The Football Mails
Hmm, the idea had occurred to me, but initially I had been a bit
sceptical, for it seemed to imply that I wasn’t prolific enough, as if my
muse was running dry (okay, that it does at times, but it’s like the
rivers of Chhotanagpur – the water comes back rushing, flooding, and
overflowing the mud banks pretty punctually with the rains – only the
period of oscillations is smaller than annual in this case). But I saw
some such thing on the blog of a good (and very prolific) friend, and
Prof. Panicker provided the final push, and I managed to convince myself
that the football mails should be put together – if for nothing else, just
to be a historical document for some future researcher trying to trace the
beginnings of football at NCBS. ;-) Actually it doesn’t go back that far…
for I have lost the drafts…I collected as many as I could and arranged
them in the correct order, beginning with the oldest that I could find
(unlike blogs, not everything should run against chronology). Of course,
I’ll keep updating this post as new matches and their reports come about
(two due in quick succession: 10th and 15th August), and if I find older
For the uninitiated: The football mails are a series of match reports that
I write for important football matches at NCBS. As I told a friend, the
primary format is like this - one unconnected quotation (soft – no morbid philosophers;
Romantic poets do good), two or three witty remarks (with one toilet
reference if possible – okay, that’s not quite true – I said that for I
think that’s a witty remark, which I borrowed from someone –it’s there in
the reference of one of the mails), and a generous slab of likely-to-be
popular bit of philosophical comment; and details of the match dispersed
here and there, such that readers have to read the whole bit if they just
want the scoreline. ;-) That’s the secret ploy.
I used to be the spokesman for the In vitro team, but of late with growth in
stature(!!!, and the size of the mails) am trying to be more neutral.
Um…I’d like to thank Albert, Shona, Panics, Adil, Deepa, Ragi, Viji, Jayant,
Shwetha (MG),Amrita (mausi), Kasuhik, Aabid, Vijay, Bidisha, Priyanka,
okay Ishier too – who really kept this going by feeding my ego at the right times,
and cutting me down to size whenever it became too inflated.
16th March, 2005:
In close matches, there's always a side claiming 'moral' victory. That by
itself is a rather tame thing - it lacks the claws and the teeth, the
passion and the drama of an outright win. So, of course, the best thing is
when you can combine the two - the high stand of the moral, with the
adrenaline of the 'official'. And when that happens - when the little guys
on your left shoulder, and right, whispering in your ears, join forces -
well, that's bliss!
This is the stuff of which legends are made of! Fraught with 'close'
moments which define the history of sports...remember Maradona's
hand-of-God, remember when Herscelle Gibbs dropped Steve Waugh in the
World Cup semifinals! Your correspondent isn't sure what the final
scoreline was - 3-1, or 3-2, for in vitro! (For the records there is also
a wild claim of 3-3 doing the rounds; we request our readers not to be
misled by such vicious rumours!) The second goal scored by in vivo was
controversial, and equally vocal claims for and against were heard when a
flat scorcher from Albert passed somewhere very near a post! The claim for
a third was simply fiction - no controversies! History is written in the
hearts of a populace, and also on paper, or on CDs, those being more
permanent and less fickle media! As for hearts - 3-1 will be etched on
most, 3-3 on some - and probably 3-2 will go down in the annals of
The players were valiant, even gallant! In vivo was Abu, Adil, Albert; in
vitro was Ranjith, Ranjith and Ranjith (also Deepak, Lokesh, Anup (C, not
G), Karthik)! Adil bled in vain, he simply was the right man on the wrong
side! In vivo came across as a team of champions, in vitro as a champion
team (this btw, is in analogy with the Indo-Australian cricketing
traditions)! And as we know, (Ajay will concur,) champions are not always
winners, the champion team is, always!
Abu was denied a b'day gift! (Notice how whenever someone wins in any
game, it turns out to be their b'day, and the commentator says what a
wonderful gift it is - not this time 'round though!)
And we request our readers not to do an Escobar on Anup (G, not C)! ;-)
Go in vitro!
-Aprotim (for in vitro!)
2nd July, 2005:
Many, many years ago, the youngest of the eight sons of Jesse took on a
Philistine giant, and saved his people from the vagaries of a foreign
army. Many, many years ago. The world was a newer place then, and apart
from its deeper significance, the story of David-and-Goliath came to be
the parable of the determined weak striving against the complacent strong.
Since then, it has been repeated many times in the history of our species,
and each story has continued to inspire - a young Babur defeated the
massive forces of Ibrahim Lodi in Panipat, 1526, and a few years later a
cocky Elizabeth I sank the Spanish Armada; Vietnam took on the huge
military machinery of Imperialism, and Bangladesh defeated Australia in
Cricket... But note something - why exactly do these stories inspire? Is
it not exactly 'because' they are so occasional, so novel, and have the
romantic fragility of the improbable? While, most of the other times,
albeit without the comfort of high moral, and the tang of novelty, the big
guys just steamroll the underdogs - you may not feel right about Iraq, but
only the other irking part of that horror is your pathetic impotence about
the course of the issue!
Thus is it getting to be with In vitro - In vivo football matches! While
this correspondent is expected to wax rhapsodic about the 3-0 In vitro
win, the outcome is getting to be so obvious, that it sort of has lost the
adrenaline of yore. One of the newly acquired German balls were used, and
the fans expected a good match. It started a bit rough, with In vivo
attacking, but not seeing things through the solid wall of In vitro
defence. If the comparison wasn't a wee bit extreme, in retrospect one is
tempted to think of the 1998 3-0 World Cup defeat that France handed to
start-studded Brazil - the triumph of conservative (okay, semi-) Europe
against jazzy Latin America with too many stars and not enough of a team.
Half-time saw the scoreline at 0-0 (this was today, not 1998). And then!
And then, in the second half, a straight and flat corner kick from Ranjith
(the!) saw the ball in the (virtual) net, Nishant converted a penalty, and
In vitro put another one in the final minute of the match. Deepak, Jayant
and Lokesh were insurmountable, and the new Bilal kept the ball high up in
the air for so long that it took up about five minutes of playing time!
Hmm, so much for adrenaline!
While we are loathe to spoil the party, and indeed are happy that In vitro
has won, perhaps it wouldn't be sacrilegious to put in a prayer for an In
vivo win next time, lest the game become a boring monopoly, and the fans
come to a match stifling yawns, and the bookies offer you fantastic odds
for an improbable In vivo win! That'll kill the culture. Guys, you are
good, you have the stars - come up, come up once, at least allow the
betting men their thrill! David, O David, your masses will forget hope,
you have to come up and defeat the Philistine giant once! David, o David,
hear us, pray!
-Aprotim (the objective correspondent for In vitro!)
15th August, 2005:
Have you noticed how everything these days has themes to it? You may be
asked to dress in green to a party, for that signifies your love for the
Environment, or wear black badges when you’re mourning or protesting one
of so many things we have reason to mourn or protest. Even days come with
themes – for instance today we celebrate the patriotic spirit with the
rustle of Fabindia kurtas, and two thousand buck ethnic salwar-kaameezes
brought out only for this day. There are dissenters who’d protest that
such intermittent muscle-flexing, flag-brandishing displays of sweaty
patriotism, with the media blaring out all our love for the country, just
might be a bit of a narrow virtue. Arundhati Ray, that eternal
non-conformist, once wrote that ‘a flag is something a government uses to
shrink-wrap the minds of its citizenry, and then as a shroud to bury its
dead.’ Yet even that is probably not the whole truth.
Today at NCBS we celebrated the human spirit. That was our theme. We
saluted our national flag, and then the day started in fun with the
treasure-hunt, and the campus quiz. Then the cricket match, and then the
football, oh the football!!! That’s the match that this correspondent is
supposed to be reporting on. The long and short of it is that NCBS
trounced RRI four-nil. Yet there’s so much that a bottomline doesn’t tell
you. Nature, that lady with the capital N, made a strong attempt at
intervention, as thunderclouds gathered at the very commencement of the
match, and winds blew. Yet, nobody so much as batted an eyelid to pay her
any attention – neither the players, nor the fans – who just prettily put
up umbrellas in true Wimbledon style, only this time in a torrential
tropical downpour, while the rustle of the kurtas and kameezes got a bit
damped out. The match went on. The eternal Ranjith, grand Abhishek,
gorgeous Albert, and the grand one again, scored the goals. Abu stuck to
their main striker Sutirtha, after a fashion that could’ve possibly made
for a good Fevicol, Vamicol, or Quick-fix ad if filmed. Santosh, Bilal,
and Sajith were stupendous in defence, and while with a 4-0 scoreline
you’d think RRI didn’t have much of a defending line, we are obliged to
mention the valiant efforts of Dipanjan, and the RRI goal-keeper Wasim,
who saved at least one flat scorcher of a shot. What-if type retrospective
speculation is usually pretty pointless, except for the little thrill down
your spine at imagining the score-line if the RRI defenders had been a bit
less sharp. Which adds all the more to the sweetness of the victory. And
while as a Bong, it’s my prerogative to further wax romantic about
football in the rain – that’d be a cliché, you’d know the joy if you were
So, Columbus found the New World, Magellan went round the earth, Norgay
and Hillary conquered the Everest, and Scott, Antarctica. While we try to,
or even, should, live in harmony with Nature, one cannot deny that our
history as a species has been one of defiance. We didn’t agree to live in
the caves, as Nature’d have us do, but built our skyscrapers. Defiance to
be cowed down by all that is doled out to us, is what makes sets us apart,
and makes us human. And today we hailed the human culture, on our
Independence day, as Nature took a minor test of our resilience. And she
must have smiled. Patriotism likewise is a celebration of our identity,
and without it, perhaps the world will be a flavourless monolithic broth –
not necessarily anymore peaceful, definitely more boring. Hence we
celebrate our culture today, as a nation, as a people, as a species!
-Aprotim (your objective football correspondent).
(Note: The views expressed in this column, though not very new, are
entirely of the author’s, and should not be taken to be a reflection on
the community. And that’s again because we hate bland, homogenous soups!
10th December, 2005:
“Dharmakshetre Kurukshetre samaveta yuyutsava.
Mamka Pandavashchaiva kim kurvata Sanjayah..” (1)
I’ll tell you ‘kim kurvata’ (what are they doing). That was the end of
Dwapar yug, and now it’s deep into Kali, and Sanjay for you has degraded
into me sitting behind the green-water-pipe-sidelines, reporting live and
direct from Kurukshetra, as history unfolds itself before our eyes. So
heed my word, o ye blind one, blind enough not to be here and now.
4:35 pm: As we said, the ‘yuyutsava’ (weakly translated, warriors) have
assembled. A later day Krishna might be pep-talking some Arjun right now,
but I am at some distance to make out (the problems of Kali, no
‘manaschakshu’!). If this was Hindi commentary to a cricket match, this is
the moment when you say, “Darshako se chakachak bhara hua stadium,” or,
“Talio ka gargarahat”; but Hindi not being one of my strongest points,
this is not a Hindi commentary, and this is not a cricket match, and the
spectators have just begun to trickle in; so though ‘gargarahat’ is a
wonderful word, one can’t use it right now. No, correction, I am wrong on
that count – Ruchi and Anmol with their hooters (for want of a better
word), are more than making up for all the gargarahat that you can think
4:48 pm: In vitro win the toss, a bit of huddling up and covert gameplans,
and off they go. Ranjith and Albert “like stout Cortez when with eagle
eyes/He star'd at the Pacific - and all his men/ Look'd at each other with
a wild surmise -/ Silent, upon a peak in Darien.” (2) The poet was a bit
off on that one – another guy called Balboa discovered the Pacific, but
that’s a technicality – the conquistadors’ eyes must have shone at the
possibilities, as with our players today – again we are at too much
distance to really tell, but they must shine. Best of like Pizarro, best
of luck Cortez.
4:51pm: No, they’re still planning! Start people!!!!
4:53pm: Tum, ti, tum, tum! Aaaaaarrrrggghhhhhh!!!!!!
4:55 pm: Okay, they’re really off. Thank God.
4:59 pm: Already two shots on goal; but the In vivo goalkeeper, Samrat by
name, kept it out. Well done, but tell me again, since when did Population
Genetics studies using statistics, DNA from near-petrified samples, and
blood from not-so-nearly-petrified people qualify as in vivo studies?? ;-)
5:00 pm: With some of these guys you want to put titles like the leaders
of yore…like Suleiman the Magnificent, Ivan the Terrible, or…um, Attila
the Hun. Though ‘Terrible’ or ‘Attila’ would qualify more readily than
‘Magnificent’. Correct me if I am wrong, but these guys are probably not
going to Germany in 2006!!! Anyway, it’s a contact game.
5:01 pm: A corner for In vivo. Not converted (not at all, in fact!)
5:03 pm: What was that? An ‘attempted’ handball by Deepak?? Well!!!??
5:04 pm: Ranjith has a valiant run. Corner. Not converted. And it’s so sad
Albert has to come back so deep even to defend. Rajesh has a good chance.
But the stout In vitro defenders rise to the occasion. Abu fouls a . The
In vitro defence is a wall.
5:11 pm: GOAL. Rajesh converts. The wall cracks up for a third time, and
the ball gets past. Good job though, and very cleanly done.
5:14 pm: Adil on a tree, to get the ball. The speed of that operation is
5:18 pm: “James, James, James, James,” they shout. He’s always at the
thick of the action. Coming back to the issue of Hindi commentary – once
we were watching a European Cup match at Mandara, with that background
score. One was a little known country, and the commentator seemed to know
the name of only one guy – say, he’s called Kalu, a name as good as any
other. So the commentary went like, “Kalu…., um, …Kalu, Kalu…um,
um,…Kalu.” Today it seems to be that way with James.
The spectators get involved now. There they are at the sidelines shouting
in parts – soprano, alto, tenor and bass.
5:21 pm: In vitro has its first true attempt on goal seconds before
halftime. But no, it wasn’t in.
5:22 pm: Halftime! The Pandavas and Kauravas huddle up, catching a
breather, sharing a gulp of Glucon D, ‘strategizing’. This gives your
correspondent some time to philosophize. Sometime back I read a wonderful
article on the art of sarcasm (3) (please do try read it!). There the
author says sarcasm is “like chilli. A little here and there spices things
up and shows them who's boss, but you don't make many friends by
sprinkling it in everything.” I wondered if in a few of my past reports I
oozed too much sarcasm, but frankly now I realize that these In vivo guys
don’t often even give you too much room for sarcasm – they lose with such
well-practised blatant thoroughness, that there is absolutely nothing to
be sarcastic about. But today…today they’re good I tell you. Probably the
ignominy’s gone past the high-water mark. Looks like their day.
5:30 pm: Halftime still. I wish someone would get me a tea. Srinivas’s not
here still. Abu gives me a sip of Tang. A real angel, I tell you.
5:31 pm: Action starts again. Ranjith’s off, Karthik’s on. In vitro on the
Latin-American offensive, In vivo on European defensive.
5:32 pm: Abu’s glasses…okay, he’s up. Deepak ends Albert’s near-free run.
5:38 pm: Two corners for In vitro. Aejaz’s off, Ranjith’s on.
5:42 pm: A quite unintentional handball by Kalyan – but Albert’s shot come
off the wall. Ranjith has a dream run, but it comes to naught. Abu trips
off Dipanjan. He’s up.
5:48 pm: Corner for In vitro. And since you don’t see GOAL in Caps font
here, you can guess what didn’t happen. Corner for In vivo. And the same
thing happened (or didn’t happen, whatever!).
5:52 pm: Ranjith’s shot is off again. Albert fouls Kalyan, but no real
damage in any sense.
5:54 pm: Dipanjan and Adil involved in a horizontal tussle of legs. Adil
has an unintentional handball. Bilal has a close long shot, but not close
enough. Another close shot, but just that…close. And another.
6:02 pm: Probably the last corner for In vitro. In vivo now take the
attack to the other side. Albert’s end game offensive. Nice runs.
6:03 pm: Once more on that article on sarcasm – the author says, “…apply a
flair for words, wit, a pinch of attitude, and maybe a toilet reference,
and the world will marvel.” I really want to be sarcastic about something
now, and with the kind of adrenaline that’s coursing in my veins, I can
try manage most of those, except, I can’t think of a toilet reference.
6:06 pm: It’s getting dark. Stop the game now. ‘Doth God exact day labour
6:07 pm: In vivo wins. That’d come as a great relief all ‘round. I
wouldn’t have come back for the next match if they didn’t manage to do it
today. But really, well done everyone. And congratulations In vivo; guess
you are still pretty much in the reckoning. Good game. Thanks a lot.
Sanjay?/ Neville Cardus of soccer?...sigh, nay, just Aprotim of the green
(1) Srimad Bhagwat Gita, 1, 1.
(2) On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer – John Keats.
7th January, 2006:
After my last match report I had a sense that to be neutralized is pretty
like to be neuterized. Somehow without the benefit of partisan dogma,
things lack that passion and chutzpah which objective neutrality can never
give you. That’s the best case that one can make for fanaticism, I
I would have liked to make a comeback today. And I was given occasion
enough, for In vitro beat In vivo 2-0 today (or 2-1, as two people who I’d
trust, opined). Yet, I think I will stick to old fashioned rational
objectivity. ‘Beat’ is the bottomline, you’d say. I’ll say it matters not
– for this was sort of a farewell match for two old In vivo hands –
Praksah and James, who’ll move on to bigger and better things (no, not
Real Madrid, I was speaking more academically). First, let me tell you of
I never understood this thing called “season change”. Whenever in my life
I have sniffled, coughed or even cleared my throat to speak, hordes of
well-meaning relatives have descended on my Calcutta home, and blamed it
all on “season change” with grave sagacious nods. In the height of the
sweltering Calcutta summer, or wet wet July, in dewy Agrahayan, or the
mild winter, it has always been “season change”. And as it rains a bit
suddenly, or at the subtle insinuation of a North wind, we bring out our
sweaters and shawls in Bongland, and in them sweat like reagent bottles
brought out of the cold, in exchange for our supreme sense of security.
Our starting conditions at the match today were a microcosm of all that –
sunny in the sun (gee!), and chilly in the shade, warm in a sweater, and
slightly shivery without. That also means we started a bit late. It was
the hour when Romantic poets would philosophize on the Philomel, and “in
the golden light'ning/ Of the sunken sun/ O'er which clouds are
bright'ning” they did “float and run /Like an unbodied joy whose race is
In vitro attacked well (more in the second half though, when In vivo was
substantially ‘down’). For once the usually Latin-American In vivo had a
defense line. “Get behind the line, if you come up you’ve to be back in 30
seconds,” instructed the captain to his defenders. But then Karthik
chested one in. The direct setting sun on the In vivo goal could’ve been a
bit fortuitous, but that shouldn’t take away from the perfection of the
execution. Abhishek of In vivo believed he had one in, and James agreed,
but otherwise opinion was a negative or a “dunno.” The refereeing in the
first half was a bit tentative, and sometimes harsh, but let us remember
that in such matches it’s a real pressure job. You need a personality of a
Doberman pinscher, a B-2 bomber, and my class IX maths teacher, combined
with a Penguin, Polar bear or Ajay Sriram cool, to have an idea of what it
In vivo was slightly demoralized in the second half after another fast
goal-scare. They ran less, bickered a bit, and the game was slightly
lack-lustre. Anoop Cherian actually carried the ball in for a second time
for In vitro. Then with the kind of adrenaline going on one side, and the
bitter hopelessness on the other, it was difficult to imagine a comeback.
So there it was, the scoreline. 2-0, 2-1 as you will. Yet, even if it was
2-2, or 2-3 even I wouldn’t think it mattered too much as we bid farewell
to the outgoing In vivo players. As long as the game is good. It’s
difficult to keep passion out of the game, whether in pumping adrenaline
or its negative hormone, if there’s one. Nor should one perhaps try to.
Sports is about these highs and lows. Yet beyond those 30 minutes, I’d
like the readers of this column to join me in wishing Prakash and James
well. Best of luck gentlemen. I hope you do very well.
And because I can’t resist a dig – Adil, Prakash and Abu were discussing
the match last month in which In vivo played well and won, and I had
wondered aloud why they need to dwell (/gloat) so much on past history –
it’s like Argentineans discussing 1978. Now, I guess I know why. But I
also hope that they’ll do something soon about this knowledge of mine. ;-)
Esha Deol, I was told, acted as a headless corpse in the movie Kaal (I
always wondered if they recognized her from her curves if she didn’t have
a head). And I am sure you can’t imagine Venus de Milo with hands.
Kanishka always had been a headless statue in my history books and
imagination. Thus they’ve become cultural icons. It was perhaps destined
that James and Prakash left NCBS with the irking imperfection of
unbalanced In vitro-In vivo tallies that have become a tradition. But
someday maybe the Venus will grow hands, Kanishka and Ms. Deol, heads
(which of course is more probable for a 2000 year old stone statue than a
Bollywood heroine). It’ll be a bit harrowing at first, but then we’ll get
used to it. We live in hope.
(Acknowlegements: I borrowed that season change bit from Tarapada Ray, a
columnist in the famous Bong Anandabazar Patrika.)
20th May, 2006:
Thodisi dhuul meri dharti ki mere watan ki
Thodisi Khushbuu baurai se mast pavan ki
A few days ago, about the time when the movie Rang de Basanti was
released, we were signing deals to get nuclear technology in lieu of
mangoes; there were screaming headlines even in the more prosaic papers
about the BSE index going past first the 10k, and then the 11k marks;
India was playing good cricket; and on a less cosmic scale, my experiments
were running steadily. All this taken together, made one feel quite sexy.
And the general upbeat mood thus spawned, was epitomized by the movie RdB
(which when written like that looks like some signaling molecule), and
many people came out of the closet about their secret desires to lead the
country to glory, and become politicians after all, leaving cushy MBA
I do not mean to be snide. Au contraire, I am all for it. But I do think
it good that the heady exuberance has given way to a bit of sobriety, now
that the chances of our nuclear deal going through a vital forum look a
bit dicey; and the sensex crashed 800 points making the same old
newspapers run “HALAL STREET” in bold and red on their front pages; and to
my dismay, I find that one has to run many more control experiments to
validate one single hot result. Good then, we’ll step a bit more
carefully. In his famous “To Autumn”, Keats writes,
“To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.”
Thus he already conveys the sense of satiety at the end of Summer; the
excess of sweet stuff from which only rot can result, and Autumn give way
to gray Winter. Too much of a good thing. Clammy cells.
A 3-0 scoreline might sound nice. Celebrate; but also think where we might
have gone wrong. NCBS played a seven-a-side football match with the IISc.
Physics department today. We won 3-0. But not without hitches. We’ll
discuss the connection, but first the facts.
Thodisi dhondhane waali dhak-dhak dhak-dhak dhak-dhak saansein
Jin mein ho junoon junoon voh boonde laal lahuu ki
As the header suggests this is about the adrenaline bit of the reports,
and a few details. The first half went without either side scoring. But
the proverbial ‘they’ were better than the proverbial ‘us’. We did not
have one, not one, clean shot on goal. Our long passes did worse than the
50% that chance would allow, in getting a person of the right team (Ask
Raghav Rajan about the maths bit). For them however, mention can be made
of many people who did a good job from goalkeeping to attacks, from ground
passes to long. Our game was a bit lackluster, and that’s the nicest thing
that can be said about it.
Something changed in the second half. They started off by attacking; but
by now they were so engrossed in the offensive because of their apparent
tactical superiority, that they left only Pitambar to keep their
goalkeeper company. So it twice happened that Bilal brought the ball out,
and Albert and Saikat nearly carried it through their goalposts. But it
came to naught. But not so the next two times that it happened. Albert
scored the first one. And then Saikat. The third goal was a self-score by
the otherwise-valiant Hari, aided by Ranjith, I think, in the last minutes
of repeated attacks by NCBS. Special mention also needs to be made of Adil
and Abu, not for the usual prowess on the field, but their new-found
avatars of very-vocal supporters.
Yeh sab tuu mila mila le phir rang tuu khila khila le
Aur mohe tuu rang de basanti yaara
Mohe tuu rang de basanti
In a distant land called Brazil, football’s supposed to be a way of life,
alongwith Samba, the Amazon, and sky-rocketing crime-rates, like for us it
is, say, corruption, crowded buses and chai on railway platforms. We’d
like to take it a step further and say football is life. Unlike other
games of ‘glorious uncertainties’, like life, many things are more certain
in football – like if you’re two goals down, you might not make a comeback
with five minutes to go. This demoralizes some, and inspires others to
fight even harder. If they succeed, they’re called heroes. But many times
they don’t. But that’s no reason not to fight. This was seen in the IISc.
players – some down in the dumps, some clawing tooth and nail to get back.
This is another instance of how the general mood of things finds
reflection in the individual, and the other way ‘round, like we said in
the very beginning of this piece. The other instance is the NCBS game –
how a goal, even a decent attempt can swing the attitude of a team. It’s
like the confidence that the first publications bring to the young
researcher – suddenly you feel that you really can do quite a bit. And
then you do it. Thus 1-0, becomes 2-0, becomes 3-0. Yet, like the clammy
cells, let us not be complacent. They’re good. Let us beat them in their
homegrounds. The silver lining of losing is that you can only get better.
The dark lining of winning is that you’ve to hold to disprove rumours of a
fluke. But winning is always a better habit than losing. So rejoice.
And thus football reflects life. Like the mood-swings of a newly-confident
democracy - sometimes ecstatic, sometimes doubtful - so is our team. Like
the nation, we’re also potentially rather good – and it’s beginning to
show. Let’s take it to them NCBS. Let’s take it to them India.
Mohe mohe tuu rang de basanti
Mohe mohe tuu rang de basanti…
14th August, 2006:
Sometime in May 2005, a few friends and me, we ate at this place called
Planet Yum in Chennai. This is what my friend Akash, then at IISc., had to
say about the experience (quoted from his blog):
“…planet yum (now, this took some time to register, i thought this was the
tam way of pronouncing planet m). yum. i think not. this place was
splashed with violently clashing orange and yellow colours. i digress abt
places to eat. having been fed at at all ends of the spectrum, one can
appreciate the grandeur of those places where the chandelier has crystal
pieces and not plastic. or where slightly frayed cushions join teak and
pinewood to create the right kinda atmosphere for pipe tobacco and
whiskey. but planet yum. one of those great places patronised by the kind
who wear their cultural bastardy on their sleeves. the kind who think kfc
and macdonalds is the best form of cultural emancipation.”
Despite that reference to chandeliers, pipe tobacco and whiskey, and
despite being out of Calcutta for the better (…um, greater ;-)) part of
his life, Akash actually embodies the Bengali commie spirit – classical
simple-living-high-thinking; the kind who’d earnestly believe that buying
a bottle of pesticide (as of course we are free to do) would cause hunger
in Ethiopia, floods in Bangladesh, droughts in Sahara, and civil war in
Chile and Nicaragua. Hence the severe stand on Planet Yum, where I thought
I had a perfectly good time.
Now, my generation was born to ambivalence. And that isn’t necessarily a
bad thing – we heard everyone from Subbulakshmi to Schubert with Shakira
and Shaan thrown in between; Krishna and Kant took turns at educating us;
and generally, wherever we turned, the Orient and the Occident vied for
our attention. Okay, that sounds rather grandiose, for obviously, scratch
beyond the surface and you’ll find I neither know Krishna nor Kant too
well – I know just about enough to bluff my way through a conversation,
and to sound reasonably educated. Which is why the traditionalists on both
sides would scoff at us – “You, bloody, don’t know our culture.” That may
well be true. But one thing is, I have always seen that most of my friends
have specializations – so that they’d be firmly on one side of the divide
on at least one issue – someone understands Carnatic music, and another is
a world-expert on Nietzsche. Unfortunately, I am singularly untalented,
and hence superficial Yet I think there’s hope for me yet, and indeed for
the bulk of my generation – for I’ve seen powerful new things born when
disillusioned revolutionary rhetoric meets desperate consumerism for a
coffee at the Indian Coffee House or Barista’s. Cultural bastardy. Yessir,
but why do you hate it so. Why do you hate the ‘B’ word so. Your
thoroughbreds are great, I admit, but mark my words, this is what will
grow into something effective – the power of the hybrid. Hey man, things
which were gross yesterday become classy today – just takes the passage of
time. You’ll get used to it, and it’ll get old, and develop its own weird
rituals, then you’ll find it’s nothing so profoundly bad.
In vitro and In vivo matches – as they became more and more the tradition
and ritualistic - had acquired something of that coveted thing, class. Now
we strike back with three matches, which traditionalists will treat as
non-serious (like the start of one-day cricket) – but this column would
like to project as the beginnings of a good thing. Actually, your
columnist was caught up in Zeiss bookings, and offers an unconditional
apology for his absence – but he watched all the matches, and had to find
a common theme to bind them all. Also frequent matches cause us to combine
First, July 26th, 2006 – NCBS student-body vs. MSc wildlife, the combined
batches. The new wildlife batch had just come in. And the whole lot of
them had shown a lot of enthusiasm, if not always exactly prowess, for the
game. Thus it came to be. A classic football-in-the-rains match, which is
one of the sweet clichés of monsoon in Calcutta, alongwith the scent of
jasmines and high cholesterol oil-dripping fried thingees. Well, the
football acted like a bowling bowl and people like pins - everybody
slipped and fell all over the place as soon as the ball got to them.
Albert displayed a particular talent for this. And despite the missed
chances, the ‘domestics’ (as opposed to the ‘wild’) won 5-2. As the
correspondent I collected all the names from Ateera (sorry if I spelt that
grossly wrong), but promptly forgot most of them. As far as the sports
goes, special mention needs to be made of Anoop Cherian and Umesh (I
think!) (the other AC’s default). Also of Kavya and Nandini who, if not
the first representatives of the fairer sex on the green NCBS lawns, were
the first to feature in an ‘official’ match. And without meaning to be
condescending, I’m sure I’d have put my hands on my head and curled up
into a ball on the grass, if I saw Albert or Appu charging me. This, by
the way, was Abhishek’s last match at NCBS. And so we wish him best of
luck, and also in the same breath, extend a warm (okay, cold, wet and
windy, actually) welcome to our new ‘wildlifers’. :-) A light gone bad
incessantly flickered across the lawn, and from our vantage point in front
of the library, it seemed someone was taking incessant photographs…and
with reason too…
August 10th, 2006 – Jayant’s lab versus the rest of the world…um, rest of
NCBS actually. Six-a-side. I was hoping Amrita and Smilona would play, but
they didn’t. Nor did they do a cheerleader act, but sat seriously and
watched the game. Not fair, I say! For JBU lab Kalyan and Nishant played
front, and Kalyan did have a couple of good runs. Jayant as usual, was a
solid wall; but the combined all-round might of roN ultimately gave them
the game 2-0.
August 14th, 2006 – In between we have a symposium, and then another match
– this time between the staff, faculty and admin of NCBS against the
students. A good lecture makes me miss the first half. But ultimately I
see the students win 3-1. The deadly trio of Albert-AnoopC-Saikat mounts
incessant attacks, and despite the great efforts of Jayant, and Chandru at
the goal, manage to score a goal apiece. Ranjith, in spurts, has
dream-runs, and converts one for the SFA. This I didn’t see – but I’m told
that the highlight of the first half was Dr. Panicker’s header – where the
ball found him, instead of it being the other way ‘round. But you should
have seen him run, and the admin heads – am sure I can’t do it as well as
they did. So good fun all ‘round.
(It has been accused that the scorelines are deliberately kept hidden away
among the words in this space, so that unsuspecting readers have to sift
through them words when they just want the bottomline. Hence today we put
all the emphatic margins for these matches.)
And inbetween we had a symposium. It has a bearing on the matches – for
like them, it was wonderfully interdisciplinary, and people spoke about
flows in turbulent media to genetic networks to plasmodium falciparum.
Early in my second year I used to get scared that I’ll be a bad physicist,
and a half-boiled biologist, and the traditional disciplines would look
down on me. But now I know a little bit of both, and know that that’s my
strength. And chances are, that’ll be a good way we make some headway.
So many people have left in this period. O Ragi, Deepa,…Rinaldo, Appu we
miss you bad. Best of luck to the leaving wildlifers too. But new people
fill the place, and hopefully all the good that you stood for will be
It’s midnight now. As someone said fifty-nine years ago to the minute,
“…long years ago we made a tryst with destiny. At the stroke of midnight
hour, while the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A
moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the
old to the new, When an age ends and when the soul of a nation long
suppressed, finds utterance.” Let us celebrate that then this time. The
strength of an interdisciplinary nation….science….and football – and have
more of these. For it’s our national trait. We began with what Akash had
said; we end with what another Aakash taught me –
(from “The Passing of Arthur”)
“The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
And God fulfils himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.”
26th August, 2006: (two mails)
The colossal report on the first away match:
Caveat #1 - The colossal report on the first away match:
After sending that Beckett-style match report, I noticed that I had failed
to put the scoreline in, as was my wont in the past, and a few other
So, NCBS lost to RRI, 1-0, in its first ‘away’ match.
Supriya was not there.
Delightful settings, though. And they served us drugged tea and biscuits
to start off (okay, actually I don’t know about the drugged bit, but the
tea and biscuits were there. Rather nice of them.)
Sunlight on the top branches of the “Prima Vera of Mexico”. Potter about
with the ball, scurry about your little businesses, your ecstasies at a
goal-scored and grief at a missed chance, your pathetic little sets of
complaints and ambition, and it stands rather aloof, and totally tolerant.
The “skyward tendencies” of the human heart and mind, as Huxley said
(though not about the “Prima Vera of Mexico”).
Goal-less at halftime. RRI player, Aarjo by name (that’s the Bengali way
of saying what the rest of us anglophiles call ‘Aryan’ (pronounced ‘Erian’
for some weird reason)), scores after a delightful run in the 2nd half.
Oh Deepak! Oh Saikat!
Huge raven lands on the branches of the “Prima Vera of Mexico,” and preens
itself. A classical ill-omen. Circling Brahminy kite looks weak.
They played well. So did we. Raman was cremated on the spot where the
“Prima Vera of Mexico” stands. Perhaps it is out of deference to him that
we should have lost this match.
Next time we won’t have any such qualms.