Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A story of TreCC - the Tampere cricket club

In these days of financial gloom and scandals galore, a rewind back to the days of yore where battles in the arena of sport were fought for glory and honour seems mighty refreshing. The saga began when I-- travel worn, weary and slightly overweight from 2 years in Japan-- was taken to the Indoor cricket hall in Hervanta,Tampere by Vinod for a game of cricket. I was handed an overused and odd shaped yellow indoor cricket ball that was well lacquered by Jari Schabel, on one side; I ran in full steam and let the ball fly towards the batsman and probably due to Jari’s generosity with the lacquer and low light in the hall the batsman couldn't sight the curving trajectory of the ball. A few more uncontrollably swingy deliveries later, I was wrongly heralded as the next tearaway fast bowler of the team and selected for Turku Indoor championship tournament of 2005. That TreCC, won its first trophy was mainly due to Usama's breathtaking assault on the opponent bowlers-- nearly every ball he faced disappeared out of the ground!-- and the fact that probably Usama was the only one who was able to see the ball in the dastardly dim and murky lighting of the Turku indoor stadium! Usama proceeded to cart every ball that fell in his reach-- left, right, and center --until all that was left was TreCC's first shiny trophy, and the battered and bruised pride of our opponents.

Now lets move the tape forward to a windy and chilly Saturday in Helsinki, the 9th of September 2006; The stage was set for the finals of FCA's coveted national league trophy. In the past few years TreCC had come close to winning the trophy but never did so, inevitably stumbling in the final stages. The road to the final had been a arduous journey,one traversed with a lot of hard work, practice and determination. Differences were put aside, petty squabbling was frowned upon, and specialization and professionalism emerged in individual contributions as TreCC, under the the able leadership of Sanjoy Dass, marched through the league stages, and a difficult semifinal match, arriving in Helsinki on a cold and overcast day in September. We lost the toss and had to bowl but under the cold conditions our bowlers-- without the tall and lanky Bhupinder who was unfortunately down with a bout of sickness-- had TurkuCC reeling at 5 wickets for 41 runs. Moheb and Lucky hustled the opponents with a quick burst of exceptional bowling that made every ball hiss and spit fire at the batsmen. It seemed that the final would end up being hopelessly one-sided, but Steve Viola of TurkuCC, the Aussie version of Afridi or Shewag, had other plans. Boy!, did he cart us around, with many a ball disappearing into the grey skies above, until Turku reached a respectable score of 205. We couldn’t stem the deluge of hits even though Oba valiantly dived into the path a vicious drive and ended up with a bloody nose.

The chase started badly, Khalid swung and bounced a couple past the bats of the temperamental Kuchey and the talented Oba, and we were reeling at 2 wickets down for 0 runs.I remember the moment very vividly: I was joined at the crease by Mandar and we were overpowered by the weight of the occasion and the expectations of the team. We decided to go for broke and attacked the opposition; 4 overs, 42 runs and 8 boundaries later I parted company with Mandar courtesy of a Khalid specialty that deceived to swing into me but jagged away after hitting the seam. Then Shaan entered the stage; Now Shaan loves two things in life: his beautiful family and the bowling of Espoo. However in this match he took a shine to Khalid and consumed all the outswingers that Khalid could throw at him, thus shielding the rest from the Turku trump card. But Shaan didn't last long and that set the stage for a batting masterclass from the most accomplished pair in the team: The captain Sanjoy and the belligerent Mandar. Mandar, although initially overawed by the immensity of the occasion, was true to his character and continued the assault that was started in the initial overs – standing up on his tippy toes and punching the ball away from his presence, while Sanjoy majestically drove, swept and cut our way down the road to 206. In the end after a small hiccup when Shamim--who had teamed with Lucky so valiantly in the semifinal to save our skins from certain defeat--succumbed to his nerves, a couple of lusty blows from Lucky and Rishi won us the trophy. The relief was palpable because TreCC had flattered to deceive many times in the past.

No story of TreCC will be complete without paying a tribute to the man, who is the heart and soul of the club: One Mr Jari Schabel. He also happens to be the long standing secretary, web designer; organizer and manager; motivator, mentor, and a very able player – when his dodgy knee doesn’t creak too much! Jari is one of the founding members of TreCC and has been around since the game was first played in the dustbowls of Messukylä, the sacred TreCC home ground. He has been there when TreCC agonizingly lost in the semis and the quarters, has held high the trophies that have since been won , and he will be there for TreCC through many more seasons of rain or shine. He is the glue that binds TreCC together, the inspiration that drives the team, and without him there would be no TreCC!

Special thanks to Jari Schabel and http://trecc.co.nr/ for the pics! Click on the pics to view the images in their original dimensions.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Look Ma! I've got the stockhome syndrome

After a prolonged discussion with my better half, Prathiba on whether or not to write about the myriad experiences that i have had during my travels, I decided to overcome the Stockhome syndrome-- and yes! that 'home' ain't no typo!-- and write something about land of the Alfred Nobel and Bjorn Borg. Stockhome syndrome, unlike Stockholm syndrome, is a psychological state in which your emotions are taken hostage by Stockholm, rather than by real or hypothetical captors. As a consequence of this syndrome, you begin to strongly identify with Stockholm (or in case one wants to generalize Scandinavia) as your spiritual, intellectual, and physical home even though, by virtue of origin and upbringing, you are as different from a native Scandinavian as chalk is from cheese. This syndrome makes one unable to evaluate the life and society around these parts, and thus prevents you from posting about the good life as presented by the region.

In order to identify the causes of the syndrome, I will begin by listing out the positive aspects of life in Scandinavia. First of all, Scandinavia is an absolutely gorgeous place to live: It is exceedingly beautiful because the "powers that be", with the whole hearted support of the people, invest a lot of time and resources in keeping it so. All you have to do is to visit any of the cities of the region to investigate the claim's veracity. Next, because the citizens willingly support the administration by paying what many might consider unreasonably high taxes, the government is able to support a peerless social welfare state. That the administration has always had the interests of the taxpayers at heart is evident from the way Sweden solved its financial crisis. There were bailouts alright, but the government-- as Carter Dougherty put it so beautifully in the NY Times -- did extract pounds of flesh from the failed entities, thus holding them responsible for their misdeeds.

Although this idyllic and enchanting of places is seemingly utopian, it does verily exist in broad swathe of the earth and sea between Great Britain and Russia. There are downsides to life that is presented to all and sundry by the welfare state. In its desire to eliminate poverty and create an idealistic society that values above all independence, trust, income equality, gender equality, the welfare state has refused to consider the negative effects of its policies on the society. Some of the glaring unintended consequences of encouraging a dependence on the state are: weakening of social bonds and interpersonal relationships, promotion of mediocrity, quenching of the competitive spirit, etc. However despite all these problems, which the welfare state would do well to mitigate if not totally eradicate, Scandinavia is a place worth surrendering your emotions to. If the values endorsed here fail to captivate you, then the beautiful people and the dreamy and fairy-tale land surely will! -- and make you go: " Look Ma! I've got the Stockhome..."

Special thanks to Hans Thoursie from Sweden for the picture of the stockholm city hall. I live somewhere behind the city hall on the island of kungsholmen! ( Image downloaded from: http://www.sxc.hu)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Raison d'être

Over the centuries, human beings have yearned for a place that they can call home. The emergence of a new staging place for drama of life, the internet -- a place that is very real to some but that is virtual to others -- has led to a new race. A race to build a place that you can call home in the surrealistic realm of the world wide web.

The Raison d'être of this blog is to function as my dwelling place in this alternate of realities: A place where my inspirations, experiences, musings, ramblings, ideas, good times, etc can be shared with others. At the same time, the blog is also an "I was here" carving on the face of the internet; Think of it as a "da vincian chef d'œuvre" to avoid the usually associated connotations of defacement.

In keeping with the poetic tradition,
"May the musae look benevolently on this blog from the heights of Mount Helicon and protect all posted material from nasty comments, copyright infringement, lawsuits etc "

Balaji Raghavan

Special thanks to László Bácsi from Budapest for the wonderful picture. ( Image downloaded from: http://www.sxc.hu)