October 11, 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.

Remember the Titans #3: Rafael NadalSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

May 19, 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!

90's ChildSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

April 25, 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.

A License to KillSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend
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