that have a ‘background score’ for news….

But the biggest joke of them all is yet to come….

“Indians drink buffalo milk but worship the white cow. They do not worship the buffalo because its black.”

Quote attributed to: Mahoshay ‘Kancha Iliah’
His claim to fame: A book titled ‘Buffalo Nationalism’ (which I dont look forward to reading)
Event in question: ‘Are we racist?’ – a supposed introspection into the nation’s psyche from CNN IBN, post the monkey fiasco down under.

Really, I respect CNN IBN more than any of the other news channels (DD not included)…..but this one beats even the Navjot Sidhu comedy going on for the last 2 weeks….This is actually so funny, I am not even angry!

Chick Flick

Are you kidding me?

“….the nuclear deal has been approved here (in Washington, DC) by the President, and there (in New Delhi) it’s been approved by the Indian cabinet. So why do you have all this running around like headless chicken, looking for a comment here or comment there, and these little storms in a tea-cup?….” is all that the man said. The quote is all over the media, if anyone cares to re-read it.

Now, how many elite minds does it take to understand that the ‘chicken’ in question is supposed to describe the media and not the ‘honourable’ members of parliament?

And 574 people, who are being paid atleast Rs. 2.5 Lacs per month in salary & expenses by the tax payer, are not able to work for 2 full days because of this linguistical confusion?

Wow!