The Girl Who Once Spelled ‘Once’ as ‘Ones’

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“Hey, do you remember that girl who once spelled ‘once’ and ‘ones’?” the words swam across my head like Michael Phelps on weed.

A minute ago I was in farfarawayland, with my friends, and some movie characters from the flick I watched last night with the song I was listening to before it all went hazy playing in the background. The tune suddenly changed to something that sounded like a rooster laying an egg, which I know is something isn’t possible but if it were to happen it would be pretty darn painful and that’s exactly how the sound of it felt on my ears in all its screeching glory. Maybe someone was pulling a fast one on me. Maybe while I was engrossed listening to the song that I was listening to before it all went hazy and the egg laying rooster started yelping, someone sinister came in and replaced my player with one loaded with Justin Bieber choking the life out of Lady Gaga, who was having steel cage death match with Kid Rock, who had Nickelback cheering for him outside the ring. Whatever it was, I’d figure it out later and when that happens, I’d trace down whoever it was that played a trick as sinister as making me endure an unholy hybrid of Lady-Bieber-Nick-Rock, then I’d knock them over the head with a mongoose bat, which I hear has a really long handle for great swing, and a sweet spot all over the bat so even an agricultural swipe by Harbhajan Singh makes the same sound off the willow as a picture-perfect straight drive by Sachin Tendulkar, which for you non-cricket people out there, is like Michael Buble’s voice coming out of Anu Malik’s voice box. So where was I? Mongoose bat, of course! So I’d horizontally pull the mongoose bat and smash the helpless little skull of whoever it was that made me endure this pastiche of the crème de la crap of Billboard Top-40 and place my foot firmly on their throat; I’d probably wear those 5k worth steel toed CAT boots, which Ive always wanted to wear in a Virar fast for the heck of it, and I’d shove down BT Brinjal Bharta down the evil person’s pie-hole, until they returned my music player, so I could resume listening to that song I was listening to before all went hazy and…you know what happened after that. Then, when I rubbed my eyes and tried to make sense of what was happening, I realized that I was now awake, much to my own vexation, and that my brilliantly thought-out mongoose bat attack would not be required, at least for the time being. With my head less swimmy, I tried to focus once again on what my friend, the MS-Office Spell-Check was trying to say.

“So you remember that girl who once spelled ‘once’ as ‘ones’, right dude?” a clearer voice said.

Of course I remembered the girl who once spelled ‘once’ as ‘ones’, she was the same one thought ‘your’ and ‘you’re’ were interchangeable and ‘hai’ was ‘hi’. The last aberration in particular would grind my gears, because I mean come on, you cant have a greeting as easy to spell and use as ‘Hi’; anything shorter than that would be that kissing sound that the tapori types make to catch the attention of a fellow crony. It never made sense to me how someone could take a greeting as short as ‘Hi’ and still manage to screw it up. I mean if there ever was a place you could add an extra, and have I mentioned unnecessary vowel it’s ‘Eyjafjallajokull’; now there’s a word so screwed up I can’t even say it, and I’m guessing you can’t either without sounding like someone who mistook a bee for a raisin and got his tongue stung, which quite frankly would be quite stupid, but not as stupid as the expression on your contorted face when you try and say ‘Eyjafjallajokull’. But a word as short and simple as ‘Hi’, heck I’d bet both my kidneys that even the guy who thought the bee was a dry-fruit would say it AND spell it correctly, but NO SIR, not the girl who once spelled ‘once’ as ‘ones’. But why the hell was I woken up to talk about her? I hadn’t met her since that time I ran into her in a bookstore, where I sincerely hope she was shopping for the latest unabridged edition of Webster’s.

‘What about the girl who once spelled ‘once’ as ‘ones’? I asked about seven minutes into the call, which isn’t that big a deal in our times of ½ paisa per second.

“Well she’s writing a book! I just read the first chapter of it which she has put for free preview, but it won’t be there too long because soon that e0book will be published on actual paper, printed, bound, the whole she-bang, and people would have to buy it with at least a couple of hundreds of hard earned cash that they’ve earned at dead-end jobs which are dumber than predicting the number of times Abhishek Bacchan will appear on TV with that over-acting peon and item-type secretary.”

My friend could have stopped at ‘She’s writing a book’ but he has a tendency to go on unless reminded to shut up so I forgave him and passed up yet another opportunity to use a mongoose bat for the very purpose it was created; bashing people into submission and then making them eat outrageous amounts of BT Brinjal Bharta. That however would have to wait, because the girl who…well didn’t spell very well, was now writing a book, and much as I think  that Abhishek Bacchan is a cretin, his IDEA commercials about saving paper made more sense than our budding Jane Austen penning a novel. On an off-hand note I also remembered that she once spelled ‘sense’ as ‘sence’ so it’s doubtful she’d make it past the cover of one of Ms. Austen’s most celebrated works, which of course I haven’t read. Speaking of haven’t read though, the dreaded upcoming novel was definitely a case of that. But well, we can’t write someone off you know, like how everyone thought that Kevin Federline couldn’t possibly make a hit rap- album and how he turned around and showed everyone that…oh crap, that didn’t go well at all. This novel was headed straight to hell in an Air India flight headed straight into Eyjafjallajokull’s silica rich volcanic ash that would make its ancient engine cough, sputter, choke and die eventually and crash land in a place with a name so weird it would have upside down punctuation marks instead of vowels and consonants in its name! Imagine trying to ask for directions to ˙¿؛`¿:¡!! But first I had to find out what it was that this novel was all about.

“Well she hasn’t revealed much in the first chapter but from what I see there are going to be some persistent motifs right throughout the novel, like some of the characters will always be white, the others always black, few checkered, others would have the number 17 written on their pockets, while 3 of them would speak only through Billboard Top 40 music lyrics. Oh yes, and the lead guy is a vampire and the lead girl is an anemic, anorexic, emo 35 something”.

That didn’t sound good at all, in fact it almost sounded like that series of novels with the lead guy who was also a vampire and the lead girl who was also an anemic, anorexic, emo and how the vampire dude wants to desperately drink a bloody mary and when he finally drinks it he dies because he’s allergic to tomato juice. That novel went on to become a movie, in fact two, with a third in the offing soon. To give her the benefit of doubt though like any responsible third umpire without enough frames to tell whether the bat was on the line, behind the line or whether this piece had one cricket reference too many would; the black-white-checks idea didn’t sound ripped off from anything I had read or heard of, so maybe our little Arundhati Roy may have just penned something intelligible.

“So how does the story start?” I asked

“Ones upon a time….” Said the voice on the other end before I hung up.

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Farewell Anil Kumble – A Retirement Tribute

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In the weeks leading up to the Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2008, the BCCI (as usual) made a gaffe of gigantic proportions by announcing to the blood thirsty media that ‘Senior players should inform them of their retirement plans so that the BCCI can prepare for an appropriate send-off for them.’ That careless let-up by the richest cricket board in the world nearly ruined what could have been a perfect farewell for the top senior players in the Indian team, who by all means, have earned it.

Within no time the media-hounds were in hot pursuit of everyone from Tendulkar to Kumble enquiring whether there was pressure on them from Board to hang up their boots in a hurry. While most remained mum, one man who characteristically remained reserved in situations such as these snapped back saying ‘I will retire as and when and I want to.’ That man, of course, was Anil Kumble.

In the weeks to come, Kumble’s defiant statement was overshadowed by Saurav Ganguly’s decision to retire from international cricket at the end of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2008, and his subsequent outburst at the outgoing selection committee. Naturally then, when the series commenced all eyes were glued on Saurav Ganguly. Every run he made was cheered, every fifty he hit was built up as a slap in the face of Dilip Vengsarkar and every passing day became a reminder of the gigantic void he would leave behind once he retired.

Around the same time, the senior-hating media, unaware of Kumble’s future plans, heavily criticized his captaincy in the first test and questioned his fitness when he pulled out of the second. The anti-Kumble media protest became the shrillest when he was selected ahead of Harbhajan Singh for the third test match in Delhi, with some caustic yesteryear figures going as far as saying that it would cost India the series.

Unaffected as usual, Kumble went ahead took to the field with his men as they pummelled the Aussies during the first two days piling on a score in excess of 600 runs.

In the Aussie reply when Kumble injured his left hand while attempting a difficult catch, more than a few snickered knowing that he would now be unable to play the final test and his chances of returning to the Test side would be bleaker still with Amit Mishra announcing himself as Kumble’s heir apparent.

As the third test headed for a tame draw on the final day with Ganguly batting on 30-odd runs at ground littered with ‘Farewell Saurav’ hoardings,Kumble surprised the world with a googly, the likes of which he fauxed batsmen all the world over the years. To the world and to the BCCI (with their ‘Retirement Scheme’), the announcement may seem absolutely out of the blue.

But anyone who knows Kumble or understands the man one bit would know that this is exactly how he wanted to go – On his own terms without the maddenning excesses of a BCCI function. Truly his timing was perfect!

When the world questioned whether Kumble would ever return once the finger injury ruled him out of the final Test at Nagpur, Kumble defied all speculation with a bowling spell that was both a testament to his ability as a player and his mental strength as a competitor. With a heavily bandaged left hand, Kumble managed to pick up 3 wickets and wrapped up the Aussie tail, much like in the Caribbean half a decade ago when he came back to bowl even after his jaw was shattered by a Mervyn Dillon bouncer.

Cricket pundits may celebrate his 6-12 in the Hero Cup or his perfect 10-76 at the very ground he announced his retirement today, as his most impressive performances, but to me the two abovementioned instances where Kumble battled both his critics and his own body will remain as the most enduring images of the man.

His retirement may not be conventional, but then again, Kumble never was a conventional player to begin with. The purists called him more of a medium pacer than a spinner but his statistics speak for himself.

Throughout his career, he soldiered on for the cause of team. Rarely was thanked for it. The test captaincy as most agree came half a decade too late but regardless of what ‘could have been’, it’s very likely that Kumble retired today as a man with no regrets.

Amit Mishra’s performance in the first test may show a sign of hope for the future, but there’s no denying the fact that there’s a long long way to go before the void that Jumbo leaves behind will be filled.
Farewell Anil Kumble – And Congratulations for a glorious career!

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