Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Hallelujah, Sister

I hate flying. Especially in dingy little airplanes. You know the ones I'm talking about. Those tiny twin engine twenty-seaters that flop around periliously like a trembling leaf everytime they take to the air, churning up the contents of your venter in the process. It's enough to make anyone qeausy, not least of all someone with chronic travelling sickness.

Flying aboard one such aircraft on a recent trip, I was trying hard to hold back nausea. I sat very straight with my hands folded on my lap, and threw my head back just a little. A while later, the lady on the adjoining seat nudged me. "Excuse me, sir. Are you praying?" "No, no" I replied, a bit startled. "I'm just trying very hard not to throw up. It's easy to see why you would confuse the two though".

I didn't say the last bit, of course. Maybe, I should have. Or maybe, if real life was like the internet, I should have redirected her to this Jon Stewart clip on the power of prayer.

[Link courtesy Yoism]

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Lord Bhairab Likes His Mutton

Nepal's national airline has confirmed that it sacrificed two goats to resolve a recurring technical problem with one of its aircrafts.

One can almost imagine the announcement over the intercom:
"Welcome to Nepal Airlines' flight RA-409, non-stop from Kathmandu to Hong Kong. We regret to announce that the flight has been delayed due to unforeseen technical problems. Please bear with us as our technicians try and fix the problem. Passengers are requested to please remain seated while we find sacrificial goats to appease Lord Bhairab."

Jokes aside, I think Nepal Airlines have stumbled upon a novel low-cost method for aircraft maintenance (the plane did manage to reach Hong Kong, after all). It's only a matter of time before other airlines catch up. The tricky bit, of course, would be to decide what animal (or plant) to sacrifice to fix a particular problem. The plethora of gods that rule the sky would only further complicate matters. Sure, Akash Bhairab in Nepal likes his mutton, but who's to say that Thor in Norway wouldn't prefer lynx meat instead? Or tinamou for that matter. An extensive study needs to be carried out on the dietary preferences of various deities to ensure that the aircraft of the future is well-stocked with flora and fauna of all kind to tackle any sort of emergency. Passenger safety is of utmost importance, after all.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Pakistan Cricket is Back to Normal

It's official. The lull in Pakistan cricket is finally over.

Ever since the Bob Woolmer tragedy, things have been unusually quiet in Pakistani cricket. Sure, there have been the odd spats, controversy over the appointment of the new coach, some uproar over ICL offers, even a retirement or two. But nothing, really, to compare with the serial bedlam of 2006, when there was a new scandal virtually every week.

All that changed when Shoaib Akhthar assaulted Mohammad Asif. Details of the incident are still fuzzy but involve, in no particular order, Shoaib Akhthar, Mohammad Asif, Shahid Afridi, a discussion on respect, a stray bat, and aspersions cast upon Shoaib's ancestry.

Something in that heady mix of ingredients caused Shoaib to lose it completely, and produce a fit of inspired lunacy. It ended with Shoaib brandishing the above mentioned stray bat and swinging it at his bowling partner. Luckily, Asif escaped with nothing more than a bruised thigh.

Back home on the next available flight, Shoaib attributed the inspiration for his act to Zidane's famous head-butt (it's like the gift that keeps on giving). Now, there may be some parallel between Akhthar's bat-brandishing and Zidane's moment of madness, but it remains to be seen if Pakistan forgives Shoaib as readily as France did Zizzou.

All of this, however, is secondary. The important thing is that Pakistan cricket is finally back to normalcy. And we all have to thank Shoaib Akhthar for that.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Dhanuka Pathirana Sets New Standard for Gooch Cricket

While everyone was going ga-ga over Dimitri Mascarenhas and his five sixes at the Kennington Oval, elsewhere in England, in an unheralded Twenty20 league match, a little known Sri Lankan was redefining the term murderous assault.

With the advent of the Twenty20 game, one has come to expect a bang-and-wallop mode of batsmanship. But for all the banging and walloping in the world, one wouldn't expect anyone to smash 277 runs in 72 balls. That is exactly what Dhanuka Pathirana, a relatively unknown first-class cricketer from Colombo, did in a Twenty20 match against Droylsden. Pathirana hit an incredible 29 sixes and 18 fours in his knock on what was described as 'not one of the smaller grounds in the league'. One shudders to think what he might have wrought on one of those smaller grounds.

Just to clarify matters, 277 in 72 balls translates into a strike rate of 384.72 per hundred balls. That in turn translates to almost 4 runs a ball for 12 overs straight. I'm still having trouble wrapping my mind around these mind-bogglingly astronomical numbers. These numbers are so mind-bogglingly astronomical in fact, that they are boggling my mind even as I type. Even Shahid Afridi, in his most famous knock had scored at a measly strike rate of 255. And he got out for 102. Scoring 277 runs in 72 balls is well and truly stupendous.

In case you're still having trouble putting things into perspective, consider this. For years now I have been playing the 20 over format of the game on my computer, courtesy Gooch cricket (and variations thereof). However, even with tweaking the batting averages to 900-odd, and with carefully selected pie-throwers as opponents, I have never managed a score of over 200 with any batsman. And I have surely never maintained a strike rate of 384.72 for 12 overs straight. Dhanuka Pathirana has, with this most incredulous of knocks, set a new standard, not only for Twenty-20 batsmen, but also virtual cricketers worldwide.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Random Conversation #1 - Ode to Saki

It was a late Friday evening. In a brightly lit room in a dimly lit part of the city, a bunch of people got together for their weekly ritual to celebrate the passing of another week. Conversations veered from topics as diverse as weather patterns and dog fighting to local politics. Sometimes it was difficult to tell them apart.

The wine was plentiful, the music mellow. Despite wearing a bored-out-of-the-skin expression, some of the guests could actually be said to be having a good time. As the night wore on and the level of blood alcohol rose in the room, so did the noise level of the party. There is something about alcohol that brings out the raconteur in even the dullest of people, while transforming others suddenly into experts on ancient Mongolian rug weaves.

Not everyone indulged in the revelry however. In the corner, on a rather comfortable looking recliner, sat a young man nursing his whiskey sour, seemingly lost in his thoughts. He had only recently moved to the city, and had been invited to the gathering by the host. "It'll be a good chance for him to get to know people in the area," the host remembered telling his wife later.

The man however showed no inclination to grow his social network, and instead focused his attention on the strip of wallpaper on the wall across from where he was sitting. It fascinated him. As far as he could see, there was no other piece of paper covering any of the other walls in the house. Why then this one strip, so conspicuously at odds with everything else. It couldn't be just for decoration; the colours were too plain and jaded for it to be considered art. It had clearly been there for some time too, as the edges had begun to fray, probably not for the first time.

He started imagining all sorts of reasons for the strip. "Perhaps it's there to conceal a shoddy self-repair job. A misaimed hammer that left a nasty little dent. Or maybe it's there to hide a secret door. A door to another room, locked away forever behind the cloak of secrecy. A door to another past. A door..., Oh hullo!"

The last two words he said out aloud, for he found himself suddenly accosted by the host of the party.

"You have been awfully quiet all evening, even by your standards"
"Well, ummm... ah"
"Yes, exactly. Now that we have that cleared up, why don't you come and join the rest of us in the lounge?"
"Ummm... No, I think I'll be fine just sitting here".
He wasn't going to give up the comfort of the recliner that easily.
"Come now, don't be such a loner"
"Oh, but I am a loner. Always have been. I'm not sure why, but I don't seem to get along well with other people. I guess for all my wit and charm, I have the emotional quotient of a grasshopper"
"Charm? You have charm? Since when did you acquire charm?"
"That is not important. The point I was trying to make was..."
"Wit, I can understand, but charm?"
"I said it was not important. What's important is to establish that I have the emotional quotient of a grasshopper"
"I'm not entirely sure about that. Some of these grasshoppers seem to be highly social insects you know. Traveling in swarms, hording food for the winter, and all that"
"Yes, but don't they also bite the heads off their children?"
"No, they don't. Those are praying mantis you are thinking of. And they don't bite heads off their children, only their mates after having sex"
"Hmmm.. Then I couldn't have been thinking of praying mantids. What kind of monster would I be going about biting heads off my mates. No, I don't think I'm a praying mantis"
"That may be so. But you sir, are no grasshopper either"

As the man reluctanty renounced the recliner to mingle with the other guests, his thoughts were still elsewhere. "Maybe the strip of wallpaper has been put up to cover up a less than flattering sketch of the host engraved on the wall by his pesky little kid".