Wednesday, April 25, 2007

World's most perilous job?

Pakistan advertise for new coach

I wonder who the new coach will be. Brave man, whoever does take it up. I mean, when you think that the consequence of the team's failure is death by murder - of the coach, that is. Not the team. Kind of a risky job, what?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A few of my favourite (forgotten) things...

It’s been over a month since I said I’d do this one for my favourite glam celeb journo, Ramya Kannan, who is off gadding about in Oz at the moment. (Rums, I may not always be prompt, but I do eventually deliver.)

So here goes:

- Early morning pre-sunrise walks on Marina Beach with my friends. (We learnt the hard way to stick to the prettily laid out sidewalk rather than go down to the water… because instead of seeing the sun rise, all we got was a LOT of moons. We should really have known that the local slum folks use the shores as their open-air lavatory.)

- Breakfast at Karpagambal Mess after early morning walks. The old waiter there made it a point to bring me badam halwa absolutely DRIPPING with pure ghee, which my friends would scoff once his back was turned. (I don’t like sweets that much.)

- My first trip to Pondicherry with my friends on our Kinetic Hondas and motorbikes, down the (then new) bypass. We simply FLEW down the brand-new, smooth, wide, wonderful road – one of the best trips ever.

- Trips to Kodaikkanal where we invariably stayed one of the CSI Cottages. I can’t remember the cottage names now, but I do remember the beautiful but oddball collection of furniture there. All antiques, I’m sure.

- Going to school on a windy morning, only to have the first hour free and then be told to go home because of a hurricane. Oh, the excitement of an unexpected holiday, walking home in the crazy wind, with the dark clouds gathering – thrilling beyond words!

- Going out for a walk after the worst of the hurricane was over, while the air was still cool, to see how battered the neighbourhood looked!

- Being grateful to have Star TV and Star Plus programmes to watch even if the country (I mean Doordarshan) was in forced mourning for some dead politician or the other.

- DD’s signature music at the start of the day’s programmes.

- The title song of the TV serial “Subah” – one of the most memorable tunes ever, I think. Also a very watchable serial, IMHO. I guess I was at the right age to get really involved with the characters! Still remember Salim Ghouse’s bad boy portrayal.

- Watching Chitrahaar around Independence Day or Republic Day, KNOWING that “Nanna munna rahi hoon” would figure on the list!

- Getting a stack of Archie comics (apart from other, more solid books) from Senthil Lending Library and always pestering the guy for new ones, then feigning shock-horror at the borrowing fee in the hope of having him reduce the total money owed. Very rarely worked, but I went through the rigmarole anyway.

- Playing carromboard endlessly with my cousins and uncles and aunts during the holidays.

- Eating nellikkai from the tree in my friend’s house, even though they were way too sour and made my tongue feel funny.

- This goes back many many years, when I lived in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. Walks down to the seashore which was fairly near where we lived, just to pop the buds? bulbs? on the wildly tangled seaweed that washed up on the sand at low tide. There was always competition in the form of local kids but on the whole, popping seaweed was a peaceful affair.

- Scavenging little ceramic or tile squares from the ground around our house, in Dar, to use as markers when we played “tikri” – hopscotch, in other words. Paandi, in still more words. Strangely enough, tikri was the name of both the game and the marker. Also, I cant explain why little perfect square bits of patterned ceramic were to be found in the sand/dust.

If anybody wants to add theirs in the comments section, please do!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Caravan to wherever

Since we bought our Roma caravan last year, we've been to a handful of places with it. It's quite fun living out of a caravan for a while, especially if there's a maximum of 3 people who have to stay together. If it's good weather and you're not obliged to be cooped up in it, it's absolute luxury.

Our caravan is the kind that gypsies - er, Travellers, as they're politically correctly known nowadays - use, minus the chocolate box windows. Caravans with chocolate box windows are frowned upon, looked down upon and indiscriminately discriminated against. And if you're in one of those discriminated-against caravans, consider yourself persona non grata, just like your chocolate-box windows.

What are chocolate box windows, you ask?
These are. Why "chocolate box windows" is apparent. But why they should be discriminated against isnt. The "why" is because Travellers (with a capital T, otherwise you're just a run-of-the-mill tourist) are associated with them. Most people who arent Travellers look down on people who are, because they (the Travellers with a capital T) are widely seen as disruptive and irresponsible and annoying - and not the least, thieving vandals.

They are all that, a lot of the time. (Not all of them, but there are always exceptions.) They will move into an open field or plot of land or even a building site and just settle there in their caravans, littering the site and not bothering to clean up. They cant be evicted forcibly, a court order is required. That takes a couple of weeks (or months? Not sure)... and in any case by the time the order is through, the Travellers are out of there anyway. Leaving behind a mess.

A lot of village and town councils try really hard to keep the Travellers from setting up camp anywhere. In fact, some of the caravan/camp sites actually wont allow Roma caravans on their site because they are gypsy caravans, even if they're not owned by Travellers. (We found that out the hard way. The campsite owner was enthusiastic about our booking until she found out that our caravan was a Roma - then she backpedalled so fast that she must have fallen on her backside! I think in retrospect that we should have sued her for blatant discrimination.)

The only thing that works with Travellers - and it's somewhat symbolic, rather like how having garlic on your person is supposed to deter Dracula from making a snack off you - is to have a gate for the property, whether that's an empty field or acres of industrial estate. And that gate has to be kept closed or locked if there isnt a guard. If the Travellers force their way in, the police can be called on them. If the gate is open, they have every right to move in where they're not wanted!

And now I've forgotten why I started on the topic of caravans. I know it wasnt to talk about Travellers...

Anyway, there are static caravans and mobile caravans. Ours is the mobile type... just! It's the biggest size of vehicle allowed on the road without being tagged "wide load" and requiring a smaller vehicle with flashing lights leading the way to warn other road users! In fact, the only vehicle which CAN pull this size of caravan is a Land Rover or a Range Rover (Coincidentally, that's what Pete has. But discount the coincidence.) According to Pete, it's the only vehicle which can and is allowed to pull something that weighs nearly twice as much as itself!

Pete's brother has a static caravan, which means it's really like a little house but because it's classed as a caravan, it isnt taxed like a house. The plus point is that it's in a site that has great sea and cliff views all around. It's fully furnished and nothing needs to be set up - it's all ready, all the time, so all it takes for a quick weekend break is a 2-hour drive. The minus point is, the caravan cant be moved anywhere else. They have to go back to the same place every time if they want a break without having to pay hotel costs.

We (and by that I mean Pete), on the other hand, have the hassle of taking our caravan everytime - which means battening down the hatches inside so that doors dont open and things dont fall out, hitching the caravan to the Range Rover, manouevring the caravan+car out of our drive and down our narrow little street to the main road. Once we get to the caravan site, the caravan has to be sited just right as level as possible, then unhitched from the car. The little "legs" underneath have to be let down so that they rest on the ground and stabilise the caravan after it is unhitched from the car. Next, the water barrel has to be filled and connected so that we have running water inside. The waste water barrel also has to be connected so that the grey water has someplace to go as well. Inside, everything needs to be unbattened, as it were, all the knick-knacks put in place on the shelves, the cushions rearranged, etc. That's it, as long as Pete doesnt take it into his head to set up the tent as well - that takes another hour or thereabouts but is usually worth the trouble because it doubles the space available.

To anybody reading this, the caravan might seem like more trouble than it's worth, even if it saves a few hundred pounds on hotel costs. To be honest, sometimes I think it IS too much trouble, but that's because I'm averse to repetitive hard work. Luckily Pete is not like me - nothing is too much trouble and he is tirelessly enthusiastic when it comes to work like that. The nice thing is, he enjoys the setting up business as much as he does pampering me. I do hardly anything when we're caravanning - not the cooking, not the cleaning, nothing. Pete does it all. Me, I just sit back and read, because my contribution to the caravan is books... books that I get at ridiculously cheap prices from the second hand stalls and charity shops. It IS the life.

And the bestest (so let me coin a new word, okay?) part? Our caravan can be taken to different places.

Europe, here we come!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Of names and games

After a really long time, I watched a cricket match yesterday. That sounds like I went to watch a minor local match, but it was the World Cup match between Sri Lanka and England. I wasn’t particularly enthused for a while, because I came home from work mid-way when Sri Lanka was batting and it didn’t seem interesting enough. But Pete decided that he wanted to watch England play as they’d not yet been knocked out of the Cup altogether. My mother was pretty interested as well, so I gave in gracefully to the majority decision (after throwing just the weeniest, teeny tiniest tantrum. I’ll have you know that democracy rules in this house - eventually.)

Anyway, when England was at the stage when the run rate needed to be 7.2 runs an over if they wanted to win, I perked up a little. At last the match was beginning to seem like a one-day international. I did think that Sri Lanka would win, as the English batting was a lot like India’s. Uninspiring. But then that cute-cleft-in-the-chin Ravi Bopara and Dennis Quaid-lookalike Paul Nixon began to whack the ball for 4s and sixers and the match finally got me hooked.

It came to a nail-biting finish where England had to score 3 runs off the very last ball to win. The tension was stretched to twanging point when Dilhara Fernando made the run-up to bowl – and then at the very last moment he didn’t let go of the ball! Talk about an anticlimax. The crowd booed like crazy and I must mention that I went a bit hoarse booing as well. The commentator said Fernando was probably holding the ball so tight that he couldn’t let go – but I cant help thinking that it was really a psychological ploy on Fernando’s part.

Imagine Ravi Bopara’s feelings at that point, when he was keyed up to maximum pitch, expecting the last ball of the final over to be bowled. The fact that the ball WASNT bowled would certainly have thrown his concentration out of gear, even if he looked calm enough.

That was why England lost. Because Fernando, in my humble opinion, cheated. Sri Lanka's win left a bad taste in the mouth because at the very last moment the game went from sportsmanship to gamesmanship. Shame.

By the way, don’t the Sri Lankans have lovely names? First names or surnames, they just roll off the tongue so beautifully and sound so gorgeous: Ranatunga, Sangakkara, Kulasekara, Sanath Jayasuriya, Malinga (although he looks like a poodle gone mad), Tharanga, Dilhara, Chaminda, Hasantha, Lasith - just lovely! Only Bengali names come close to sounding as nice.