Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Kicking the ball looks easy, no?

And it's happening again. Football fever is gripping the country and armchair pundits across the world are disparaging the skills of the players while casually reclining their recliners and munching their favourite fried snacks and beverages.

"Arre that through pass was just too weak"
"Call that a header? Bah, my grandma could've had more power on it"
"clear the ball, Clear The Ball, CLEAR THE BALL you !@$#124"
 "Make the run, cross it to the guy with the blond hair, GOAL GOAL GOAL. See I told you!"

So the long and short of it is that the said person on the recliner is usually me. And AV sometimes comes in bleary eyed after I scream, whacks me one on the head and then disappears again.

So when I got an invitation to play a football match on Sunday morning, I was quite geared up for it. In my mind, I had already made up the position I would play at (a la Pirlo). The strategic mid-fielder who would make the crowds go ooh and ah with his perfectly weighted through passes. I was already dreaming of how my grateful teammates would pick me on their shoulders, tears in their eyes as they solemnly do a lap around the ground in front of waving flags and screaming, adoring (hopefully female) fans.

The reality, unfortunately, was a bit different.

I was able to stay upright for the 60 odd minutes we played. That's it. Nobody raised me on their shoulders. A few people were looking at me and muttering, what I want to believe, were compliments about my skills. I did see the captain surreptitiously (or not so surreptitiously) striking off a name from the list of players for the next match. I have a strong suspicion that it was that blue shirt guy's name, though you never know with captains.

And his handshake at the end of the game was decidedly final.

Ok, ok it wasn't as bad as that. We had a good game, won and everyone seemed to have a good time. There were flashes of competence and a stream of bloopers as would happen for any one who hasn't played for a while

It was good fun, playing after a while. But what I did want to say is that all the skills that look so easy on the screen are anything but. Many times I was trying to pass the ball to someone and it ended up going in a totally different direction, including a heart-stopping time when it went to the other teams main striker. Taking a header on a bounce, the ball would bounce clear over my head, or if it did touch, it was a glancing blow - much like Gerrard's that helped Suarez (Chikki bhaiyya - who taught us quite a bit of soccer and had us run header drills would have been appalled with some of the headers). Even the clearance kicks which look so easy were dropping weakly 6-7 yards away - and usually to the wrong team.

So, to conclude this meandering post - you would perhaps have felt that there is no real conclusion in this post -

"Screaming at screen - easy
Playing football well  - not that easy

Playing football - fun!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Smiling through a Forced Exile

Strange title, eh? Got you interested enough to read, eh?

This is what happens when you abandon someone. Now that none of my regular readers visit the blog everyday to read about my antics, I have been forced to resort to gimmicky titles to get some interest and traffic out here.

Yeah, yeah I know I haven't been writing frequently, but that doesn't  mean you don't spend 3 seconds (or 7 if you type slow) to type in www.swappinglives.blogspot.com in your browser to check what's been happening in my life. Hell, you can also use Ctrl+Enter in case typing the www. and the .com is too much effort!
SO there are two main topics here.

I did something on Saturday that I haven't done for 10 years now. Something that is so devastatingly strange and uncommon that I kind of felt very good about it. Something that was forced, no doubt, but was still very very liberating.

I didn't carry my cellphone. Yes, I walked out and about without the familiar weight of a cellphone in my left pocket.

Wait, actually that's not true. I did go through a small period when I didn't carry my phone in 2007. That was when I had fallen full length into a rainwater drain in Bangalore's torrential rains. Don't remember that? And you call yourselves my  regular readers, hmmpff. Read it here: The Mysterious Incident of the Drain Dive

Coming back to a happier time, this time was a bit strange. I got a call from Vodafone (my service provider) on Thursday (12 June) that some documents need to be re-submitted by the 15th or my phone would be disconnected. Now I normally don't listen to such calls with a lot of concentration. So it didn't register with me. You would normally be correct in concluding (with a snigger) that he must have forgotten about it and woke up to a no-working-phone situation. Except, that's not what happened. Did I forget about it? Yes. Did I have any intentions of submitting the documents? No.Was the service provider justified in disconnecting my phone if the documents were not submitted in 3 days? Yes. Did they wait for the 15th to disconnect? NO, a resounding NO.

They disconnected the phone on Friday, 13th June! Now, I had heard stories of scary things on Friday the 13th, but super-efficiency from the service provider was not one of them.

But this did have a good effect. Not having a phone is mildly therapeutic. Not that it still doesn't keep pinging because of Whatsapp that you get through the wifi networks at home and work, but it's been a while since I just walked out without a device that anyone could reach me with. It was faintly liberating. And I had to hunt for the phone this morning because it had been so unimportant over the weekend that I didn't even know where it was!

The other topic is a little strange and perhaps you'll laugh at my silliness.
"He's a few cards short of a deck"
"As we suspected, he's a little cuckoo"

Yeah, yeah hear me out though.


You're running about getting ready, packing lunches, waiting for the maid and cook to clear out etc. Tell me, who doesn't read those silly articles about how people get up early and meditate and  relax and go through their morning routines with a beatific smile, and make a face and say what bull shit is this. Actually, a very appropriate cartoon strip also came out in today's Bangalore Times.

So you get out of the house and on the road where all the stressed out drivers and riders are trying to cut out a few minutes from their commute and reach office on time so that the rest of the day can be a bit better. By the time you reach work your shoulders are knotted up with stress, you have a scowl plastered to your face and you pretty much know how the rest of the day is going to be like.

I read something a little while back which says that even the act of smiling is a stress buster and can help you calm down.

Baloney, you say. And so did I. How can plastering a grin on your face affect your psyche? Seems like another of those silly authors writing anything to make their timeline.

But I've started trying it on my drive to work. Force a smile and automatically the scowl goes away (try it, you can't hold a scowl on your forehead when you're smiling), things slow down a little and you're more willing to let the bike-guy who almost brushed against your car go by without yelling abuses at him. You reach office more at peace.

I know, I know, Swapnil is getting soft in the head.

But try it. Before you dis it, try it on one commute. I wouldn't be recommending this if I didn't actually like it.

So if you're driving around Bangalore, around 9:30-10 in the morning and you see a rakishly handsome guy with a silly (slightly scary) grin plastered on as he maneuvers his car deftly, don't run away screaming - it's probably just me trying to bust some stress!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Back to a peaceful age...

The other day I was out jogging

(Or wheezing, semi-rolling and finally plopping on my face as some rather imbecile-like observers call it. Yes, I'm talking about you - the one who called the ambulance when I was merely taking a breather on the jogging path by indulging in a little Shavasan)
Anyway, I normally listen to music on my phone while running (wheezing, rolling, plopping). Unfortunately, I have a Windows phone which makes it near impossible to make a decent playlist without connecting to a computer (or even after connecting). Thus, I end up listening to the same songs again and again and again...

So this time I decided to try something else. I switched to the radio and started searching for radio stations that I normally don't listen to while driving.
And I locked into Vividhbharti
And it was so cool. No garish advertisements selling me real estate, or chirpy (screechy?) RJs playing phone pranks on people, or random people trying out tongue twisters to earn prizes.

A Hindi play was running on the station. No background score, just nice mellow voices acting out different characters in the play. The story itself was no great shakes, but just hearing it without a break, with no effort to sell me something was such an enchanting experience.

And that's what's happening elsewhere as well. I find myself gravitating more and more towards listening to the Doordarshan and BBC news, rather than the thousands of channels for which each story is 'breaking' all the time. Same sensational statements repeated again and again with no substance.
I was watching a channel yesterday which said Modi will give out bonuses to BJP workers. 16 times. In 2 minutes. Once every 7.5 seconds. Go figure.

 And the debates! Don't even get me started. If we tried to debate like that in school, we would've been kicked off the stage and probably been made to stand outside class for a while, a long while. Screaming, scratching, drowning out the opponents (enemies?), not interested in what was being said - as long as it was loud enough.
I think it is time for someone to break the clutter with a well thought out program of debate. A show where you just have two participants, a well defined topic and a provision for blocking out one person when the other speaks. Let's just get the actual opinions on the topics with no provision for questioning. 

So in a decade and a half, Vividhbharti and DoorDarshan are making a return to my mindspace. Not for any great quality, but just for peace.

Am I growing old? Or is the cacophony just too much already.