Ranji nostalgia

It was the winter of 1991-92. I had just got introduced to this wonderful game called cricket, and about a month earlier had seen my first ever full one day international (on TV, of course). India had thrashed Australia at Perth. Ravi Shastri had taken 5-15 but still the man of the match award went to Srikkanth who made 60. This was two days after I had turned nine.

India was touring Australia and cricket craze hit me. It hit me so bad I couldn’t have enough of cricket. In a few days’ time I’d pulled out all the newspapers in my house and rummaged through them for cricket scorecards and stories. I remember getting fascinated reading about the England-West Indies series of 1991. And while going through the newspapers I saw that there was a Ranji trophy match on, and it was being broadcast live on radio. Out came my grandfather’s ancient pocket transistor.

The game was being played at Kolar Gold Fields (an ironic choice considering the Cauvery riots were on – the reason I had holidays from school and could indulge in luxuries like listening to Ranji commentary). On the first day, Karnataka had bowled Goa out cheaply, with Anil Kumble (i think) doing most damage. Goa had this left arm spinner in their line-up called Arun Shetty, and on the second day, he was spinning webs around the Karnataka batsmen. He took a 5-for that day, most of them bowled. Only one man was able to resist him. That also happened to be the day Rahul Dravid made his first first-class century.

Karnataka duly won the game by 10 wickets, with Dravid’s 100 being the difference between the teams in the first innings. Karnataka would go on to massacre Kerala and Andhra, while they drew Hyderabad after conceding a large first innings lead. Tamil Nadu were beaten by one wicket, but some silly points system in the Ranji meant that Karnataka, with four wins and a draw didn’t go through while Hyderabad and TN, with three wins each made it to the knockouts.

Unfortunately I don’t think I followed any other Ranji season as closely as that one, until cricinfo came along that is. Forget international matches (India’s tour of Australia, world cup, etc.), I would know the scorecards of most Ranji matches. At the ripe age of ten, I was able to provide insightful commentary on domestic cricket, on Indian team selections, and so forth. Sadly, I would never play the game.

Nowadays occasionally when I’m trying to take a break from work, I pick a random Ranji season from the 1990s and start looking up the scorecards. First the scorecards of all the South Zone matches (remember that Ranji was zonal in those days)., and then the knockouts. I remember that in one of the seasons in the early 90s, there were no draws at all in the knockouts (or maybe there were one or two here and there) – a far cry from nowadays when hardly one innings gets completed. And then I go on to look at the Duleep Trophy scorecards from the season – and these are the most interesting since I’m likely to know more players there.

It’s an awesomely good feeling to find a scorecard of a match that I remember, and I don’t know why but each time this happens I’m reminded of that game at KGF, the first one I followed, when Rahul Dravid made his first first-class century.

Wedding Invitation Prefixes

It seems simplest in Tamil Nadu, where the  girl’s name is prefixed with “Sow” (or “Sou”; for Sowbhagyavathi) while the boy’s name is prefixed with “Chi” (for Chiranjeevi). Considering most Tams have only one initial to their names, this sounds fair.

As we move to Andhra, the boy’s prefix remains “Chi” while the girl’s prefix gets elongated to “Chi Lax Sow”. I guess this is in line with the practice of three or more initials in Andhra.

In Karnataka, where two initials are dominant (at least were dominant in my parents’ generation; though not in mine (for eg. my father decided “Gollahalli” sounded too country to be part of my name so he dropped it and gave me only one initial) ) both boys and girls have two syllable prefixes. Girls get “Chi Sow” (for chiranjeevi sowbhagyavathi i guess). Boys get “Chi Ry” (I have no clue what Ry stands for. Maybe Karnataka boys show a special fondness for rye-based drinks).

Found this pertinent given that this afternoon I journeyed to Sultanpet and bought cards on which we’ll print our wedding invites.

JEE Results

Exactly ten years ago, they used to give a sum total of 3400 ranks for IIT-JEE. Typically, to get an engineering branch at one of the “big 5” IITs you needed to be in the early 2000s or better. Back then, there were ~40 people from Bangalore who made it to the merit list (I’ve forgotten the exact numbers but if I remember right, at least 30 people from Bangalore JOINED some IIT or the other). About 1.2% of all successful candidates back then were from Karnataka (for IIT/JEE purposes Bangalore = Karnataka since there are no other centres in the state).

JEE results for this year came out yesterday. Most of the second page of today’s The New Indian Express is spent in giving footage to people from Bangalore who got a rank. This year, they gave out 13,100 ranks, of which 58 were from Bangalore – 0.5% of all successful candidates. And you have the New Indian Express which puts the headline “City Students crack IIT by the dozen”. Yeah, five dozen out of thirteen kilopeople is worse than three dozen out of three kilopeople. But anyway…

Back in my days, there was one decently established factory and a couple of fledgling factories in Bangalore. The established factory (a small scale industry by national standards) had 100 students, of which over 30 got ranks in the JEE (and about 20 actually joined IIT). Today the same factory has some 500 students. And surely not more than 58 of its students could have cleared the JEE! And then there are several other factories in the city. Don’t know if any of them have done significantly well.

Madness. Sheer madness. I had written about this before.

Postscript: I must admit there is a small bit of hotteuri (stomach burn) at the amount of footage toppers get nowadays. Back then, it was an advertisement by the coaching factory in all major English dailies in the city, and little else.

Postscript2: This post might sound like one old thatha sitting in his armchair and ranting. It is meant to be that way.

Bangalore Book Festival

So today I made my way to Gayatri Vihar in the Palace Grounds to visit the Bangalore Book Festival, on its last day. It was interesting, though a bit crowded (what would you expect on the last day of an exhibition? and that too, when it’s a Sunday?). I didn’t buy much (just picked up two books) given the massive unread pile that lies at home. However, there was much scope for pertinent observations. Like I always do when I have a large number of unrelated pertinent observations, I’ll write this in bullet point form.

  • There were some 200 stalls. Actually, there might have been more. I didn’t keep count, despite the stalls having been numbered. Yeah, you can say that I wasn’t very observant.
  • All the major bookshops in Bangalore barring the multicity ones had set up shop there. I don’t really know what they were doing there. Or were they just trying to capture the market that only buys in fairs? Or did they set up stall there just to advertise themselves?
  • It seems like a lot of shops were trying to use the fair to get rid of inventory they wanted to discard. All they had to do was to stack all of this on one table and put a common price tag (say Rs. 50) on every book in that collection, and it was enough to draw insane crowds
  • One interesting stall at the fair had been set up by pothi.com an online self-publishing company. I’ll probably check them out sometime next year when I might want to publish a blook. Seems like an interesting business model they’ve got. Print on demand!
  • I also met the flipkart.com guys at the fair. Once again, they were there for advertising themselves. Need to check them out sometime. Given the kind of books I buy, I think online is the best place to get long tail stuff.
  • There was an incredibly large number of islamic publishing houses at the fair! And have you guys seen the “want qur an? call 98xxxxxxxx for free copy” hoardings all over the city? Wonder why the Bajrang Dal doesn’t target those
  • There was large vernacular presence at the fair. I remember reading in the papers that there was a quota for Kannada publishers, but there was reasonable presence for other languages also, like Gult, Tam, Mellu, Hindi
  • A large number of stalls were ideology driven. Publishing houses attached to cults had set up stalls, probably to further the cause of their own cult. So there was an ISKCON stall, a Ramakrishna Mutt stall, a Ramana Maharshi stall, etc.
  • Attendance at most of these niche stalls was quite thin, as people mostly crowded the stalls being run by bookstores in order to hunt for bargains. Attendance was also mostly thin at publisher-run stalls, making me wonder why most of these people had bothered to come to the fair at all.
  • I saw one awesomely funny banner at the place. It was by “Dr Partha Bagchi, the world leader in stammering for last 20 years” or some such thing. Was too lazy to pull out my phone and click pic. But it was a masterpiece of a banner
  • Another interesting ideological publisher there was “Leftword books”. Their two sales reps were in kurtas and carrying jholas (ok I made the latter part up). And they were sellling all sorts of left-wing books. Wonder who funds them! And they were also selling posters of Che for 10 bucks each
  • I wonder what impact this fair will have on bookstores in Bangalore in the next few days. Or probably it was mostly the non-regular book buyers who did business at the fair and so the regulars will be back at their favourite shops tomorrow.

I bought two books. Vedam Jaishankar’s Casting A Spell: A history of Karnataka cricket (I got it at Rs. 200, as opposed to a list price of Rs 500) and Ravi Vasudevan’s “Making Meaning in Indian Cinema”.

Work Etc.

There are these days when you wake up and start wondering what the fuck you are upto. You start asking yourself why you are where you are, doing what you are doing. You ask yourself why you are not on that monthlong roadtrip of rural Karnataka, with the hope of maybe producing a shelf of books at the end of it. You ask yourself why you haven’t been doing stuff that you had promised yourself that you would do.

That new guitar has already started rusting, and the left index finger that you had cut the last time you played has long healed. The car mileage grows only in small increments – which approximately represents the distance you go to work. Half the days you cook rice, and mix it with copious quantities of Mother Dairy Dahi, and some pickle that has been sent from home. The other days you go to the same restaurant, sit at the same table and order the same set of items.

You are doing it for the sake of your career, you tell yourself. Career. Tha FUBAR thing. Which you are trying to marginally resurrect and repair by doing what you are doing, and trying to bring back to it some vague sense of recognition. You meet your friends. You hear them shag about their jobs. You hear about all the cool things that they are doing, and about how they are fast moving up the corporate ladder. About how you are a failure in life if you don’t work hard at this stage of life, and if you can’t win the rat race.

You meet friends’ friends. The first thing they ask you is what you do – and you are likely to get judged on that. So you need to make sure that you have a good story to tell about your job, which makes you sound cool. Coming up with formulae to price the movement of sacks of rice is not cool, as I found out. Financial services is usually met with a question asking you to predict the direction of the index. Sales is usually met with “the sun is very hot nowadays, no?”. And IT is met with “are you a Java coder or a C# coder?”.

Occasionally you want to get away from all this. These are the times when you accept that you are doing what you are doing because of the increments it produces in your bank balance. Sometimes you realize that the monthly increments in your bank balance are not enough; and some of those times you console yourself saying that you are doing this in expectation of larger inflows in the future. You consider your job to be an investment – that the dough you are not getting now will get more than compensated for later in your life. 

So when on certain days you wake up and ask yourself why the fuck you are where you are and doing what you are doing, you usually don’t have an answer. In those states of mind, “career”, “development”, “investment”, “corporate” etc. all don’t matter at all. Neither does “net present value of expected future earnings”. Your total costs look inflated. Your benefits look deflated. Every line of thought that runs in your head then tells you that you should go off into the Himalayas. You go to office instead. 

I’ll stop this essay here. In a forthcoming essay I’ll explain about how a job is essentially about costs and benefits, and why they use the word “compensation” to describe your salary. I have occasionally argued in the other direction, but thinking about it again, I think the word “compensation” with reference to salary package does make a lot of sense.