Sunday, October 21, 2012

My Sri Lankan odyssey - it's about the people

This is an extension to my previous post about my Sri Lankan odyssey. I think over the two weeks that I was in Sri Lanka, I was an abysmal tourist; I didn’t go sight-seeing one single day in Colombo, didn’t stretch my feet out in the sand at the beach – watching the sun go down – like I pictured myself before I headed there, didn’t really explore the historic semblance of the capital, didn’t do too much of shopping; nothing! I have no idea how time flew while I was there. What I did however, was tour Kandy, TWICE! (Ridiculous, I know!)

The driver who was guiding a friend and me along was giving us some good insight into the history of Kandy and Sri Lanka. Following are some random facts he happened to mention:
  • ·    Lord Mountbatten had established an elaborate headquarter in Kandy from where he operated for    quite some time.
  • ·         Kandy was also called ‘God’s paddyfield’.
  • ·         The oldest fire engine in Asia the G10 10 is in Kandy.
  • ·         Marco Polo said, ‘Sri Lanka is the window to the world.’
  • ·         Clove and pepper grow naturally in Sri Lanka because of the abundance of laterite soil.

I visited a tea plantation and was taken through the entire process of tea being manufactured; right from the plucking stage till the packing of tea powder. That was quite interesting. I particularly found the sorting really cool. For those interested, the stages in tea manufacturing are: plucking and collection, withering, rolling, fermentation, tea drying, fibre extraction, sorting (according to the leaf sizes), tea tasting and packing. The Broken Orange Pekoe is the most preferred tea that is made. Apparently, the finer the tea powder, the stronger is the flavour. 

I also went to a botanical garden which was absolutely beautiful and full of florae, but, we didn’t do much there, but walk for hours. The spice garden was passable; there were a few things I knew like Aloe Vera being good for the skin, otherwise I felt like a complete idiot. I also visited the Temple of the Tooth Relic, which was as beautiful, but quite similar to a lot of temples in India. I attended Kandy’s cultural show where we saw 9 different kinds of traditional Sri Lankan folk dances: Pooja dance, Panteru Natum, Cobra Dance, Mask Dance, Mayura Wannama, Raban Dance, Ves Dance and the Fire Dance, followed by some fire walking. I’ve always wondered how people walk on burning coal. Even after having watched it live, I have absolutely no clue. Insanity!

But the place I absolutely loved in Kandy was the Pallekele stadium. When I think of the stadium, the memory of me walking along the boundary line with the World T20 theme song playing comes to my mind. It was brilliant. However, I don’t have such fond memories at the Premadasa in Colombo – which is a shame.
Before I headed out, I wanted to visit the Ministry of Crab in Colombo, but couldn’t. The only place that I did visit which was in my list of must-visits was the Cricket Club Café in Colombo. I loved the memorabilia there from different periods in time. Someday in the future, I’d love to own a café like that. The food is great, so is the ambience; a must-visit when in Colombo. But like I said earlier, I was a terrible visitor and I have to go back to Sri Lanka someday in the future to visit the places I missed out on this time around.

What I did manage to do on my trip to Sri Lanka is however, meet some amazing people! There are way too many people who have contributed in their own way to make this trip very special for me, but a few made it one that would always be very close to my heart. Here are those few: Farhan – my fellow blogger – without whom my experience in Colombo wouldn’t have been half of what it has been; a great friend, my partner in crime, and a heaps of fun; John – who babysat me through my entire journey and took care of everything under the sun; Rob – who showed me how the commentary box functions, for the hilarious conversations we had over the two weeks, and who patiently kept up with me when we toured Kandy all day; Jamie – who was great fun to hang out with, apart from all the help he was in Kandy; Alan – for being one of the finest people I have ever met and having reinforced the belief that modesty is a fine quality; Christy – for that brilliant conversation over dinner one evening and giving me an insight into presenting; Gav – for his wonderful insight into direction and broadcast; Simon – for his amazing sense of humour, his interview and his legendary tip-off; Russel – for his fantastic interview along with the ‘best advice I’d ever receive’ and also for that fun-filled lunch with some fantastic people; KB – for being absolutely adorable and heaps of fun to watch the games with; Joe and John – for being wild and SO MUCH of fun and to know how to party; and lastly, Henry – who has been an amazing friend since and keeps the Sri Lankan dream alive!  I’m just really grateful to have met all of them and spent as much time as I did with them. It was an absolute pleasure and wouldn’t have been the same without any one of them. Thank you!

It is about the people at the end of the day, isn’t it? I did some crazy shit, made some great friends, heard new stories, understood different perspectives and smiled a lot more than all of that. That’s what made it all worth it. I’m just so glad I got such an opportunity that has been life-changing on various levels. It is one thing to believe in the magic of your dreams and another to live them… I’m on my way there.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

My Sri Lankan odyssey

February 2012

When I was in Bangalore for work, I receive a phone call from Meghana (my sister) who says, “Kits, let’s go to Sri Lanka in September for the WorldT20. We can go meet the Aussies, watch all the games and won’t it be really cool that we’re traveling to watch cricket?” Of course, it would be great to watch cricket in another country and watch the WorldT20 in a country that I’ve always been keen on visiting – Sri Lanka! But, the idea was crazy, and I brushed it aside.

Fast Forward to September 2012

I landed in Colombo around 11 but in my head, I was still in India. My phone gave way and I couldn’t use it to call someone who was supposed to receive me at the airport. I got out of the airport to find a phone and in the process was greeted by a jeering bunch of yobs. It still felt like I was in India. Frantically, I babbled away to a security guard asking him for a public telephone that I could make an international call with in HINDI! He stared at me, quite clueless, while I kept explaining my problem. He finally said, “Madam, English, please?” I then realized I was not in India. I had made an absolute fool of myself. That was how my Sri Lankan odyssey began.

I was headed to Kandy where I would be covering the games between England, West Indies, the home team Sri Lanka and New Zealand. We drove down from Colombo to Kandy which took us about 4 hours. Kandy, in contrast to Colombo was lush green; I hadn’t been surrounded by that much of greenery in a long time. We headed straight to the Pallekele stadium to attend England’s training session. The stadium is beautiful and quite different from the ones in India. I have always loved the concept of a lawn-seating-arrangement at stadiums; Pallekele had it.

Kandy was great; the cricket was even better – close games, super overs, Gangnam style dancing and a fantastic atmosphere. I got to witness – in the three days of cricket – what Sri Lankan fervour for the game is. The atmosphere at the grounds was wild; around-the-clock music (through both games), an array of colours in the stands, whacky outfits, maniacal fans and great entertainment. Not to forget, the Sri Lankans, who are extremely amicable and helpful people, who would often even go out of their way to make you feel at home - it was as good as it gets.

Not one day did I actually watch a complete game in Kandy; instead, I was witnessing the genius of various systems in operation. I visited the commentary box, the broadcast and media centers  the ICC office, the hospitality areas, player-dressing rooms, the third umpires lair, watched games from adjacent to the player dug-outs and learned heaps. I learned the different dimensions of organization and the meticulousness of detail required in planning and execution of a tournament of such magnitude.

Over the course of my stay in Sri Lanka, I met quite a few people – current and former cricketers, commentators, producers, directors, etc. I made new friends, socialized with people in and around the industry, people associated with the management and others. I was humbled by the self-effacing bearing and realized that by the end of the day, they want to and some even live like any one of us. We all came from different countries, different upbringing, have different opinions, but we shared the same love for the sport.

I met cricketers and quite a few of them; some of who are very different from the image they portray on the field and some, conflicting. My premeditated opinions about certain cricketers were proved wrong, while strengthened about a few. I wrote about things I never knew existed and pried into the unknown.  I was out of my comfort zone with nobody but a bunch of strangers; I loved it. I then was convinced - for me - meeting new people is an exciting endeavour. Everybody has a story which is different from mine and I loved knowing them. Sometimes I found similarities in the most forlorn places and thought to myself, ’hmm..maybe not so different after all.’ Everyone has dreams, ambitions, despairs and struggles; the only difference lies in the level of perseverance which ultimately is the difference in the outcome. I learned that through the tête-à-têtes I had with all these different people I met.

They usually say that you should only dream the possible, but who defines the possible? We do. I can vouch – not for the first time – that you make your dreams come true if you want them enough. Someone I met on this trip said to me one evening, ‘Sometimes in life you get experiences that make you sit and be thankful and smile.” This was one such experience for me for which I am grateful to MoneyGram; it has been life-changing. Thank you!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Knockin' on heaven's door: My voyage to Ladakh

It wasn’t the first time in my life that I’ve felt ‘small’, but this time, the enormity of the surroundings made me feel minuscule – almost like I was insignificant. And perhaps I was; after all, who is bigger than Mother Nature herself? I believe the ideal time to take a holiday is when you’re in a state of confusion or in the need of rediscovering yourself. It could result in two things: One, you come back refreshed, sorted and all set to take on anything that comes your way, or two, you have discovered yourself to an extent that you outdo yourself. Either way, it works for you.

When I had visited Andaman in October, the boundlessness of the ocean bowled me over. At that stage, I was exasperated with work and needed a break desperately and it came in the best form possible. The negativity gushed out of my system by the mere force of the waves that hit me and I saw a new perspective. Things changed, outlook restored, inspiration returned and I was good to go.

This time however, it was another aspect altogether. Having lived by myself in Bangalore, the year had been a wave – with ups and downs at regular intervals. Perhaps a little introspection was essential – not of the situations, but of myself. I had wanted to visit the Himalayas another time since my last trip up there for various reasons, but having already been to Srinagar and around, this time I wanted to visit the other feature – Ladakh. On learning of the various attractions it comprised of, it was too enticing a proposition to let go.

With the assistance of Rohan – my crony, we had a rough sketch of our blueprint in place and we were going with his friends. I was going on this holiday that I had been wanting to forever with a bunch of people who were acquaintances: that was the first challenge for me. Unversed situations are a test of character and how you fare in those is a fair judgment of character.

When we headed out of Delhi, we knew we were in for a long journey ahead – one of 630 miles. Although we did encounter some roadblocks to begin with, we passed them unscathed. When we reached Manali, the snow-clad mountains amongst all the greenery was a sight – but we didn’t know at that point how much we’d crave for foliage soon. The route from Manali to Leh is desolate: either we would encounter periods of snowfall or winding barren lands. We’d drive from one white mountain to a stretch of barren land, akin to a desert, and onto another colossal barren mountain amidst the biting cold. We are trifling when compared to the real things in life – for one; we can never be greater than nature herself. Initially the journey was great and fun too, but eventually it started taking its toll on us – the winding roads and varying altitudes induced queasiness and headaches.

Individually, I was overwhelmed by the sheer size of the gargantuan mountains. Bounded by ranges of barren mountains shielded by snow-clad ones at higher altitudes, beneath a crystal-clear blue sky on an isolated path with nobody but us, was a sight I’d never forget. It was gorgeous. It occurred to me then, that we [humans] can change the world and mould it the way we like, the one thing we can’t come close to doing is recreating anything as perfect to nature. It is flawless.

Leh, the city, is just like Srinagar – surrounded by beautiful mountains – the only difference being, the absence of greens. We headed to Stok Palace, Khardung-La (the world’s highest motorable pass), Pangong Lake and went white-water rafting. But, Pangong Tso, as it is called, was what I was most excited to visit and it did not disappoint.

The quaintness of the first glimpse of the lake was prodigious – the water was a striking blue! The moment I stood facing the waters there, I estimated this is what people brand as utopia. The different shades of blue that the water reflected made me feel like the water was adulterated with blue dye, but disproportionately. The water was so clear that the pebbles beneath shone like coloured diamonds in the upbeat sunbeams. The mountains surrounding the waters were pretty mustard that complemented the blues perfectly: that was the closest to perfection that I had ever been. The experience of witnessing that spectacle made all the effort worth it.

What summed up the entire trip was the river-rafting, paragliding along with river-crossing that we undertook and with that, I not just accomplished I had set out to at the outset, but much more. I made new friends, I had overcome inhibitions, conquered fears, evidenced toughness and adapted to defying conditions. That was victory, and the sole purpose of undertaking this trip.

What seemed like a tough cookie to crack at first, by the end was one of the most fulfilling journeys I had undertaken with a brilliant set of people who I got better acquainted with, without whom in hindsight, it wouldn't have been the same.

I found hope in an inspirational place.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

My seraph's gospel

He said this to me today and I think it was exactly what I needed:

“Do what the **** you want in life, you live only once. Don’t try and please anyone – be yourself. Don’t care about what anybody thinks of you or what they have to say about your decisions, it’s your life and you live only the way you want to live; everybody and everything else is secondary. Don’t listen to the echoes of opinions; listen to the echoes from within.

Never ever try to make anybody happy – that’s what I’ve learned after all these ******* years. I’ve learnt trying to please someone at your expense is unfair, never mind right. If you are unhappy, how will you ever make anybody happy? You live based on who you think you are – why should you think of others before making your own life’s choices? People are stupid, they think they know everything, they will give you 100 reasons not to do something you like; very few will push you to do what you want. I want you to be happy. How can you be happy? By precisely doing the things you want.

Happiness is basically inside us, we decide how to project our happiness. Don’t try to make anybody happy. Why should you? What for? Heaven is here, be happy here. Who knows where the hell, hell is? Live for today – be happy today… who knows about tomorrow and who cares? If you are happy today, you are making the most of your time here. Nobody here is permanent, all that matters is your time here. Laugh as much as you can, there’s no time for sadness. There’s no time and point in living someone else’s life. Be yourself, make the most of what you have, love yourself, be happy and do all you want. Don’t hold grudges, don’t hate; love, love with all your heart. Don’t think black – there’s too much darkness in the world today anyway; brighten your life with happiness and that’s what I want for you.”

I have angels in my life... angels who make sure I am me by the end of each day. I am truly blessed.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Trapped in the dogma of my morality

I had a very bizarre dream last night – I dreamt someone I have developed abhorrence towards over the years, had passed away. Folks of the deceased were sitting across the table and I had nothing to say to them; no words of condolence, no comfort to offer, nothing. She was telling me he was no more and I was as indifferent, as indifferent as I would’ve been if someone told me that the store down the road had shut down. I was staring at her with no feeling whatsoever. I’m not quite sure if I would’ve been that apathetic in reality, but I’m pretty sure I would’ve reacted.

It made me ponder over my relationship with the person in reality; I have my differences with him, but had he gone so far and done so much in building in me such a strong dislike towards him? Perhaps he has. Doesn’t the past that we have had account for anything? Perhaps not. Isn’t there any room for forgiving him? I’m not sure. Can I forget the pain that my loved ones felt? Never.

Sometimes, you want to be the matured one and let go off the grudges you hold, but the more that you want to let them go, the scars that they have left disturb you; they haunt you enough to give you sleepless nights, to make you feel you have been duped, to make you prove that your relationship meant nothing in the first place or it wouldn’t have happened. I believe in my side of the story and I am certain that I’m being rational enough in adjudging the situation to have come to the conclusion. But, is that indifference justified?

How do I free myself from the dogma of my morality?

Monday, March 12, 2012

These are a few of my favorite things

It’s been quite some time since my last post. I have numerous drafts saved that I have started but failed to complete. Writing needs inspiration; I probably didn’t find that to complete any of my previous posts. But today, I was watching my unparalleled favourite movie – The Sound of Music (of course you know what that is, isn’t it? If not, you must get down to watching it right away). In the musical, the track – ‘Raindrops on Roses’ involves a mention of a few of *Maria’s favourite things and the aforementioned are the little things in life, like, whiskers on kittens.
Coincidentally, a couple of people I know today seemed to be a tad dismayed for various reasons and inspired by the track, I told them that they should tell me a few of their favourite things and that we’d go alternately. While I was thinking of what to say to them, I found a new part of me. By the end of our conversation of favourite things, one of them felt much better and the other forgot that she was upset in the first place. Maybe everyone should try finding out what is it that they really like – these little things go beyond materialistic luxuries and pleasure; all of a sudden all those things don’t even matter to you. You’ve discovered a different side of you that needs nothing, but that can feel so much more than you usually do.
I’ll list a few of my favourite things that I thought about today that make me boundlessly happy – very random, but that’s how they’re supposed to be.
The smell of first rain when it touches the ground
A squirrel nibbling at something
 The sound of children’s laughter – just so pure and untainted
Counting stars on a star studded night
Watching Dolphins leap
Unkempt hair
The sound of waves crashing against rocks
Dew drops on grass early in the morning
Vegetables growing in my own backyard – especially tomatoes and chillies
The smell of strawberry
Watching birds flying in a flock
Long drives in the monsoons
Sunrays creeping in through a breach in the window
Dogs’ paw print
A trickling stream across
A clear blue sky
Spotting a sign that I've asked for
Conversations with myself

There are so many more that I can think of but I’ll be giving away too much then. I hope everyone can make their list of little things that make them happy. The happiness derived from these are tenfold than we probably would feel otherwise.

*Maria is the protagonist of the movie.