Saturday, 22 July 2017

Book conversations: Afternoon Girl

Afternoon Girl: My Khushwant Memoir
Amrinder Bajaj
HarperCollins 2013

I must honestly admit right at the beginning, I bought this one on a whim - a) because I am a big Khushwant Singh fan, and b) because it was available at a discount on Flipkart.

There, off my chest...

Now for the content.  There is something about books that you do not expect much out of that pleasantly surprise you in the end.  Afternoon Girl is one such neat little gem.

The invitation to be a fly-on-the-wall witness of Bajaj's somewhat clandestine, sometimes disharmonious, but always engaging association with the grand old man of Indian literature grips you as soon as you start reading it.  I found myself going back to it with eagerness as soon as I could find some reading time.

Besides, there was an additional serendipitous allure for me in this book.  The peculiar trait that I share with the author: doctor who harbours literary ambitions.  Bajaj's candid admission of her struggle as a doctor who wants to be an established writer, her dismay at being rejected by several publishers, and her outpouring of literary woes in front of Khushwant Singh kept me riveted.  

These revelations also reassured me, as I have experienced similar woes myself after I decided to take up writing in addition to doing medical work.  At last I have found somebody who has gone through the pain of trying to appease the selfish mistress that is medical career, while (vainly) attempting to put pen on paper.  

As for the revelations, the graphic details of her personal life and the ribald jokes she shares with the grand old man may not suit everybody's sensibilities.  But as Bajaj explains, they sell.  And I am not judgmental, so that's fine.  

The grand old man certainly did not mind.  If anything, he always relished the earthier side of life.  I have always been in awe of Khushwant Singh's ability to boldly disclose the details of his lurid affairs with, and the profligate lifestyles of the rich and famous.  

The famous Khushwant Singh penchant for wine, women, sex and death is underscored once again in this work.  It is amusing to read of his interest in Bajaj's 'solitaire collection' even as she pampers him with gallons of Chivas Regal! 

Nitpicks: samples from the handwritten letters, and a few pictures of the author's meeting with Khushwant Singh and the several book release events she attended would have enhanced the appeal of the book.  

Also, since Bajaj repeatedly wished for Khushwant Singh to live for a 100 years, a postscript describing the master writer's last moments, and Bajaj's reaction to his passing away agonizingly short of 100 years would have been the icing on the cake.

As it is, Girl is a naughty, humorous, heart-warming account of a writer's encounters with her muse. 

I am mildly envious of Bajaj as she got to savour the grand old man's company: a dream come true for any writer.  

But at the same time, I am massively chuffed for her - a fellow doctor-writer!

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Saturday, 8 July 2017

Champions Trophy 2017: Just saying...

Okay, this is not a case of sour grapes...just saying...

The eventual 'winners' of the Champions Trophy 2017 had a rat's chance in hell of winning it...

Now I do know that cricket is a game of glorious uncertainties...

I know that any team on its day can turn the tables and cause an upset...

I also know the 'winners' are known to be a mercurial side, whose performance can yo-yo between 'also-turned-up' and 'champions'... 

Still...I can't help wondering...because they are capable of anything...

Consider these:
  • The 'winners' who lost their opening game miserably against us, went on to win the remaining games against all odds.  Consider the opposition they beat en route to the finals: South Arica, Sri Lanka (who beat us comfortably), England (in the semifinals, and England were pre-tournament favourites to win in home conditions), and India (in the finals, virtually decimating us).
  • The other favourites, India were going great guns...until the finals.  Apart from the match against Sri Lanka, they had one bad day, and it happened to be the finals.
  • In the finals, why did India win the toss and take bowling first, when conventional logic seemed to favour batting first..?
  • The Indian bowlers had had a great tournament up until the finals...they had troubled batsmen of all teams they played against and had given away very few wides, and hardly any no-balls.
  • Bumrah had bowled only one inconsequential no-ball before the finals.  But in the finals...he bowled that dreadful no-ball which as we know cost us the match...
  • How is it possible that all our extraordinary, gifted, in-form batting stalwarts failed to fire in the same match en masse?  Why did the top and middle order collapse like nine pins?  Were the conditions in the second innings so miserable for batting and bowling-friendly?  
  • By the way the highest successful run-chase in the same venue is 322, which is not far away from the 'winners' total.  If there was any batting lineup in the world that could have chased successfully, it was ours. 
What happened then?  An off day?  Indian team once again flattering to deceive? 

The unlikely result, inspite of the more benign reasons, cannot put a lid on the can of worms...the conspiratorial possibilities...

Is it the familiar betting/spot-fixing monster again?  Unlikely, given the serious repercussions that would follow if caught - ask Sreesanth!  And it would be tough to get South Africa, Sri Lanka and England players to agree to the scheme.

Or could it be...dare I say it...threats?  Because the one thing that the 'winners' have in their arsenal is the power of gun and bombs.  They are, after all, the epicentre of world terrorism.  The best of terror universities are based there.  

Did they get their brothers in arms - many of whom have found a safe haven in Britain - to threaten the other teams into submission..?

Far fetched..?  Paranoid..?

Maybe...  But I wouldn't put it past them...

Did I say that they are capable of anything..?

Just saying now...

(Note: If not the ICC, at the very least the BCCI should thoroughly investigate the debacle...)

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