Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Now on Wordpress!

Hi there!

While the Light Lasts has shifted now to Wordpress! 

The Wordpress blog - - is purely a poetry blog. Looking forward to see and hear from you there.

Do visit!



Monday, 11 October 2010

Remember the Titans #3: Rafael Nadal

This article is a part of the Remember the Titans series. To know more about the series, go through the introductory post by clicking here.

Some people are born great. Some people have greatness thrust upon them. Some slog all their lives to be called great - more a matter of perseverance than genius. Rafael Nadal, by himself, establishes a new category - where you first flirt with greatness, then have the occasional night-stand with it, and finally, wed it and make it yours forever. Most of the legends in the world of sports wear greatness like a prized shawl; Nadal wears it like a gladiator's armor - close to his chest and visible for the whole world to gawk at. In 2010, Nadal has taken bold steps towards the altar of tennis. The very people who once doubted the completeness of his game now stand with their lips zipped and minds zapped by the prowess that the Spaniard has shown. Gone are the times when Nadal featured as a constant challenger to the throne that was Roger Federer's. Today, he proudly sits on that throne - still well within the mammoth shadow that Federer continues to cast - but constantly making efforts to grow out of it.

That Nadal was cut out for sports was apparent at a very tender age itself. He left football to concentrate on tennis and his prodigal talent began to draw eyes even while he was in his early teens. Nadal was always impatiently ambitious - continually striving to improve, his gaze ever set on the monumental target he desired to achieve. The prophets of tennis must have known that here was a champion-in-the-making, when Nadal outclassed the-then world no.1 Roger Federer in his first ever match in a series of classic clashes at the Miami Masters way back in 2004. It served as a breakthrough performance for Nadal and soon enough, the world began to talk about him, if only in whispers. In 2005, Nadal found his beloved turf - Clay. His dominance over the surface multiplied in the coming years and the way he demolished some of his opponents, including Federer, was scary - earning him the nickname 'The King of Clay'. But, true to his measure, Nadal wasn't satisfied with just lording over clay. Critics did say that his game was only cut out for clay and he would never portend as a serious contender to Federer on the faster surfaces. But then, like his appearance at that time, Nadal's game too defied the usual conventions.

Federer played tennis like an art. Nadal started playing it like a battle. His game was highly physical and with time, he also developed odd ways to hover over the psychology of his opponents. As soon as he stepped onto the court, he pumped his fists in the air, thumped his chest and broke into short, speedy runs all over the court - each of the actions showcasing his supreme confidence and physical agility. The very outlook of the man was enough to send shudders through the person who held the racquet across the court who invariably wondered whether he would survive the onslaught or just wear out to Nadal's incessant aggression. With Nadal, you had to fight for every point. Relentless, machine-like and without even a single lapse in concentration - he could go on for hours, playing with the same zeal and briskness as he played in the first ten minutes of the match. Of course, it was still Federer who bossed tennis - a legend already made and recognized in contrast to Nadal, who was still learning the finer aspects of the game. But, inexplicably Federer always seemed to succumb to Nadal even when there was quite a wide difference in the skills they possessed. They say you make and arm your own enemy. Nadal had come to possess almost everything that Federer lacked - or rather was shy of showing. A strong backhand, a fiery return, brashness, disregard for what the records hinted, absolute aggression - Federer's gentleness kept him chained at all those places where Nadal's ambition liberated him.

The last three years have seen Nadal metamorphosing into a legend. In 2008, when he first snatched the Wimbledon from the iron-claws of Federer and subsequently the number one ranking from him, it was clear that the uni-polar tennis world that belonged to Federer was now in disarray as Nadal too, intended to tame it. Federer however, bounced back in 2009 - and aided and abetted by Nadal's injury problems - completed his career grand slam to seize the throne of tennis - but only temporarily. This year has truly been Nadal's best till date. With three grand slams in his kitty - a bulging total of nine - and a roster of other ATP Masters titles - whose count now stands at a record eighteen - Nadal has indeed made 2010 as his year of induction into the list of all-time greats of tennis. He has now shed the boyish image of his early years and translated into an impressive brand ambassador of tennis. He is now, like Federer, loved, liked and respected by his fans as well as his critics. His passion, his dedication, his commitment and above all, his amazing attitude towards his game - all are finally, being recognized and respected by people. He is still ferocious on the court, but dignified outside it. His range of shots have raised eyebrows and even forced some to rewrite their game-books of tennis. He has mastered every surface, every condition, every opponent - a reward for being the brightest pupil of tennis that the world has ever seen. While Federer and others take on the moments of glory as they come, Nadal carefully plans and synthesizes them. The level of tennis that Federer had established meant that only a super-human could hope to achieve that - and Nadal has done just that and attempting to do even more. Obviously, we'll have to wait and see how long and how much does the momentum established by Nadal last. He is still so young - the youngest to achieve so many of the feats he has already achieved.

Like all great players, Nadal not only brings a new dimension to the game he plays, but also transcends the boundaries of sport to become a person worth emulating in real life. His name has come to mean discipline and he has shown that a focussed effort can achieve what even a gift from destiny can't. Nadal has held the bulls of fear by their horns and simply turned them around to set them upon his opponents. He is that rare example of a youth with the maturity of a veteran. So what else would it take for Nadal to conquer even bigger ground in tennis? What else would it take for Nadal to stake an even greater claim on the pedestals of tennis? What else would it take for Nadal to get a whole tennis era named after him? Hope, faith and luck - we might say. But with Nadal, this magical trio simply fails to have its fabled significance. With Nadal, the only thing that controls and decides his destiny is within him. And we wish it serves him well.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

90's Child

Alright. This one's not my original. It's an interesting compilation I came across on Facebook. The last decade of the last century of the last millennium was probably a wonderful time to pass your childhood in. The list reproduced below is an ode to that golden period. The points I found true about myself have been highlighted using bold-face. If you indeed are a 90's child, I am sure you will find it really interesting to go through the list...


You Know You Grew Up in India in the 90s When…

1) You know the words to ‘In-pin-safety-pin’ and ‘akkad-bakkad’ by heart

2) Cricket is almost a religion for you, and you idolize at least one of Rahul Dravid/Sachin Tendulkar/Saurav Ganguly

3) You have read at least some Chacha Chaudhary or Tinkle comics

4) You’ve watched Shaktimaan on TV at least once in your life. And you can immediately recognize the character when you see him.

5) You have some ‘NRI’ relatives.

6) You couldn’t wait for it to be December so you could have the Toblerone chocolates your NRI relatives brought you

7) You watched Cartoon Network, and then the late night movies on TNT that came after Cartoon Network ended.

8) You watched corny dubbed versions of Small Wonder, Silver Spoon, and I Dream of Jeanie

9) You were THRILLED when McDonald’s opened in your neighborhood (or even eight kilometers away)

10) A visit to Pizza Hut used to mean a special treat

11) You have seen Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Hum Aapke Hain Kaun at least 5 times each

12) You still remember the theme song of Hum Paanch. (Hum Paanch, Pam Pam Pam Paanch!)

13) You have played hours upon hour of running and catching, chor-police, lagori, saankli, ‘Doctor, doctor, help us!’, ‘Lock and key’

14) Dog ‘in’ the bone was your favorite co-ed game.

15) Much of your free time in school was spent playing UNO.

16) You collected trump cards of wrestlers, cricketers, and airplanes, and did not quite understand why your younger siblings were obsessed with Pokemon and the other Japanese trends that followed.

17) Your summer vacations were often synonymous with visiting your grandparents or cousins

18) Your parents, at some point, told you ‘Dark Room’ was a bad game to play. But you still loved playing it.

19) Bole mere lips, I love uncle Chips!

20) You know the song ‘Made in India’ by Alisha Chinai

21) You have seen many many many episodes of ‘Antakshari’ on Zee TV and know the only thing constant in the show is Annu Kapoor.

22) Many evenings have been spent watching little kids gyrate vulgarly on Boogie Woogie on Sony.

23) You were the coolest thing in class if you had a computer in your house while it was still the 90s.

24) You learnt LOGO and BASIC in school!

25) You couldn’t wait to start 4th standard so you could start writing with PENS instead of with pencils!

26) You often used terms and phrases like ‘two-say’, ‘same to you, back to you, with no returns’, and ‘shame shame, puppy shame, all the donkeys know your name.’

27) You most probably saw Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge at the cinema at least once. You also fantasized about singing songs in mustard fields as in the movie.

28) You have seen David Dhawan and Govinda movies and laughed at them.

29) You have said ‘haw’ or ‘yuck’ when you saw people kissing in English movies. (nowadays kids are used to it!)

30) Titanic was your FIRST favourite english movie.

31) You thought seeing English movies and speaking English made you the coolest thing ever.

32) You remember the Gujarat earthquake very clearly and could possibly tell everyone EXACTLY what you were doing when the earthquake occurred (yes, this happened in 2001, January 26, 2001, to be exact — but this group is about the things that Indian kids that GREW UP in the 90s remember and identify with).

33) Barbies for girls, and GI Joes for boys were the ultimate status symbols. You just wanted more more more and more. And how can I forget Hot Wheels, for both boys and girls?

34) You thought ‘imported’ clothes were definitely way better than ‘made in India’ clothes (never mind that a lot of clothes brought from overseas by NRI relatives were actually made in India, before ‘Made in China’ started appearing on EVERY existing thing)

35) "Jungle Jungle Baat Chali Hai Pata Chala Hai! Chaddi Pehen Ke Phool Khila Hai Phool Khila Hai!" You watched "The Jungle Book" every Sunday morning at 9.a.m" and just loved mowgli, bhalu and bagheera. A few years later, you watched Disney Hour, which had cartoons like Aladdin, Gummy Bears, Tail Spin, Uncle Scrooge!

36) At some point or other, cool was your favourite, and therefore, most overused word.

37) Captain Planet was your first introduction to environmental consciousness.

38) You have tried to convince people around you to not burst crackers on Diwali, and then gone straight back home and burst them yourself.

39) You have had endless packets of Parle Gluco G biscuits, and of Brittania Little Hearts biscuits.

40) You loved licking off the cream from the centre of Bourbon biscuits.

41) There were no Nike, Reebok, Adidas, Puma- Bata and Liberty was the way to go for your sports shoes.

42) You have probably consumed more Frooti in your lifetime than there is oil in Iraq.

43) You watched Baywatch on Star World when nobody was home even though (or because) your parents said you shouldn’t watch it.

44) You bought packets of potato chips for the specific purpose of collecting Tazos. And you had Tazos depicting everyone from Confucius to Daffy Duck to Daffy Duck dressed as Confucius.

45) For the longest time, the Maruti 800, the Premier Padmini, THE Fiat, and THE Ambassador were the only cars you saw on the road, and the Contessa was cool because it was bigger.

46) You would literally jump up in excitement if you ever chanced upon an imported car (Oh my gosh, is that really a MERCEDES?)!

47) You spent a good part of 1998 drooling over the Hyundai Santro and the Daewoo Matiz , debating which one was better.

48) You used to Fuzen gum. You also chewed Big (big) Babool and/or Boom Boom Boomer chewing gum. They were bright pink and disgusting tasting, but you loved them for the temporary tattoos.

49) Talking of temporary tattoos, you sometimes had contests with your classmates about who had more tattoos on their arm, leg, knee, hand, forehead, wherever.

50) You thought Mario and Contra were the coolest things ever invented, especially if you were a boy.

51) You knew that having the latest Hero or Atlas bicycle would make you the coolest kid on the block.

52) You can imitate Sushmita Sen’s winning gasp to perfection.

53) You have, at some point of time, worn GAP clothes (real or fake) like SRK in KKHH.

54) Seemingly senseless acronyms like SRK, DDLJ, DTPH, KKHH actually make sense to you..

55) You have at some point debated who was more beautiful- Aishwarya or Sushmita.

56) Baskin Robbins ice-cream was THE thing to have!

57) You know what Campa Cola is. And you also knew that Coca Cola was THE drink.

58) You would watch WWF keenly every evening/afternoon and loved Bret Hart "Hitman"! really thought Undertaker had seven lives and he made an “actual” appearance in the Akshay Kumar- starrer Khiladiyon ka Khiladi.

59) When all backpacks (or ’schoolbags’) and water bottles and tiffin boxes had strange cartoon characters that were hybrid versions of seven or eight different characters, and you still bought them, because a green man wih a water pistol, boots, a jet-pack, Johnny bravo hair, a rajasthani mustache, gloves, and underwear (long johns) over his pants, called ‘Mr. X’ was OBVIOUSLY a status symbol.

60) You remember the Nirma tikia jingle.

61) You remember the Nirma girl.

62) You remember the ‘doodh doodh piyo glass full doodh’ ad and also the ‘laal kaala peela, gulabi hara neela classic hai badia bristles wala’ and 'roz khao ande' ads.

63) You grew up reading, if you read at all, some or all of Nancy Drews, Enid Blyton books, Hardy Boys, Babysitters Club, Animorphs, Goosebumps, Sweet Valley series, Judy Blumes, and Tintin, or Archie comics. Because naturally, reading foreign authors made you much cooler than reading Tinkle.

64) Towards the late 90s (1998-99) at least some of us started our Harry Potter obsessions!

65) You absolutely HAD to go to Essel World if you were with cousins! “Essel World mein rahoonga main, ghar nahin nahin jaaonga main!” (I never went but always dreamed of going there!)

66) You watched the Bournvita Quiz contest on TV pretty religiously. The smarter ones amongst you actually took part in it and had your entire school and your entire extended families watch you on it!

67) Maggi 2 Minute Noodles = ultimate snack (and tiffin, lunch, dinner)!

68) If you grew up in the early 90s, you recall the nation’s obsession with Mahabharata on TV

69) In the later 90s, you religiously followed Hip Hip Hooray on Zee. Maybe Just Mohabbat on Sony too

70) You remember parzan dastur sayin "JALEBI!!!!" in the Dhara Ad

71) You eagerly awaited Friendship Day, so you could give friendship bands to all your friends, and get bands from them in return. Then, of course, those with the most bands loved to show them off.

72) Backstreet Boys' "Quit Playing Games" was one of the first english songs that you LOVED!

73) Andaz Apna Apna is and most probably will always be your favourite comedy flick!! "Aila Jhakaas!!!"

74) Cordless phones were uber-cool.

75) You know what Name, Place, Animal, Thing is!

76) This list made you smile.


My score : 65! [Naturally, a few variations of whatever's written above are permitted]

Hail, the 90's Child!

Sunday, 25 April 2010

A License to Kill

Can any reason ever justify an intentional breach of the sanctity of life? Can a person who has taken the Hippocratic Oath accede to be an agent of Death? Can anything be worse than watching your dear ones laid bare on the anvil of pain even as you find your hands locked with helplessness? Can any amount of remorse cloud the knowledge that you have left a fellow being in the most abyssmal variation of life that the world has to offer? If you find yourself incapable of answering either of these questions conclusively with a 'Yes' or 'No', don't feel embarrassed. For strangely, there are no 'correct' answers to such questions. The matter of 'mercy-killing' or in technical terms - 'Euthanasia' is still suspended in a perpetual oscillatory motion held by uncompromising forces powered collectively by science and ethics. The idea of euthanasia is not new - the concept of aiding a long suffering individual, with no real chances of survival to die in a painless manner has been suggested decades ago. Ever since, the matter has been shrouded by the veils of multiple legislations and drapes sewn from the yarns of medical philosophy. The stakes are so high that it would be futile to even attempt to clinch the argument in a short piece of text. The best we can do would therefore be to just examine and assess - at times, objectively and at times, passionately - this monumental question-mark that hovers over the medical fraternity.

The first thing to understand, if ever you are to believe in euthanasia, is that Death is not to be feared. The reason we fear death is the same reason that we fear darkness - we don't quite know what lies beyond it. Yes, if it comes unexpectedly, death indeed is the pinnacle of all tragedies. But, in a debate of mercy-killing, death needs to be seen in a completely different light. And because, they are both the two sides of the same coin, any attempt to unravel the intricacies of death must also circumscribe the realm of life. Agreed - life is pious and as mere creations of the Almighty, we have little right to meddle with it. But, once the long path of life has been traversed, isn't death the ultimate transition to something even more meaningful? And if that transition can be made more smooth and less tortuous, wouldn't it make sense to actually do it?Death has never been the greatest loss of life - the greatest loss has been what dies inside us even while we live. And if that loss answers to the claim of being that of the purpose or the desire to live - it would be a tragedy to live with such a loss. Wanting to die and still not being able to do so is far worse than death. Euthanasia is controversial since it pits the plight and suffering of an individual hung in a pathetic imitation of life and willing to embrace death against the legal, medical and social implications of having the right to end such a life. Euthanasia has been erroneously perceived as a stand-off between science and humanity when in reality, it simply endeavours to take the form of a handshake between science and humanity. Just picture some candidates of euthanasia and you will find your heart bleeding tears. A listless human body - in an irreversible coma - lungs run by a respirator and the cells fuelled by an array of feeding tubes and bottles and the heart and the brain being continuously mapped on gigantic screens. An old man - the pride of his life being rotted by the incurable psychological disease grasping him - rendering him a caricature of his age. A impoverished pheasant - in the terminal stages of a deadly cancer - a veritable human hourglass. What science can be dispassionate enough to turn a blind eye to this suffering? A suffering that tortures not only the patient but also those close to him for having to see him in such a state and yet not having the power to interrupt it. If death can curtail all this suffering, why with-hold it? The secret of a successful life has always been how to die - the time, the place, the manner. Euthanasia is for those unfortunate people who have not the fortune of choosing their death over life - even when it is the better of the two options. The controversy is of course whether the medical personnel, responsible for safeguarding life - can actually include its 'antidote' - Death - in their domain. The other arguments in favour of euthanasia are founded more on logic than on compassion. Patients, who have reached a point of no-return, are naturally an economic burden for their families and the society. Rarity is always high-priced. As death draws near and the last dregs of life are all that are left to be drunk, medical care becomes exorbitantly expensive. The intensive care units, the million-dollar life-support equipments, the team of specialized over-seers and the requisite high standards of medical care - its a suction pump that is capable of exhausting the entire pool of family resources and throwing them into the vicious cycle of debts. And in countries like India, where the health care system is already stressed out and working over-time, it seems only reasonable to permit those beyond all chances of survival to make room for those who can still survive by a healing touch. Euthanasia, therefore - though a radical concept - can not be out-rightly discounted.

And now, we join the team of dissenters. The fundamental premise that works against euthanasia is that man is still not so intellectually advanced as to take the matters of life and death into his own hands. Its only when he achieves a universal consciousness - a state beyond worldly gains and petty motives - that he can decide what is right for him and what is right for other men. Euthanasia has two giant rivals - Law and Medicine. Both of them, being the age-old guardians of the sanctity of human life. The very legal and social norms that prohibit intentional killing - may it be as per the victim's will or against it - are the cornerstones of our existence - ideals that guarantee that life will always be valued and everybody will be protected impartially. Life within us, however low it flickers, is still a divine flame and it would be nothing less that the worst of sins to attempt to extinguish it. Either you consider life to be sacred or you consider it to be of no account. There can be no middle path - the one which euthanasia advocates - calling life sacred in some cases and a torment in others. At whatever age and in whatever stage, life should always be treated with dignity. If life becomes unbearable, instead of shaking hands with death, consorted medical efforts should go in making that life less miserable and helping the patients and those who hold him dear in coping with the pain such a life delivers. Euthanasia is not wrong - but it is extremely dangerous. No amount of regulations and no amount of precautions can prevent it from being used to bring about death even where it's not wanted. Laws can always be circumvented and morals can always be abused. The human race is still not ready to use euthanasia the way it is meant to be used. Whereas euthanasia being a grave violation of the laws of God is certainly the chief argument against it, there are some arguments which can be supported on a scientific column. Medicine is not yet a complete science. And since, it deals with something as complicated as the human body, it is never ever likely to be so. And where science can not give assurances, one can never reject the possibility of miracles. There have been so many recorded cases of patients coming out of comas after a dozen years of vegetative existence. There have been people reduced to mere masses of nerves and vessels, recuperating and leading an abject, but a sufficiently promising life. Even if life persists as the thinnest of flames, hope would always be ready to fan it into a fierce fire. As men and as medical professionals, we have no right to rob people of hope. We have no right to deny miracles. We have no right to take back from people what God has given them. Mercy killing, though justifiable in a lenient world, is never going to be practiceable.

After reading all this - you might ask - 'What was your point?'. Darned good question. And as in the matter of euthanasia, I have no real answers here too. I still don't know which way I am inclined to think. Ultimately it will depend on which of the human emotions you value more - pity or hope. Ultimately it will depend on which of the two you would respect more - the sacred stature of human life or the horrid suffering that can make a mincemeat of that stature. Ultimately it will depend on whether you can read the patient's expressionless face - the wail that announces his suffering, the sardonic smile that marks his realisation of how little life now means to him, the aghast look as he understands how close he is to death, the hope that he still harbours wishing that God gives him one final chance to redeem himself. Euthanasia is a matter of life and death. Is it justified? Should it be legalized? Would it be executed in true spirit? With the stakes so high, I am afraid to answer. With the stakes so high, it is perhaps best not to answer...

PS: The existing legal and medical implications and definitions are conspicuously missing from this write-up simply because, I wanted to avoid the flow of thoughts getting hindered. However, a list of sites from where the reader can actually understand what euthanasia means, how it is to be practised, and what several countries and their constitutions have to say about it will be put up here shortly.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Remember the Titans #2 : Roger Federer

This article is a part of the Remember the Titans series. To know more about the series, go through the introductory post by clicking here.

Sports can be wild. And sports can be beautiful too. They rarely come together but when they do, it conjures - well, there's no other word for it - magic. Given the status of cricket in India, I wouldn't dare to challenge the popularity of the game but I still believe that as a sport to watch, there can be no better choice than tennis. Apart from the gargantuan amount of physical endurance and agility it requires, tennis is also about being sublime and tactful - at times, players take on gladiatorial avatars, battling it out with such intensity that it defies human limits. And if tennis is to be talked and written about, who's better to illustrate the cover page then tennis' equivalent to Sachin Tendulkar - only more gifted, complete and iconic - Roger Federer. This article will go in rewind - the period now to the period then. For the biggest assertions need to be got out of the way lest they weigh heavily on my writing later. I will find detractors, but not many, if I say that as of today, Roger Federer is on the road to becoming the most dominant professional athlete EVER - in any sport, in any discipline. I can hear the voices of dissent and cries of other names - Muhammad Ali, Pele, the redoubtable Tiger Woods and even tennis' own Rod Laver and Pete Sampras. But understand this - the dominance I talk about is not just about being the best and the greatest in the sport you play - its about influencing the game and influencing all who play and watch it, its about taking the game and taking professionalism to new levels, its about making victories look easy and defeats look graceful, its about the awe other players see you with and the cheers you draw from the crowd in any place you play. That's dominance - when the sport itself seems to revolve around you. Federer has achieved all of that, and more.

With sixteen grand slams and eyes set on a lot many more, Federer is unparalleled as far as numbers go in tennis. He will soon go past Sampras in the count of number of weeks at the top. He already has a benumbing number of consecutive finals and semi-finals - 18 of the last 19 finals and each one of the last 23 semi-finals. He is at a stage when it might be a good idea to put his name in the list of synonyms for the word 'champion' in the thesaurus. Federer's game is like a poetry - balanced, beautiful and appearing to mean something much more than what we actually see. It is in many aspects, absolutely flawless. For years after the era of Sampras and Agassi was past, Federer was left all alone, sans any real rivals. All eras are earmarked by great rivalries - something for which tennis is very widely known - Bjorg-McEnroe, Connors-Llendl, Sampras-Agassi - but there seemed to be no one willing and competent enough to engage into the same with Federer. After years, he finally has a pack of some challengers and some pretenders - Murray, Nadal, Djokovic, Del Potro and a few others are all fine players and on their day, have dismantled the champion a few times. Of course the huge stature of Federer still looms large over the tennis circuit but its becoming increasingly difficult to really predict who's going to win tournaments - especially non-Slam ones. Nevertheless, the saga of Federer still continues and he still has to waltz further with history and keep dates with destiny. And we will be more than glad to watch it with starry eyes.

The first time I heard of Federer's name was when he defeated Pete Sampras - the player I revered then - in his own backyard, the Wimbledon, in the fourth round. Television screens all over the world began flashing his pictures - the young, handsome Swiss with those queer banded hair. Not many realized it was a significant moment in tennis history. It was a young gun snatching the flag of tennis supremacy from an old warhorse. A champion was humbled, and another had broken out of the cocoon. In the brief period that lapsed between Sampras leaving the scene of tennis and Federer stamping his authority all over it, three players emerged in a race for the numero uno spot. You can't blame them for not knowing that their happiness would be short-lived and soon they will outclassed by someone very, very special. Hewitt, Safin and Roddick - each coming from a land which had traditionally dominated tennis - would soon be overwhelmed by a man coming from Switzerland - a place marked in the smallest font on tennis maps. And ever since he has arrived, there's been no hurdle, no hiccup, no looking back for Roger Federer. A decade past, he is still tennis' most potent force. Irresistible and invincible.

Federer has improved with each passing year. He began pocketing slams and within no time at all, people were already talking about Sampras and his most sacred record. Tennis rarely sees complete players and it had been quite a few years since there had been one before Federer came. Sampras had a typical American game - a strong serve and an incredible volley. Agassi was acclaimed for his baseline play and rocket return of serve. Some like Goran Ivanisevic could fire aces at will. Federer, unlike these players was a player who was developed not vertically at one point of the tennis skill spectrum but horizontally across its entirety. He used the entire court, the entire baseline and the entire range of shots - he sliced, he punched, he lobbed, he served with panache and hit amazing winners with ease. Like Sampras, he always seemed to do just enough to outdo his opponent. Wimbledon and US Open were his for five successive years. The Australian Open crown was snatched in 2005 by a rejuvenated Marat Safin but Federer retrieved it in 2006. It was only triumph at Roland Garros that eluded him. However, unlike Sampras, who was always vulnerable on clay and lost very frequently to lesser known players in early rounds, Federer's performed extraordinarily even on clay. It was only his misfortune that by the time he had begun his race for Grand Slams, another player had anchored himself firmly on the throne of Roland Garros. Clay has always been quite different from other surfaces - the game slows down, and different skills are sought for mastering it. The kingdom of clay had appeared to shun Federer and elect its own king - Rafael Nadal.

Here finally was a rivalry that gave us what was missing in this era of tennis. Though Federer still dominated the other Slams and surfaces, Nadal repeatedly made a mockery out of him on clay. And then came 2008 - a bumpy ride for Roger. Mind it, he still reached all the four semi-finals, three finals and won one grand slam but over the years he had set such astronomically high standards for himself that even all this was not enough to satiate him or his fans. He lost to a determined Djokovic in the season's first slam at Melbourne and in straight sets to Nadal in the French Open but he was still not disturbed as he stepped onto his favourite surface at Wimbledon. But, here a defining moment was just waiting to happen. In an epic five-setter (which by the way, has an entire post devoted to itself on this very blog), Nadal beat Federer - and within weeks, took away the number one ranking from him. Was this the end of the champion? Would the ever-so-calm persona of Federer ever forget this terrible mental wound? Although he won the US Open later, he once again lost to Nadal at the next slam - another five-setter. And for the first time, the world saw tears pouring out of the eyes that never even blinked at historic moments. People thought Federer had become weaker, but there could be no bigger mistake - the tears and those losses only made him stronger. It showed, as I have said in an earlier post that Federer was not a God as people has started believing him to be. He was better than God - he was human. And he knew what those tears were for. He had just let everything out in those tears - his frustration, his uncertainties, his weaknesses. Federer knew this was the last time his confidence was to be shaken. And we all know how he just swallowed the rest of 2009. No doubt, he was aided by the defeat of Nadal in France and his absence at Wimbledon, but Federer had his eyes only on the altar of greatness that was beckoning to him. He won the French. He won the Wimbledon. He nearly won the US Open but found Del Potro in top form in the finals. He won the Australian Open 2010 - the first slam of the new decade. He has now steered clear of Sampras' record and is setting new limits of his own. He is remodelling tennis and its history. He is a both a loving husband and a proud father now. He is the darling of the crowd. He is the most recognizable face of tennis. He has the whole media licking out of his fingers. One wonders what is left to be achieved and what keeps Federer going then...

To understand the answer, you must first understand Roger Federer as a man and as a phenomenon, not just as a tennis player. Federer is no longer playing for this generation - he is simply laying ground for the coming generation. Higher the ground, he feels, the better they will be able to serve tennis. He is in such a communion with his tennis that he can't fail even if he wants to. He may seem fallible at times and have the occasional bad game - but you can be sure, that he will bounce back. Federer is just one of those people who have greatness flowing in their veins - there has to be a delibrate dialysis if you want to seperate the two. Like Tendulkar, Federer is not only about tennis. More than the greatest tennis player, he is the greatest man ever to have played tennis. Some people would find no difference between the two. Some people would probably be more awed by the former qualification. But, for the others like me, the difference is the reason why we believe in the man called Roger Federer.