Movie Review – Warrior

Warrior (2011)

Warrior (2011)

Warrior is a powerful movie. In fact it is so moving that it woke up the writer’s block in me and made me write this review of a movie in more than an year.

I had been wanting to watch this movie since it’s release a couple of years back. However, every time I made up my mind to watch it on DVD, I got turned off by the movie poster. I began to think of it to be yet another boxing movie with the same old story with the happy ending which you often see in the sports drama genre. On finally putting this movie in my laptop tray on a lonely Sunday afternoon, I found that the sport they show in it is not at all boxing but something called ‘mixed martial arts’. As the movie slowly progressed further, I found out that it isn’t even about mixed martial arts. In fact the sport is just a backdrop for an intense drama about two estranged brothers, their relationship with their father (which is not good), and their relationship with each other (which is worse).

It’s a story about two brothers: Tommy and Brendan. Brendan has a loving family, a beautiful house, great job as a teacher and his students love him. On the other hand his younger brother Tommy has only won in the ring so far in his life. Everywhere else he has been beaten to pulp. His family has been torn apart by his father, he watched his mother die, watched his close mates in the marines  getting killed in friendly fire. He has been helpless in every situation that has arisen in his life. When he was called as a war hero for saving some marines from drowning during Iraq 2003 he isn’t pleased at all. The story about their father is equally worse. He left his family in shambles. His alcoholism and and abuse destroyed his family and left him to live alone.

Both the lead actors of the movie are non-Americans in an American setting. Tom Hardy playing Tommy is an Englishman and his brother Brendan in the film is played by Joel Edgerton who is an Aussie. I think ‘Warrior’ showcases the best of Tom Hardy so far. He has built on the fame he received for his performance in Inception in 2010 and has gone a step ahead with this production. His face is not full of determination to win and he is not full of hatred. On the contrary, he’s determined to lose and is full of pain. His expressions during the fight scenes were pretty realistic. I have never seen Joel Edgerton act before and I must say that he did a fantastic job switching between multiple roles- from being a family man to being a school teacher to being a fighter all in one movie. That’s an accomplishment! The American out of the trio – the father – Nick Nolte got an Academy Award nomination for his acting in the film. Throughout the film he remains on the back foot for being the most hated person. His character is sad, lonely, in deep regret, and is hated for what he once had been. Both the brothers despise him for what he did to them in their past. We do see him as a changed man in the end. A man finally seeing a ray of contentment in life.

The  movie works on to the parallels of family drama and the raw fights and slowly builds into a pressure cooker of emotions which burst in the climax. It’s not a happy ending and it’s not even a sad ending. It’s more of a satisfying ending.

Before I close this review, a special mention for one of my favorite rock band – The National for the two of the most brilliant compositions by them: ‘Start A War’ at the start of the movie from their album ‘Boxer’ and ‘About Today’ composed for the film which fits right into the mood of the movie during the climax. My hats off to them for the little beauties.

You might shed more than a tear or two in the end.

5/5

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My Tryst with the Indian Railways – Part 1

This is a small diary on the trains I have travelled in in the last 4 months

12230 – Lucknow Mail

From: Ghaziabad Jn

To: Lucknow Charbagh

Class: 3 AC

Travel Time: 7 hours & 55 min for 466 kms (Avg Speed: 58 km/hr)

I boarded the Lucknow Mail from Ghaziabad Jn. The train arrived on platform number 3 as opposed to number 4 written on the electronic board as well as on indiarailinfo.com. It stopped for close to around 5-7 min on the station as opposed to its scheduled 2 min stoppage. The train has close to around 11 AC coaches. It is one of the most popular trains to travel on between New Delhi and Lucknow. My travel experience was okay. I was given the upper berth. Climbing up to my berth was very uncomfortable as the handle was missing and the curtain rod was fixed too low. My head banged on to the rod and I scratched my elbow in the process of getting onto my berth. Even the berth was bit ripped off where my feet rested on the berth. The train has good speed and reached Lucknow on time.

12215 – Delhi Sarai Rohilla – Bandra Terminus Garib Rath Express

From: Gurgaon

To: Ahmedabad Jn

Class: 3 AC

Travel Time: 15 hours & 26 min for 926 kms (Avg Speed: 60 km/hr)

I wanted to head home Ahmedabad from my office in Gurgaon. I didn’t want to travel all the way to New Delhi to catch a train for that. I had only one option at morning and it was the Garib Rath express. This was my first journey in a Garib Rath. Garib Raths have only 3 AC class and they have the notorious side middle berth in the coaches. The cabin was more crowded than your average 3 AC coach because of the extra berth. However, if you’re willing to travel almost Rs 400 cheaper than the average 3 AC ticket at superfast speed, then I think you can pass the overcrowded cabin. Just make sure you don’t bring too much luggage. The speed of the train was really impressive. It got almost an hour late between Ajmer Jn and Falna, however it recovered quickly and reached Ahmedabad 10 min before time at 01:10 instead of 01:20. The coaches were new and they were passable on cleanliness. The food was okay. The train has the distinction of being the fastest train between Ahmedabad and Borivali covering the distance in 5 hours and 50 mins, a fact that many people are unaware of. The Shatabdi takes 6 hours& 20 min, the Double Decker takes 6 hours & 15 min.

12958 – Swarna Jayanti Rajdhani Express

From: Gurgaon

To: Ahmedabad Jn

Class: First Class

Travel Time: 12 hours & 40 min for 903 kms (Avg Speed: 71 km/hr)

Swarna Jayanti Rajdhani Express is the only train apart from the Ashram Express where I have travelled in all of its classes. Once I travelled between Gurgaon & Ahmedabad in the First Class in June 2013. That was the first time the train got a stoppage at Gurgaon for experimental basis for a period of 6 months. One thing that I liked about the First Class apart from the comfortable upper birth was the food! I loved it! It was served like we do at home in plates and a guy from the pantry comes in rounds and serves different kinds of dishes. You keep taking the helpings till you’re full! I loved the variety of dishes that were served – 2 dry vegetable subzi, one paneer gravy, 2 different daals, rice, raita, salad and ice cream (from what I can recall). They lay out a table for each person in the cabin and you eat your food on it. It’s just perfect. I liked sleeping on the wide and comfortable berth as well. The breakfast was once again a tasty affair with corn flakes n’milk, poha, bread & butter and cutlets with three different varieties of fruit juices up for grabs! Once again eat it to your full! I generally travel in the 2 AC class which is almost equally comfortable sans the awesome food!

In my view, the Rajdhani can be easily speeded up. It is currently giving an average speed of 68. The train reaches Rewari Jn early and because of this stops there for 10-15 min and in the process reaches Gurgaon 5-10 min late. This has happened thrice.

12724 – Andhra Pradesh Express

From: Bhopal Jn

To: Secunderabad Jn

Class: 3 AC

Travel Time: 15 hours & 45 min for 963 kms

We caught the A.P Express from Bhopal Jn at 03:30 at night. Reaching the railway station at that hour was an adventure in itself with one of my friends dropping the two of us at 3 am at night on a triply! The ride from the hotel to the station (a good 7 kms) was a memorable one!

The train reached 30 min late. Our tickets were actually booked for sleeper however we wanted to travel in A.C. We positioned ourselves near the 3 AC coaches and as soon as the train arrived we caught hold of the TT and asked him whether he could find us two empty berths in the coach. Luckily we got the berths however we didn’t knew whether we had the difference amount with us in cash. I quickly calculated the price of the seats from what I had remember and made the estimations.  We boarded the train and jumped on the berths. The TT came and we quickly paid him the difference amount (there is a separate sheet with the TT in order to process the class conversion). We dozed off.

The train is really a superfast. It is the second fastest train between New Delhi and Secunderabad. The entire journey was comfortabl. The average speed between Bhopal and Secunderabad is bit low compared to its speed on other corridors. This is primarily because of the hilly terrain between Bhopal & Betul. The speed of the train is restricted in this corridor.

12721 – Dakshin Express

From: Secunderabad Jn

To: Bhopal Habibganj

Class: SL

Travel Time: 17 hours & 29 min for 957 kms (Avg Speed: 54 km/hr)

A trip made on short notice. We travelled to Bhopal to attend my friend’s engagement with the fiance himself! Due to the paucity of time we could not secure a ticket in the AC and instead got a seat in the sleeper. Now I had not travelled in a sleeper in a long journey (more than 5 hrs in duration) in many years before this trip. The train was nice and fast but it has too many stoppages coming along its course which increases the travel time considerably. At morning I was surprised to find that there were people sitting on the birth on which I was sleeping! We spent most of the day time standing on the door & enjoying the beautiful scenery created by the rains and the lovely hills through which our train passed on entering Madhya Pradesh. The entire route felt like travelling on a route made up of a mix of Konkan Railways and the Kalka – Shimla Rail route! It was mind blowing! The weather was on our side during the trip!!

12429 – Bangalore – Hazrat Nizamuddin Rajdhani Express

From: Secunderabad Jn

To: Delhi Hazrat Nizamuddin

Class: 2 AC

Travel Time: 22 hours for 1658 kms (Avg: 75 km/hr)

The best thing about the ride in this train was that the train was reaching each and every station throughout the course of the journey atleast 30 mins early. It even reached Hazrat Nizamuddin almost 25 minutes early to our surprise. The food was passable. The chicken curry tasted like maggi noodles, the same was true for the “shahi paneer” in dinner. The service given by the attendants was terrible. They missed something or the other everytime while serving food and would need to be asked for the missing item 5-6 times. Despite being banned and specifically mentioned in the sheet, the attendants were asking for tip despite their poor service. One thing that I do not like about the new LHB coaches is that the windows are not tinted. This not only exposes the passengers to scorching sunlight during the day time but also dents the privacy when the train is stopped at the stations as the people peep into the cabin through the clear windows. Once you enter Madhya Pradesh the terrain changes dramatically and you’re greeted by lovely hills. During the rains it feels as if you’re travelling up to a hill station. Absolutely stunning views!

12915 – Ashram Express

From: Ahmedabad Jn

To: Gurgaon

Class: First Class

Travel Time: 14 hrs & 36 min for 907 kms (Avg Speed: 62 km/hr)

I have travelled in Ashram Express plenty of times in my childhood. I remember hopping onto this beast of a train whenever we were going to Delhi to meet my grand parents. Getting a ticket on this train during the summers is next to impossible. In this particular journey from Ahmedabad to Gurgaon I travelled in its First Class making it the only train (till I did the same with the Rajdhani) where I have travelled in its every class – First AC, 2 AC, 3 AC and SL. I boarded the train from Ahmedabad and found that I had gotten the coupe. A coupe is  a cabin which is occupied by only 2 persons. It had everything – tables for meals, a wall clock, posters on Incredible India, an intercom and a digital display showing whether a particular toilet has been accompanied or not (first time for me on the Indian Railways). The entire journey was one of the most comfortable journeys I have ever embarked upon. If only they served food in this train…;)

[UP East] 17th September (B’day) – Nawabgarh & Beeghapur

I visited the following two towns :

1. Nawabgarh:

Nawabgarh is situated 45 kms from Lucknow on the NH 25. It is located right in the middle of Lucknow and Kanpur. It’s population is less than 1,00,000. The highway leading up to the town is smooth. The town has one main road which has small shops on both the sides of the road.

2. Beeghapur:

Beeghapur comes under Unnao district. It is located 20 kms from Unnao bypass on the highway. The road leading to the town is well laid out and the scenery is beautiful. When you take the left turn on the bypass to enter the approach road, you are greeted by a stretch of almost 4-5 kms where you’re riding under a roof made by the trees on both the side of the road touching each other on the top. There are a couple of dilapidated structures on the left hand side of the road consisting of old school buildings, other than this there are just fields throughout the stretch till Beeghapur. A town called Achalpur comes in between. The town starts and ends on the same road with very small shops selling anything from electrical items to sweets, samosas, tailors, repair shops etc. Beeghapur is a very small town having a single road branching out into residential areas and the shops. There must be around 4-5 small electronic counters in the city selling anything from fans to sewing machines to small home appliances, electrical shops, stationary etc.

Rural U.P is beautiful. It is carpeted with lush green fields, tall trees on both the sides of the road, a canal or two running across the fields.

My Views – Operation Blue Star: The True Story by Lt.Gen K.S Brar


Despite being a Punjabi, over the years I have come to realize that all my time living in and around Gujarat has made me ignorant about the developments that have taken place in the state in the last few decades. I don’t know whether it was appropriate for me to start my readings about the major events that have taken place in the state of Punjab in the past through this book. I got increasingly curious about Operation Blue Star from the tales narrated by my mum about her own experiences of the whole situation back in the early 80s. Yes, the tensions were rising in the 70s which finally led to what many of us has come to agree upon as ‘the aggression of the Indian army’ upon one of the most sacred places of worship for the Sikh on Earth. Many of the Sikhs worldwide call the operation as a blot on the face of their history – the Golden Temple getting desecrated by none other than the protector of the people – the army resulting into countless lives being lost.

Now, this book has been written by a person who ‘led’ the campaign into the temple. Naturally, majority of the people especially the Sikhs declared it as a one sided piece of work. It narrated the events from the angle of the author, which is that of the army. Before talking in detail about the operation, the author gives a brief history of the events that took place before the first week of June 1984 which ultimately led to the execution of this military action to provide a better understanding of the whole scenario. He talks about how the government could have acted upon the criminal activities of Bhindranwaala and his associates (especially the cases where a high ranking Police official was gunned down outside the Golden Temple, the assassination of Lala Jagat Narain and many other killing that took place on his orders) earlier which would have ultimately avoided this operation from happening. What amazes me the most is, in the first place, why did the Golden Temple authorities allow the members of Team Bhindranwala to fortify the temple and store large number of weapons inside the temple premises? Why didn’t none of the pilgrims and the priests object to this militarization of the temple? Why were the people so quick to label the army as the aggressor and not those who first violated the sanctity of the temple by virtually turning it into a militant hideout complete with bunkers and constructed barriers (which even disfigured many parts of the temple structure) armed to the teeth, ready to enter into a war with anybody who objected to their actions? If we as the people of India can answer these questions satisfactorily only then can we label the Indian army as the aggressor. For if the development before the start of the operation leading unto it as described in the book and in many different sources be labelled as true, then I think I’m with the army in the flushing out of these people from the temple. It had to be done. It’s really disheartening to read on the internet how many have labelled the sacrifices of the army men involved in the operation as   and not that of laying down the lives for the protection of people against the real villain.

The procrastination on the part of the government did us all in. It could have been more pro-active by nipping the problem in the bud itself – by taking Bhindranwale into custody when all the clues related to the murders and atrocities being committed by him and his men were leading towards them. I don’t think people would have objected it as much then. Whatever the people might think about the incident, this book gives a first person view of the entire operation. Right from the planning and the implementation of the operation the entire events have been laid out before the readers in detail. A must read for anybody interested in the topic.

Book Review – ‘Out of My Comfort Zone’

The Australian cricketer Steve Waugh started his career as a bowler who could also bat at the lower middle order. Contrary to the ‘stone cold’ image in the public, he often struggled with his mind doubting his own capabilities in the game.  He battled through his negative thoughts in his career to emerge out as one of the greatest cricketers of all time and also one of the most successful Australian batsman and captain.

The first time I held this book in my hands it sent goosebumps down my body. I could feel this enormous (800 pages) strong volume breathing of life in my hands just like a horcrux would do. The book is so carefully crafted right from the outer cover to the magnificently easy to comprehend language and the pictures taken out of Steve’s personal tour albums throughout the world. It had a very distinct personal touch to it, the kind which establishes a direct contact between the reader and the legend himself. ‘Out of My Comfort Zone’ chronicles the life of Steve Waugh right from his childhood till the last test he played, ending with a chapter by his wife Lynette. The book starts off with an ‘explosive’ foreword written by batting maestro Rahul Dravid, followed by one written by Steve’s friend Tim May. It takes you through his childhood, the formative years of his cricketing career, the breakthrough, the two decades of Aussie cricket, his struggles with himself, his long struggles with the Australian cricketing body, his view about different countries, sledging, the different events in the cricketing world which took place during his career, his philosophies about life in general and most importantly you’ll get to witness first hand from Waugh himself – the transformation of the Australian cricket team which was in disarray in the middle of the 80s (before the world cup) under the leadership of Allan Border to becoming the best cricketing side in the early 2000s under his own leadership.. The entire book was peppered with happenings from his personal life (marriage, kids etc).

Many people in India have criticized this book for being too harsh in his comments about the living conditions and the poverty of the country. I believe he gave an honest picture of the country. Imagine a young guy who lived his entire life in a highly developed country like Australia coming out and playing in a developing country like India. He’ll definitely witness massive changes in his surroundings and this is what he has portrayed in the book. He doesn’t criticize the country, he just gives a first hand account of what the country looked like to him when he stayed there for the first few times. And I believe most of us Indians would agree with his views. It’s just that we’re either too embarrassed to accept it or we’re too ignorant about the realities of our country. On the brighter side, reading about his work for Udayan in Kolkata was very heart touching.

I really enjoyed reading this book. The detailed tour analysis and the tid-bits (the other side of the cricket away from the field) taken out of the countless tour diaries maintained by Steve Waugh throughout his career makes this book which dwarfs the Oxford dictionary in size an engaging read. It’ll give a cricket enthusiast a word by word ‘visual’ of almost 20 years of pure Australian cricket. A must read!

Book Review – The Motorcycle Diaries

One mention of Guevara’s name evokes images of “revolution”, “rebellion”, “guerilla warfare”, “youth”, and “communism”. But don’t expect your imagination of these images to be depicted in words in this book. I first came to know about ‘The Motorcycle Diaries’ when I watched Brazilian director Walter Salles’ dramatization of the book with the same name featuring acclaimed Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal and his Argentine co-actor Rodrigo De la Serna. I was driven to watch the movie when I first listened to its beautifully composed soundtrack ‘Apertura’ by Gustavo Santaolalla on one of my friend’s music system. Although he had been listening to this soundtrack since quite sometime, he had no idea about the movie!
As the title of the book suggests, the text is actually translated out of the tour diary of Ernesto Guevara’s journey through the Latin America of the early 50s with his friend Alberto. It narrates a youthful adventure of the young men. Ernesto was a medical student back then in Argentina & his friend was a bio-chemist. The trip was partly on a large run down bike and partly through hitch hiking across the vast and diverse South American continent.

Not delving further into the details of the book, I must say that it’s more of a travel diary. If you have even been ‘wee’ bit curious about South America- its culture, its people, the food, the drinks, the nature, the description of ancient ruins/temples, the hardships of travelling on a limited budget with limited planning, the “human” side of people and the youth and the learning phase of Che Guevara then grab a copy of this book and relish it with all you can. The language is pretty simple and you’ll glide through the pages once you form an image of the descriptions written by Guevara. The things he witnessed in this tour was what made Guevara what he is famous for as it helped him gain a greater understanding of the problems faced by the people on his continent. It brought him closer to the Latin people.

All in all I really enjoyed reading this book. The book is better than the movie as the narration is more detailed. There are some events that were glorified in the movie to make it an important part of the plot. However, watch the movie for its amazing visuals and some good acting!

The review on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/558888571

Into the Wild: Satkosia Tiger Reserve

With just one more month to go at XIMB and job offers in our drawers, we undertook an adventure into the wild. This account written by me narrate our adventure at the Satkosia Tiger Reserve.

Day 0:

We were planning to leave for the journey on the 26th as it was a holiday and the 27th was a Sunday. But thankfully we didn’t get any reservations for the weekend because of the holiday rush. I’ll explain the “thankfully” part a bit later in this account. At 3 pm I got a text message from Shreyas that we’ll be leaving tomorrow morning and he asked me to check out for trains leaving Bhubaneswar to Angul at morning. Angul is a tiny industrial city located 120 kms from Bhubaneswar. We had planned to visit the Satkosia Tiger Reserve located around 60 kms from Angul. Of all the trains that left at morning, we finally narrowed down on the Bhubaneswar-Bolangir Intercity Exp which leaves Bhubaneswar at 06:45 am. Shreyas went to make the draft for the reservation. I played tennis for an hour or so at evening, came back and finished my packing, had dinner and dozed off early by XIMB standards at 11 pm as we had to wake up early at 5 am the next morning.

Day 1:

I woke up and was surprised to see my corridor buzzing with fellow mates & music! There was some party going on and many of our folks were awake at that moment. I went to Vaibhav’s room to check whether he was up and I found him to be in all his humor. Kshitij and Shreyas were also up. I quickly took bath and readied my bags by 05:25. The first glitch in our trip was that we didn’t had any camera with us. The one guy to whom we had asked for camera forgot to charge it and later took it away from us telling that he was leaving home that day. The only camera that was left with us was Shreyas’s 3.2 megaPixel! I went up to the 5th floor to check out on Kshitij and found that the party was going on there at Chachu’s room! There were like 8 people enjoying the early morning with music! Sonam who was also there at the party got up seeing me and told me that she was coming with us to Angul. The party broke up and all of us walked down the stairs to leave the hostel.

We reached the railway station at 06:15 and to our shock found a long queue outside the ticket booking window. Only 25 min were left for us to book our tickets. We went to the other ticket window on the 4th platform and if it wasn’t for Sonam, we probably couldn’t have gotten the tickets for the train. The train was almost full and we managed to squeeze into the little space in the first coach of the train just after the engine. Vaibhav and Shreyas climbed up to the upper berth whilst Kshitij, I and Sonam sat at the lower berth. As soon as the train started moving, Vaibhav & Kshitij dozed off. Shreyas got into a meditative state. Later in the ride I found out that none of them had slept for more than 2 hours that night save me. That explained the early morning blues! After watching all the sleepy faces I dozed off too besides Sonam and kept waking up periodically just to check where we had reached. It took the train a little more than 2 hours to cover the 120 kms journey to Angul.

We reached Angul at exact 09:00 hrs. With bags at our back, we kick started the adventure by crossing the railway lines and getting out of the railway station. Outside the station we spent the next 15 minutes haggling with the auto rickshaw drivers. Defeated by the reluctant drivers, we finally took one and got to Sonam’s place. Sonam had planned to surprise her family by not informing them before about her arrival. At Sonam’s place we met her mother and her little brother, had some sweets and rushed out to the tourism office. We couldn’t stay longer at her place as we were in a hurry as we had to submit the draft and get to Tikarpada on time. Tikarpada is one of the spots of the Satkosia Tiger Reserve. On reaching the tourism dept’s office we found it to be closed. We called the person with whom we were communicating about the reservations from XIMB and got him there at the office in 15 min. It took us nearly 30-40 min to wait for the person to come, submit the draft and inquire about the mode of transportation to our spot. We found that the last bus of the morning had already left at 09:00. The only option we had was to either wait for the 3 pm bus or to take the ‘tempo’ direct to Tikarpada. Taking the tempo was bit expensive. But, with no option left at our disposal and doing a 60 km journey solo in a tempo sounding tempting, we jumped on it after bringing the fare down to Rs 600 from Rs 700. We just had to pay Rs 25 more for the registration.

Having eaten little since morning, we had our tempo stopped near the edge of the city and got ourselves loaded on some samosas and vadas with tea. We also got a couple of pieces of what I would call a large chunk of jalebi like sweet. The tempo ride was a trip in itself. We swiftly moved from the streets of Angul to the fields on both the sides of the road to the emergence of mountains in the background to forests on one side of the road and fields on the other to mountains on one side of the road and a mix of trees and green lands on the other. The ride was smooth throughout despite being a roller coaster in the countryside. The beauty of the landscape, the groggy eyes, the anticipation of new surroundings and the chatter was how I would sum up the tempo ride to Tikarpada.

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On reaching our spot we caught hold of Bharat who will be acting as our guide for the remainder of the trip. We got to know about Bharat from our friends who had been here at the Reserve only a few days back. Bharat showed to us our tents. Kshitij and Vaibhav took one tent, Shreyas and I took the other one. There were two beds inside each tent, a small side table placed on which were mineral water bottles and a few cakes of soap. There was a second small room at the back of each tent probably for changing clothes. Behind every tent there was a bamboo structure containing the toilets. We kept our bags in our tents and freshened up a bit. We then had lunch. The cafeteria was open on all sides and had the Mahanadi in the background giving it a totally wild look. We were served rice with vegetables, daal and egg curry in lunch. We had tea made up on the chullah together with our lunch.

With bags in our tents and food in our stomach we started our trek with a dip in the river Mahanadi. Carrying our towels and spare clothes, we trudged towards the banks of the river.  The terrain was rough thanks to the rocks of all size and shapes. We were a bit sceptical about stepping into the river. At one end there was a threat of a crocodile gobbling us up and on the other there were sharp objects on the river bed which was making it difficult to walk into the water. Waves of electric shock passed into our body as we stepped into the icy river waters. One dip in the water was all that was needed to recharge our body. The drowsiness of the travels and the limited sleep totally vanished from our body and we were like free once again. Kshitij, Shreyas and I became a little more adventurous after the dip and swam towards the deeper part of the river. We planned to make a sharp cut back towards the shore after swimming for a while. We made it back easily in the first try. Though my hand hit one huge rock which was invisible over the surface of the water. Kshitij’s foot got pierced by a sharp object which was lying on the bed and therefore the second time Shreyas and I did the swim. Shreyas went for the dive and I followed him. I made a mistake of swimming freestyle. Freestyle was a mistake because my speed is slower than usual and I got caught up in the currents. I didn’t realize that fact and I was slowly floating away from our decided course. I panicked a bit. I caught hold of Shreyas’s hands who himself climbed up a boulder. To me the river gave a fake impression of a still water body from outside. However, inside it was moving slowly but surely towards the sea. This incident made me realize the hidden powers of a river which my mum used to tell us!

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From Left: Kshitij, Shreyas, Mudit (the author!) and Vaibhav Pandey

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From Left: Kshitij, Vaibhav and the author

We were now refreshed for the trek that awaited us. We tagged along with Bharat who took us for a long trek alongside the river. Coming from an arid part of the country (Ahmedabad) Orissa for me has been a heaven. The landscape of the state is tempting. The flat green lands end unto the greener mountains which appear to have risen out of nowhere. The mountains are not too tall and not too short. They’re of just the size which makes them feel accessible and at the same time not becoming too intimidating. The Tikarpada landscape was a mix of green fields, river, the white delta, green mountains, a blue sky with a mischievous shade of white and yellow.  After almost an hour of walking we were at the banks of the river once again. This time the banks were guarded by boulders. Our troupe gave in to the beautiful views of this spot and spent the next hour lying down on the rocks relaxing. Vaibhav and Kshitij slipped into a peaceful slumber. Shreyas engaged our guide Bharat in a chat and I explored the scenery and took pictures of it.

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Relaxing and enjoying the beautiful scenery at our favourite spot!

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After spending sometime at the spot which instantly became our favourite  we decided to get back to our camp as it had started becoming dark. The colour of the sky turned into deep indigo as the sun went down the horizon. The yellowish-white tinged sky now gave into the night sky illuminated by the soft white light of the moon which was straight on top of our heads. The new colour of the landscape and the running river along side our trek all these reminded me of the landscapes I used to imagine during my primary school English lessons. I don’t know why but it brought me closer to the classics like Malgudi Days and others which I used to read when I was a kid. This long walk back to the camp was the most exciting part of the day for me. We were walking alongside the river. We could see the loaded boats of the fishermen sailing through the dark waters of the Mahanadi. We had heard of the gruesome incidents of ferries capsizing in the waters of this mighty river drowning hundreds of people just a few hours ago. All those horror stories didn’t perturb us one bit as we walked on and on with Bharat leading us from the front. It didn’t get pitch dark thanks to the moon above. Still, as we had to cross a lot of wild vegetation I switched on the in-built torch of my cellphone. We had not only forgotten to take a camera with us but also didn’t bring any torch with us. This is funny because just a couple of months back I used to carry my torch everywhere even when on campus at night. But when carrying it really became a necessity, it was not there for me. It had gotten rusted and had stopped functioning all thanks to the water that I had spilled on to it which went unnoticed. While walking I felt an urge to listen to some classic Hindi songs which Vaibhav promptly turned on to on his cellphone. Surprisingly, the lyrics of the song he had turned on were matching with the moments we were experiencing…

On reaching our camp, we first went to the cafeteria to get something to eat. We ordered a couple of plates of pakodas with tea. Kshitij and I, the two non-vegetarians in our group had a plate of chicken pakodas. By some divine intervention it came to our notice that we can get beer here at the camp! Thinking that we’re all set for the night, we got bottles of beer ordered to our camp. Shreyas accompanied Bharat and got some snacks to go with the drink. After finishing the pakodas and freshening ourselves up for the night, the four of us got the chairs together around the table outside one of our tent. We opened our beer bottles along with the bags of chips and nuts and enjoyed the night. Sometime later Bharat and one of the guys brought us our firewood. We had our dinner (it was chicken this time) and when we got back to our tents we found that the wood had already been lit up. We pushed the chairs towards the fire, sat there and enjoyed the night listening to the nature and watching the wood blow up in curtains of smoke into the dotted sky. Tired of the travel and the treks we retired to our beds early by 23:30.

Day 2:

The cosiness of the quilt was making it difficult for me to get out of my bed. I had woken up 30 min ago but wasn’t able to step out of my bed. Shreyas and Vaibhav were up. We had initially planned to go out for a boat ride through the course of the river at 6 in the morning. But when I woke up it was already 07:30. Kshitij was still sleeping, Vaibhav was brushing his teeth and Shreyas had probably gone to the toilet. We quickly got ready and reached the cafeteria. As it was too early for breakfast we had to settle for some tea and biscuits.

Boating in Mahanadi is officially banned for the tourists at Satkosia. Only the fishing and the government boats are allowed in the waters. The ban was enforced only recently when a ferry full of people capsized in the waters. Nevertheless, watching crocodiles sun bathe at morning was what we wanted to see before biting into our breakfast that morning. And we had asked our boatman to do those honors! We reached the banks of the river and there she was sitting pretty on the surface of the water, apparently carved out of one log of tree – the fisherman’s boat which would be our pre-accident Titanic of the trip. The day before while swimming in the river we had seen a beautiful ferry docked not far from our spot. The four of us instantly fell in love with that piece of wood and enquired whether we could lay our hands on that boat the next morning. We found that it was actually a government property meant to ferry the officials and their families across the rivers.

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The Boat!

So, one by one we started stepping onto our boat. Kshitij sat on the tip of the boat. Vaibhav & Shreyas sat in the middle together. Now came my turn. Standing at 5’11 and weighing almost 80 kgs I was the tallest and athletically built of the five (incl the boatman). So, as soon as I stepped onto the boat it wobbled furiously. It was now sure that the fate of the five persons on board that fishing boat resided on my bum movements that morning. I was the person who was balancing the boat! The initial few minutes of the journey were threatening. The boat was swinging wildly from left to right. A fear was growing amongst us that the boat might overturn as we weren’t able to get the right balance. The thought of becoming the breakfast for the crocs that morning was turning real. Vaibhav was also increasingly becoming concerned about the whole plan of watching the crocodiles and all in such a situation. He was the only person on that boat who did’n’t know how to swim. Mindful of our fears, the boatman decided to row the boat closer to the shores. We abandoned the plan of saying hello to the crocodiles and instead took our boat to our favourite spot where we had been the last evening. I took my headphones out for the first time in the trip and got lost in the music which was blending perfectly with the scenery. The fear of the boat capsizing into the river was instantly zapped.

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We reached our spot where our boatman showed to us the natural caves in which fishermen of the area rest many times when they’re out fishing in this part of the river. We walked for a while towards the other direction from our spot which we hadn’t been to the last evening. While returning back to our boat, the boatman pointed towards the other side of the river. There, sitting on the white silt was a crocodile! We could clearly see it from our point. The crocodile vanished later on when a fisherman stopped on that bank and his kid stepped out of the boat. Our return journey in the boat was much smoother. We were no longer scared of falling in the water save for one incident that involved me. While stepping on the boat I had forgotten to remove the jacket which I had tied to my waist. I had one of my foot on the boat and the other one on the shore. Didn’t realizing this I untied my jacket sending the boat in a tizzy! This scared the shit out of my friends! 😀

Back home, we went to the cafeteria for our breakfast. We were served aloo – puri in our meal. Now aloo-puri is the last thing which I would eat on Earth. I hate aloo-puri! And this hatred goes back to my school days when once during my lunch I puked after eating aloo-puri and since then I rarely ever touch this meal. Grudgingly, I ate some puris. I knew that I’ll need energy when we’ll be going for the trek to the waterfalls sometime later. After the breakfast Shreyas and I went to the shops to load ourselves with some snacks and toffees for the trek. Vaibhav & Kshitij went to the tents to pack things up as our check out time of 11 am was approaching. We packed our luggage and kept it in an enclosed luggage space near the cafeteria. The last night we thought of stopping here for another night. They were giving us a discount of Rs 800 if all four of us chose to stay in only one tent. We were tempted to accept the offer but then we found that we wont have much left to see. We had covered most of the spots that was to see. Also, we found that both Saturday & Sunday were completely booked. We were lucky we came here on Friday. There were just two more people apart from us four there at Satkosia. This gave us the freedom to explore things on our own. Had there been more people there we probably wouldn’t have enjoyed the sounds of the nature as we did being alone there.

At the market centre I saw an unfurled Indian flag which reminded us of the fact that it was the Republic Day!

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We set out for one final trek. This time we were in the search for the great waterfall of which we had heard a lot last night. We left at around 12:30. We had snacks, toffees, towels and spare clothes for we had planned to take one final dip near the waterfalls itself. This last trek would become a rather long one. We walked through the Crocodile Research Centre, the government quarters (guest houses) and then finally into the forbidden forests (Core Area). The Core Area was prohibited for the tourists to enter by law. While walking into the jungle, we came across a tree house overlooking the river. We climbed onto it to look at the view of the river from there. The tree house must have been closed for the passers-by too as the entrance to the top was blocked by a log of wood. We walked and walked until we finally reached what we thought was the course of the ‘waterfall’!

The Treehouse

The Treehouse

When we reached the waterfalls we were disappointed as we had expected something big. We were carrying clothes and towels with us as we had planned to take a dip in the reservoir. Instead we found a very tiny little stream running down in drops from somewhere up the top. We stepped on the stones and jumped over the water to reach the jungles above. Our trek turned into an elephant trail when we found elephant foot marks and fresh dung. Our guide led us very quietly towards the upper reaches of the jungles where he thought the elephant was hiding from us. The whole episode of standing quietly for the elephant to make a move was enthralling! Shreyas and Kshitij went to check out the elephant hiding spot more closely whereas I and Vaibhav stood near the ‘falls’ guarding our luggage and checking out the photographs we had taken during the trip.

The 'Waterfall'

The ‘Waterfall’

We couldn’t find the elephant so we headed back to the path through which we had entered the forests. While returning to the camp we found a huge crocodile cooling himself off on one of the delta’s nearer to our path. Bharat our guide took us as near to him as possible. We crawled through wild vegetations and bushes, slipped in the sand, rustled through the leaves and  finally reached the closest possible spot to the crocodile. Shreyas tried making videos of the creature. Vaibhav was taking pictures atop the banks when while climbing down towards us he made some rustling noise with his feet which scared the croc. He quickly splashed into the river. We were thankful to Bharat for helping us see a crocodile so closely in his own natural habitat. Unfortunately for us, despite walking more than 20 kms in the treks in total, the only wild creature we could see in the forests was the crocodile. We didn’t even cross one snake. But all in all we had a really good time in the jungles. We walked and walked and nobody of us four ever complained about anything. The closest we came was in that boat. Though we had a genuine concern while cancelling the plan to sail closer to the crocodiles. We returned back and found our tempo was already there and was ready to take us to Angul. We asked him to stop for 15 more minutes. In that time we rushed to the banks of Mahanadi and made one final dip into the cool waters. We held each other’s hands, took a deep breathe and jumped inside the waters. Instantly all the sweat, the dirt, the droopy eyes and the exhaustion of walking 10 kms vanished. We were charged up once again. Vaibhav was so excited that he exclaimed that taking a dip in the Mahanadi was the best part of his trip. The great thing in this final dip was that none of us were scared of the crocodiles any more. We knew that the crocodiles are also scared of us and it is damn difficult for the humans to find them floating around. One has to find them! We took a quick swim, dried ourselves up, took our luggage and jumped into our tempo. On reaching Angul we had our lunch at Sonam’s place. After the lunch we quickly took our train tickets and jumped into the Bolangir- Bhubaneswar Exp home. Sitting in the train I felt so tired and exhausted that I fell into a deep slumber. My eyes felt heavy. On returning back to Bhubaneswar we first headed to our X-Cafe and had a light snack.

All in all it was a great trip. One of the best I had ever undertaken. The most important thing about the entire trip was that I was with a bunch one of the most amazing people. I had a really great time with my folks – Vaibhav, Shreyas & Kshitij. The experience together was priceless and something which I would cherish for the times to come.

Costs

1. Cost of Accomodation: It costs Rs 1600 per tent (2 persons in one tent) which includes lunch, dinner and breakfast (next day)

2. Cost of Guide: If you hire a guide and take him along for long treks you can offer him anywhere between Rs 100 to Rs 200 depending upon the distance traveled.

3. Cost of Transportation: Almost all the trains that go towards Bhubaneswar/Puri/Visakhapatnam through the Sambhalpur – Bhubaneswar line stops at Angul. It’s usually a 2 min stop. From Angul the first bus leaves around 7 am, second at 9 am and the third and the final one in the afternoon around 3 pm. The bus ticket costs Rs 50. The second alternative (and costlier one) is taking a tempo direct to Satkosia. It will cost you Rs 700 one side. The more the number of people (it wont be able to accommodate more than 4-5 people) the cheaper it will be. The advantage of tempo ride is that it will be flexible – you can get down anywhere on the route stretch your legs or have a cuppa.

4. Cost of Boating: Although it is banned, you can hire a fisherman’s boat at Rs 200 to explore the Mahanadi.

Notes from the courts and the kitchen @XIMB

So we’re finally heading towards the end of Term IV at XIMB. This was perhaps the fastest term of the four that we managed to clear till now. Not only was the work load way lighter than the first year, it was also the time when I enjoyed the best food and sports in Bhubaneswar till now!

Chapter 1 (Tennis)

We finally managed to complete the XTC Masters Series which was the first project of our brand new unofficial committee called XTC (X-Tennis Committee). It took us almost 12 days to complete the tournament. Many matches got delayed because of the rainfall. My last article on tennis ended during the initial stages of the tournament. Since then I played three more matches. The first one was against Sushant Berry in the quarterfinals. It was a tough day and an even more tougher match. The day started with me reading the 15 page long case study of one of our electives. The case was discussed over a 3 hr long session. I made a mistake of taking my medicine right before the start of the session and I was feeling so fucking dizzy in the class that after the first half an hour everything bounced over my head. I did the right thing by sitting on the first bench alongside the wall of the class. I put my head on the wall and closed my eyes plenty of times. You might be thinking how the hell can I do that sitting on the first bench? The best thing about that particular elective is that the prof stands in the middle of the class while steering the discussion. This makes it easier for the students sitting on the first two rows to doze off for short periods. This was the only way I managed to pass the time in that long and tiring class. Straight after the end of the session, I rushed off to the tennis court. It was a clear night sky, a perfect night to play a quarter final match. I called up my opponent and fixed the match. My opponent was Sushant. He happens to be my distant cousin. Now Sushant isn’t one of the regular tennis players. The last time he played a match (before his first round match) was 6 months back in February. In his first round match he had won 1-6, 6-1, 6-0. I couldn’t watch that match so I couldn’t figure out what exactly happened in the last two sets but I was thinking of finishing the match in under an hour…probably straight sets and then will end the tiring day with an early sleep. My head was still heavy but I was confident that I would be able to play as my legs were good to go. So we started the match after warming up for just around 15-20 min. I took the first game easily. After that things went down hill. My perfectly “topspinned” shots were responded by high & deep lobs. One lob was fine with me, two, three, four……..ten fucking lobs…..15..! I started losing my patience in the set. After hitting back 10 straight lobs from my opponent I was committing an unforced error every time I was trying to end the shot with a winner.  This happened through the rest of the games. I was playing there on the court but wasn’t using my brain. I went with the flow of the lobs and finally ended up losing the set 1-6. I took a water break along with Sushant. We went to Cenderet complex right opposite the courts to have our drink. It was fucking humid that evening. Sweat was dripping like an open tap and was flowing its way to my grip which was becoming slippery slowly and slowly. My t-shirt felt glued to my body. We needed to refuel our body with water as frequently as possible in such conditions. During the drinks I asked Sushant about his strategy. He said that he was not able to hit proper shots so this was the best possible defence strategy he could come up with to survive in the match. We went back to the court and I did the best I could do – destroy his defence. The rallies lasted just 2-3 shots this time and before he could lob the fucking ball up in the air I was there charging towards the net and hitting a winner. I spanked his service towards the empty court. I literally squeezed his game and won the set 6-1. Perfect reply to the first set I thought. Then my opponent takes a 15 min break to get his water bottle from his hostel room. Then the game resets. Its back to square one. Sushant manages to bring back his good old strategy and takes a lead of 3-1 in the final set. I was clueless. The game I adopted in the second set was gone. The guy was 3-1 up I thought. Then started the long struggle back to 3-3. I started playing like him. He pushed a lob back to me I did the same to him in reply. In this way I managed to break his service till the end of the game. But then I couldn’t hold my own service till the end due to some mysterious circumstances. At one stage he was 5-4 up in the set and was serving for the match. I broke that. Then he was 6-5 up and serving for the match. I broke that too. Now we’re at 6-6. We were so exhausted that we were lying on the court. Karan who was starting his practice session before the start of his semis and was watching my game came up to me and reminded me about continuing to play the way Sushant was playing. That was the only fucking way I could win the match. The tie breaker started and I took a quick lead of 2-0. The confidence was seeping through my body. I managed to take a 6-0 lead and was staring at 6 match points. I hit a shot long and we were 6-1. And then I closed the tie breaker at 7-1. I won 1-6, 6-1, 7-6. The toughest game I had played on the XIMB tennis courts. It lasted 2 hours and 30 min and we were playing in perhaps the most humid conditions ever in the city. The one thing I realized in this match was that patience is everything. The biggest lesson I learnt in the match. You need to be patient in life in order to bear the fruits for which you’re working hard. I used to be an impatient guy (and am still is :). But this particular match taught me something which I would never forget. The result of the match hardly matters but the lesson does. Sushant played superb tennis. He did his best to stick to his game throughout the match. I was dead tired after the match. Exhaustion had crept to my legs which were helping me to run from one end of the court to another without any complaints. I had won the fucking match. The case study discussion was a distant dream when I was lying on my bed that night.

Chapter 2 (Badminton)

I have been playing badminton since last two months here at XIMB. The last time I had played the game was exactly an year back when I played for a week and before that was 4 years ago. We’ve formed a small bunch of players who play the game as frequently as possible. I’m improving my game under the guidance of the best badminton player at college, my friend and my neighbour – Vishal Jansuhia. I have been playing against him and also with him (in doubles) throughout the last couple of months. I have been studying the way he moves between the rallies, service, placements everything. He is a very clever player. His angles and placements are almost flawless. Despite being down with a leg injury since last one year and the threat of damaging it further on the court, nothing can stop him from playing his natural game. He can make the opponents run from end to end exhausting them like anything. It is under the eye of such a person that I’ve been trying to mould my game. And it is indeed showing results. My game has improved by tons. I can play with confidence. My feet movement has improved dramatically. This is something new for me. Moving swiftly on the badminton court. Badminton has indirectly improved my performance on the tennis courts too. I’m now able to reach the ball without much fuss on the court. I don’t tire quickly anymore. I can run around the court for three hours without getting a bit tired. Also, my ball placements on the tennis courts have improved because of the practice on the badminton court. It might sound weird reading two different games complementing each other. But its true.

Chapter 3 (Food)

The 4th term would go down the history books for the varieties of food that I have eaten. First two terms I didn’t venture out much, but starting the 3rd term I’ve been trying out different food joints. Rahul Fatnani and I’ve been eating chicken from different eateries. We discovered a place called Cafe Grillz located a kilometre from the college. We ordered grilled chicken from our room and got it delivered for free! Add to that they gave us a 20% discount on the bill. The chicken was tasty and was accompanied by onions & some masala. The entire combination was delicious. The quantity was huge! I’ve also tried the tandoori chicken from the place with Vishal. It was tasty too but was a little less spicier than we had expected. But it was filling nevertheless! I have also been trying out the different kinds of sandwiches from Subway.  I wasn’t a big fan of Subway back in Ahmedabad. I’ve eaten there plenty times before but hardly ever browsed through the menu to try out different varieties of sub. I sampled through different sandwitches using different combinations of sauces. I found that the combination of sauces matter a lot in how the sandwich turns out in the end. I ate the same variety of sandwich using different combinations of sauces. The first time around I wasn’t impressed. But the second time I changed a couple of sauces and found the result to be very different and tasty! My favourite though is the “corn n peas” sandwich. It is not only amazingly delicious but also very refreshing. My stomach felt really good after finishing the sandwich!

We also found a new place to eat non vegetarian food near our college. Our friend and classmate Nafis recommended this place a couple of kilometers from the college which serves delicious meat dishes. The first time we tried the food there we were all speechless. We thanked Nafis profusely for  recommended us the restaurant. We went there a second time last week and had several rounds of different preparations of chicken after that had the main course meal consisting of chicken once again eaten with the missi roti washed down with a bottle of thumbsup. The bill was the surprising part in the entire course. A stomach full of delicious food costed us not more than a couple of hundred rupees each! There are plenty of eateries lined up near the college. I have tried most of them. But this one was the best of them all! Apart from all these food, I’ve also been gobbling down pizzas once every month. We’re planning to head a little further towards the market place once the exams finish to sample out other delicacies. I got to know about one place which serves delicious South Indian dishes.

Vinayak gave us a beer treat last week. Rahul Fatnani recommended a local variant from his state called “Hunter”. We enjoyed drinking the brand. It wasn’t a very strong beer but still managed to give a good kick in the end! It tasted good. Not to be compared with Tuborg taste wise, but could easily give other brands a run for their money especially Kingfisher and the mighty Haywards!

Chapter 4 (Tennis)

Back to the tennis courts I completed two matches – the semis and the finals of the XTC Masters Series. My semis got delayed thrice as my opponent couldn’t complete his quarter-final match because of some reasons. The opponent of my opponent in the quarters finally gave a bye because of health reasons. I finally played against Braj in the semis. The match was a disappointing fare. I won it comfortably 6-0, 6-0 in hardly 45 min. But the thing which I didn’t like about the match was Braj’s form. His form is falling day by day. He isn’t able to replicate the same game which he plays while practising into his match play. During the match against Braj, instead of getting elated after winning a point, I was getting a feeling of pity towards him. Anyway, all of us hope to raise his game to a higher level before leaving the campus after 6 months!

Finals

I played my final against Vikas. I was expecting to play the finals against him. He defeated third seed Karan by 6-3, 6-4. On the day of the finals I had to go out for a field assignment. My group had to wait for the concerned person to arrive for almost 2 hrs and then spent another hour standing while getting the data from him. It was a very tiring evening! I came back and freshened up for a bit and rushed to the court to play the match. I wasn’t sure of my physique that evening as I had spent more than 3-4 hrs standing for the project with my group members. After warming up for 15-20 min I finally decided to give my nod for the match to start. The thing about the match was, although I was not able to produce the best of my ground strokes, I was able to guide the ball from my racquet to any corner of the court smoothly. My service was totally non-existent. I just stood there on the baseline and just tried putting more and more serves inside without adding any power or spin to it. The thing that surprised me the most was my physical fitness. I was able to run around the court and put the ball back into play. This helped me win the match comfortably 6-0, 6-1, 6-1 in around 65 minutes. Vikas made a lot of mistakes and that shows on the scorecard. He lost his temper plenty of times during the match and even threw his racquet in anger which is something I can never ever think of doing how much bad I’m play. The scoreline would have been better had he kept his cool. Nevertheless, with more such tournaments to come in the future I expect him to improve many aspects of his game. It is all a part of the process and once the player passes through such a phase his confidence grows up ten folds. I read about Roger Federer and how he used to smash racquets around in his junior tour. One can’t even think of him doing the same at present!

Andy Roddick

Andy Roddick retired from professional tennis during the U.S Open. His 4th round match against Juan Martin Del Potro was his last professional match before he retired from the game at the age of 30.

It was a sad development for me. I remember since the age of 14 I have been a big fan of his game. I remember how I used to stick his cuttings and his posters from my issues of Sportstar magazine on the almirah and the walls of my room. I particularly enjoyed his exploits at Wimbledon and especially against Federer. Its sad that he couldn’t put any Wimbledon into his kitty because of Fedex, but nevertheless he did provide us one of the greatest encounters in tennis.  I used to imitate his style of play while playing tennis back then. My service action and the forehand swing was exactly like his. My serves used to give a “blast” like sound! I remember how I used to wake up all night watching his matches especially at the U.S Open. His matches used to provide me the kick to study hard at school which I’ve missed during the course of my college years. I wish him good luck in life. He is a married man now. Time for him to start a new life!

Tennis Reloaded

This will be my first post in almost 2 months! I couldn’t find anything relevant to post here all these days. Watched plenty of movies but didn’t find the creativity to write a good review on them.

Since last two weeks or so I, together with my fellow friends have been organizing tennis tournaments amongst ourselves at the campus. Initially we started with one between us 6 regular tennis players. It was spread out for almost 10 days thanks to the multiple rain interruptions we had in between. After finishing the first one we planned on organizing a bigger event. We pooled in 16 tennis players and made a proper draw of 16. This tournament started 5 days back. We’ve been able to finish seven 1st round matches so far. We couldn’t conduct any matches in the last 2 days thanks once again to the rain which finds time to fall only in the evening when our classes get over. This is very typical of Bhubaneswar. The entire day would be sunny and bright but as soon as the clock strikes 3 pm the clouds start gathering in the sky and by the time the evening approaches it starts to rain. Once it rains it gets very difficult to play. Although we did find a way out. We let the courts dry out naturally and then mop up the small puddles on the court and somehow make it playable. This we have followed only a couple of times but it has been effective. Getting back to the tournament, the quarterfinals have been lined up. With only 1 more 1st round match remaining, we expect to start our quarters from tomorrow coinciding with the start of the U.S Open championships.

Today we managed to play tennis early in the morning. We started playing at 05:30. We managed to wake up at 06:00 yesterday as well but found that the courts were wet. This is the first time in my life that I’ve played tennis so early. The earliest I remember back in Ahmedabad was 7 am. Although, 05:30 in Bhubaneswar is almost equivalent to 06:30 in Ahmedabad, still it is earlier than my previous record. The best thing about today’s session was, despite having gone to sleep at 02:30 last night, I was able to get up comfortably and play energetically. Probably this has got to do with my 12 hr sleeping sessions since last 3 weeks. My body has found enough rest to compensate for a couple of days. I rolled on a new grip on my racquet yesterday. I had been playing with a 2 month old grip before that and had been serving treacherously since last couple of weeks. Also, I altered my serving stance quite a bit. Till a few days back, while serving, my back foot used to stay away at the back from the front foot even while hitting the ball. This I had been practising since almost 8 years. These days I’ve started moving my back foot forward and placing it beside the front foot while tossing the ball on serve. Today I noticed that it is giving me additional boost to my serve. It has become more powerful & accurate and I made only a handful of double faults in the match. My first service percentage would have been almost 75%-80% today. Lets see how I fare in the times to come. I hope to make my service more accurate than ever with this new posture.

I have finally found a tennis player at the campus who is as excited about playing the game as I am. The fact that I played tennis 5:30 in the morning is the proof of that. I can’t even think of playing in the morning let alone at dawn at XIMB given the fact that five thirty is close to the sleeping time of most of the students residing here. Also, Vikas is a terrific player. He is the only player at the campus with whom I can expect to play at an equal level, something which I had been missing in the first year. Its sad to realise that we now have only 6 more months left at the campus. Had we started playing in the first year itself it would have been awesome. Nevertheless, better late than never! We played a best of 5 sets today after warming up for close to 45 min. In the match today and also in the finals of the first tournament we played, both of whom being best of 5 setters, I found that the longer the match runs the better my game becomes. I could be erroneous and spray shots here and there in the first set. But once I have started running around here and there a lot I get into a groove which suddenly increases my energy levels. You can make me run here and there through the course of the match and I would find joy in running and reaching for the ball. The scoreline of the best of five setter I played in the finals was 6-2, 6-1, 6-0. The scoreline in today’s match was 6-4, 6-3, 6-2. One reason might also be that my opponents do not posses the endurance to play a longer game. Another reason can be I’ve been breathing right while playing. I remember when I used to compete as a junior I used to get tired soon. These days I’ve found a method of breathing which makes it easier when the going gets tough and I’m able to reach the ball pretty fast without tiring. But whatever it is, playing a five setter or even a three setter is fun. The players get more time to reflect on their game, learn from the mistakes they made in the first set and start with an all new approach to the game in the new set. This is something which was missing in the tournaments which we used to play in the first year which were one setter only.

I had almost quit the game of tennis last year when I couldn’t find players to play regularly and also not of a level which would help me bring out my best in the game. Going to the court became more of a work and less fun. I had lost all the interest in the game. This was another reason why I lost the X-Open tournament which was held in late Feb. I was not only practising once in 15 days but was also playing with players who were several levels below my game (no offence to anyone). This happened for a long long time. If you make the current Mudit play tennis with the first year waala Mudit, the former me will win the match 6-0, 6-0 against the latter. I would like to thank all the guys who stirred up this new excitement into the game of tennis at XIMB – Karan, Vikas, Rahul, Rakesh, Braj. Without their enthusiasm this game would have been burried in the cement of the court like it has been since many many years at the campus.

Movie Review – Drive


Directed by: Nicolas Winding Refn

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Ron Perlman, Christina Hendricks

Genre: Neo Noire, Crime, Thriller

My Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Drive is a “hypnotic” heist movie directed by Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn. It is a frighteningly calm movie which slowly unfolds into a violent thriller. Drive narrates the story of an unknown getaway driver who also happens to be a part time Hollywood stuntman.

The first half of the film shows the mysterious getaway driver (Gosling) stylishly helping out a bunch of robbers carry out a successful heist. The film then slowly delves into developing a relationship between the driver and his neighbour Irene (Carry Mulligan) and her young son. It also shows his connection to Shannon (Cranston) a garage owner where Gosling works as a mechanic. The movie takes a turn when Irene’s husband Standard (Oscar Isaac) is back after serving his term in jail. Standard is being chased by the men of an Albanian gangster to whom he owes protection money. The gangster threatens to go after his family if he doesn’t pay the money back.  Gosling agrees to help him carry out a heist which will enable him to pay the money back. However, things go wrong and we watch the real side of Gosling’s character. This part of the movie is shockingly violent.

The movie doesn’t have a very complicated plot.  It carries a very hypnotic kind of atmosphere. Backed by a slow moving electronic background score, long and drawn out scenes between the stuntman and Irene with Gosling showing limited expressions often limited to a smile, gives you a very eerie feel. You will almost mistake it to be a romance-drama movie when all of a sudden the movie slides into its blood soaked second half. In this half the characters are killed in unimaginable ways. Goslings character turns from a getaway driver into a revenge seeking killer.

Watch this film for the superb performances by Gosling and Mulligan. Gosling is stylishly brilliant in the movie. I like his pick of movies. From The Notebook to Blue Valentine, Crazy Stupid Love to Ides of March and now Drive. He has really shown that he can act in almost any kind of movie flawlessly. He is the next big thing in Hollywood in my view. Apart from Gosling and Mulligan, the film also features Ron Perlman, Bryan Cranston and Albert Brooks. Sadly Ron Perlman has a very limited role and not the kind which truly reflects his talents. The film is adopted from James Sallis novel of the same name which released in 2005.

Watch this movie at night. It will surely blow you apart!