Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Oh! For A Team Worth Cheering For...

What sucks big time about these days is the lack of a sport I can follow with passion and emotional attachment. There used to be cricket once but it no longer gets the adrenalin going as it did once. Before that there used to be basketball and man..wuz i witness to some of the most spirited battles on a basketball court...in sleepy, little trivandrum! Like Rugby, the famous English public school which was the setting for Thomas Hughes classic novel, Tom Brown's Schooldays in which he memorialized several rugby and cricket matches, Loyola has had a basketball tradition dating back to the 60's when the school started and the men who proudly wore the school jersey were immortalized as heroes in the countless tales juniors of all batches would live to tell, of their exploits on the court. I used to be an average player myself but realizing that my slim physique and unwillingness to exert myself phsically wud stand in the way my dreams of becoming a school team member ended prematurely. The first school match I recollect seeing was in 1987 as a 3rd grader and even today I remember the electrifying atmosphere that pervaded our quadrangle as the whole school looked on in amazement as a tall, lanky player named unnikrishnan single-handedly led an amost impossible fightback against sarvodaya. The next few years were equally thrilling with loyola, st.thomas, st.joseph's and sarvodaya producing teams that kept our hearts beating hard till the last whistle.

And then in 1991 loyola produced the dream-team...one year before the americans decided to make theirs for the olympics. The team of Randeep Hari, Eapen T. Joseph, Jayant Shankar, Bimal John and Tojo Eapen wove magic on the court. Eapen played like the ball was glued to his hands...he was unstoppable, randeep was fast and dangerous, bimal must have shot more 3-pointers than any loyolite...he seldom missed, tall tojo was the center...inside the circle a tojo in possesion of the ball was a sure basket while jayant was an all-rounder and then there was our cheering...opposing teams wud always complain that our lung-power scared their players and upset their rhythm.With slogans like "Whisky Brandy Soda Pop we want loyola on the top" and "V-I-C-T-O-R-Y...that is Loyola's Battle Cry" and many more which i forget now and some borrowed ones like "veer bahadur ladke kaun...loyola loyola" and a 500 young spirits with their achillean lungs, baying for blood with dustbins stolen from the classrooms to be used as drums...we were one fierce band of brothers! I still remember how 50 of us shouted down the whole of St.Thomas at the finals of the St.Thomas Trophy and though we lost that year we still proudly sang our School Anthem and walked away with our sworn enemy giving us a grudging ovation! After Eapen, '93 produced Vipin K. Varkey who though never succeeded in winning the Loyola Cup during his time and even breaking down in tears for not having lived up to his illustrious predecessors, but had the last laugh...he heroically scored a last-second 3 pointer to win the first St.Thomas Cup. Vipin's bad luck continued the next year with another of my school heroes...the late Vivek Rajendran, an all-rounder in everything he did as he failed in winning back the Loyola Cup but beat the same men to the 1st Arya Cup. In '94 we had a team that symbolised what makes basketball such an effective team sport...Akhilesh, Anil, Arun, Bejoy, Vivek and Karthik were a coach's dream with their selfless game and team spirit. They didnt have even a single player who cud turn the tide of the match but as a team of 5 their strength was their coordination...they had a tight defence and superb passing skills and with such strong basics they brought the Cup back to Loyola.

And then came our time...1995-97. We had a great team in Shenoi, Aravind, Mahesh, Mathew and Agil. Sheni was a superb dribbler, KP(mahesh) was a fighter and though short at 5'6" cud leap into the air and stay there for ages, ara was a good shooter and quick on his feet while ichayan(mathew) had the best defense loyola ever saw and ammavan(agil) was a very graceful player. Man to man we cud be termed as next only to the legendary team of 91-92 but we were up against a school whose basketballing prowess was at its peak...St.Josephs with several state players and hours and hours of practise to boast. Despite a spirited effort from our boys and frenzied, desperate cheering from our quadrangle steps we were bested. i still remember the score...57-52. Can never forget the teary-eyed faces as we headed for our excursion where we ironically had hoped to celebrate this victory!We won the St. Thomas trophy that year and the next but were trounced for the loyola cup in 96..the only one that mattered for our boys. and finally we were in the 12th...aravind and agil were no longer in the team, faheem, the 6'2" junior from 10th, came in as the center, harish was the new feeder...we were the seniors...and we still had the loyola cup to bag to be counted among the hallowed batches our great school had produced.

Even 30 years hence I will never forget that day...when we squared off against our same old enemy, St.Joseph's and boy what a match it was. As the seniors we led the cheering... at half-time we were trailing and if i remember rite two of our key players sheni and kp had developed cramps..yet bravely overcome the pain barrier and continued. Then ichayan too fell to cramps and he too shrugged away the agony and fought...we egged on our team lustily with noble leading the wolf-pack(he aptly picked up the nickname powerhouse for his enormous chestpower), prayed from the bottom of our hearts for a miracle and our boys rose up to the challenge. They took the fight right to the enemy,shook of their fatigue and fortune finally favored our braves...and a kid we always disparaged became the unlikely hero...harish haridas, two years our junior cooly dribbled the ball upto the opposition court took aim and realeased the ball to score a 3-pointer. That must have been the longest few seconds in all our short lives...and when the ball sailed smoothly into the basket our boys erupted in joy and happiness. For the first time in the match we had taken a lead and with only less than a minute left then for the whistle, the St.Josephian fightback got nipped in the bud as we scored another basket.If i remember rite the final scorecard read 52-49 but wht i can never forget is our invasion into the court to lift up our players and everyone falling to the floor in the melee and i remember gasping frantically for breath b4 somebody yanked me out of the mess. We all cried that day...it was one of the most memorable victories ever...there remained little else we needed to do to be a much talked about set of guys by future batches of loyolites...when sheni lifted the trophy we thought we had kept alive one of loyola's long-standing sporting traditions...but sadly the school never won the loyola cup since 1997...cricket did its share of damage to our school too as the stamina and skill needed for basketball ensured it found few takers henceforth...hope a day comes when loyolites can cheer for their baskeball team with the same fury and spirt that remains among some of the best memories that school life produced.

Today the guys who played the game in front of us with such splendor must be looking back at their deeds with pride and satisfaction...as for me I have always wondered why my voice goes hoarse if I give one loud shout but why that never happened while being in the midst of a match amongst my schoolmates...it must have something to do with the passion and spirit of the young days. Its been a tough two weeks at work...and it looked as though I wouldnt blog anytime soon as I virtually crashed into bed as soon as i got home. Until I feel fresh enough to write about things that require thought and insight, writing about the best years of our life...the school and college days looks like an attractive proposition. Whatever happens, i know for sure blogging is irrevocably a part of me now.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

My Mallu Heroes...

Well dont blame me if you thought this wuz goin to be abt the famed movie actors of our land. On the contrary I have been wondering how many of us even know about the great men who towered over one of the most picturesque landscapes on Mother Earth. Its not our fault though...the icse cbse syllabuses have conveniently ignored kerala in our history textbooks. I suspect the sslc syllabus wont pass muster either. I wont claim that all the men I list below to be good or great but their personalities, exploits and contributions to Kerala have made me feel we have a history inferior to none else. Factually I may be wrong at many places here, maybe I have gotten a little carried over, but this is how i wud like to view these great men...and no big historian can change that. I read that because our local historians cannot agree on the actual facts behind incidents in our history(they are even aligned as leftists and liberals!!) a comprehensive and thorough book on the history of kerala has never been able to come out without getting discredited!!!

Marthanda Varma - The greatest of all the Travancore kings. His desperate struggle to save his life - even hiding in the hollow of the ammachi plaavu which stands even today at neyyattinkara in tvm district, raising an army to fight the travancore nobles, defeating and killing them one by one before claiming the throne, his crushing defeat of the Dutch East India Company in 1741 effectively ending their influence in Kerala and further conquest to the North firmly entreched his lengend in the annals of Kerala History. Never defeated in battle this king ruled with an iron fist but was just and said to be a humble man.

Pazhassi Raja - Another brave king who resisted the British suzerainity of North Kerala. Refusing to pay the high taxes demanded he was isolated by the other princely states who feared the british, lost his kingdom in battle, retreated to the forests of wayanad from where he waged a fierce guerilla-style war against the British defeating them several times until he and his band of warriors mainly adivasis were cornered and he was gunned down in battle. With him ended the story of the resistance in Malabar.

Kunhali Marakkar - This legendary admiral of the Zamorin fought the Portugese in several pitched battles on sea and land. He succeeded in weakening their hold over the seas from where they could interrupt our flourishing trade of spices after winning several battles but the cunning parangis succeded in splitting his alliance with the Zamorin following which he is supposed to have been captured, taken to Goa, tortured, cut in sevral pieces and his head brought for display at Kannur.

Velu Thambi Dalawa - This prime minister of Travancore got fed up by the constant interferences of the East Endia Company into his kingdom's internal affairs and in 1807 he issued the famous Kundara Declaration which called the ppl to rise in revolt against the British. The people whole-heartedly joined him but the sheer size and numbers of the British Army made it a less than fair fight. The king eager to safeguard his throne declared Velu Thambi a traitor and the proud and loyal Dalawa committed suicide and his family members exiled to Maldives. For an interesting read on one of Velu Thambi's generals visit

Sree Narayana Guru - Without doubt was among the most saintly, influential and revered religious leaders in India. After Shankaracharya, centuries of a decadent and casteist hinduism found renewed vigor and renaissance with his arrival. His teachings led to opening up of temple doors for all hindus. I strongly believe that if not for the reforms, the guru's teachings triggered kerala would have been like the other parts of India like Bihar and UP! Definitely read this article on rediff and see wht Tagore and Gandhi thought abt him.

Varghese - Well I am sure this one is a shocker. My admiration for him is beyond reason, i know. He wuz a communist who became demoralised with their pseudo-concern for the poor and so affected was he by the exploitation and abuse of the adivasis and poor of Wayanad that he came to believe only a violent mass uprising would bring in a better society. He collected together a band of idealistic men and women like him and attacked police stations and cruel landlords. Their intentions may have been right but the methods they used alienated them from the public. But for the adivasis and the poor of wayanad he led...he was a saviour, reminding them of Pazhassi Raja who fought with them 2 centuries back and today he is acknowledged as the Che Guevera of Kerala. He wuz young, so committed to his beliefs and ultimately became a martyr for a cause (he knew wuz doomed from the outset...yet he tried). For the story of his death go to http://www.rediff.com/news/1998/nov/13keral1.htm

P.S -The drought there is making wayanad a hotbed of PWG activities...these terrorists will exploit sentiments to chart out their anti-india naxal corridor stretching from nepal, bihar, jharkand, orissa, AP and now even karnataka...its a pity if the paradise that wayanad is will have to burn again.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Shock...and Awe

May 6th - 2:30pm Well I keyed this post in a few days back....wuz abt to post it then but backed out as my dad or friends or family werent revealed the contents of this post.So didnt change wht i wrote but just added to it.

May 2nd - 11:00 pm Let me start by saying this isnt gonna be happy. When you hear the words...."We are sorry to let you know that your job offer has been terminated"....it feels like the defeat of the man in u. a few hours earlier i had been given my paycheque for last weeks work and the design for my project had been approved. The punchline left me groggy...i stumbled to my feet, cleared my desk out, collected another check for my day's work from the seemingly distressed CEO and walked out. After a few mins I realized I had forgotten to ask the all important question my friends who I later confided in made...the REASON. Realizing it served no purpose I hesitantly drove back home. The co-workers were unfriendly and I didnt like the job...but all my friends had made me promise to stick on there thru thick and thin....and that had come unstuck My mom and sis triumphantly announced they had ordered a couple of beds to put to end our tharayil kedappu... which I had begun to get used to and even enjoy when I meekly broke the news out...What followed was a staring contest between three ghastly pale faces refusing to back down.

Thankfully little wuz spoken that day and my two partners-in-tragedy, mithun and viswan succeeded in injecting a fresh dose of optimism. viswan even took the pains to relate a story of how big kites take time to find their bearings while small kites take-off fast but can never fly as high. I was actually laughing away hearing that. And at pappanabhan's house, along with his 5 mallu roomies we were coming up non-stop with all the funny moments malayalam cinema has thrown up in tragic scenes. At my first company, SMS.ac they wud always say..."a setback is an opportunity that hides behind a veneer of challenges". i havent had setbacks ever in life...so i had laughed that away then. Three jobs that took me nowhere and utterly homesick the magic of god's grace shone the very next day on. i got interviews for two wonderful opportunities and maybe there cud be more coming up...not even by my applying...but by ppl seeing my resume posted on monster. I dont know whats in store but its still not time to give up...think i can stomach a few more ambushes. Interestingly I am abt to apply for a teaching job at the Los Angeles Unified School District and my pals are betting my anthyam at the hands of some deranged kid. Anyways wht made me happy thru this incident is that i understood one thing i have always heard and read and seen ppl coming out of tragedies say....that their faith in God will see them through...although this cant be termed a tragedy but giving consideration to my happy-go-lucky life so far... i sort of sense HIS presence in the wry smile i am still being able to force out and the strength that emanates from the moral support and cheer mummy(as i rite this i see her absorbed in making gulab jamuns for me...well i am an object of deep envy among my us-based friends) , jisha and my friends infect me with.

May 6th - 2:30pm ....A few minutes back I got a job offer from Universal Music Group, a 6 month contract-to-hire job...finally a fading dream of working in a big company materialised. The office is in the heart of Hollwyood at Universal Studios and they share headquarters with NBC and Universal Pictures. My interview got over only a couple of hours back. It wuz pretty intense and lasted a couple of hours. I was subjected to programming, database and psychometric questions. It wuz a touch-and-go affair. Anyways I am not getting heady...i am going to work hard...i learnt some bitter-sweet lessons, albeit the hard way. This is definitely god's handiwork...they were trying to fill the position for months...if i had got fired even a day later things wud have been different...i wudnt even have picked up the call from the recruiter which came on tuesday thinking why do i need to go thru hassles of interviewing again. Today is a big day in my family. My sister's birthday and my parents wedding anniversary falls on May 6th. Well hope this day becomes a turning point in my sloppy american life. Trust me, my friends.... the promise of a better day makes the hard times worth living for.