Friday, June 5, 2015

Get real, not ideal!

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post poking fun at Hindi serials.  However, in my mind, there are two exceptions to this rule -- Ramayan and Mahabharath.  Why, you ask?!  Well, simple -- since they are the celebrated epic tales of Hinduism (rather than sensationalized portrayals of ordinary people living in grand castle-like homes), they should get a pass.  After all, mythology doesn't need to be completely realistic! :-)

Ramayan and Mahabharath... two epic tales that, while sharing some basic similarities, are overall as different from each other as night and day.  Both are tales of valor and courage.  In both epics, a war is fought between good and evil to settle matters.... and in both epics, the reason for the war is a woman.  In both tales, the ultimate goal was to establish dharma and order.  Also, in both epics, Hanuman and Parashuram are present.  And there ends the similarities.... at least the important ones anyway.

And now come the differences between the two, and boy are there many! Ramayan preaches idealism whereas Mahabharath preaches realism.  Ramayan is a straightforward story with a beginning, middle and end.  Mahabharath, on the other hand, has many side stories.  But the main difference is that Ramayan also has very straightforward heroes and villains whereas Mahabharath has a lot more shades of gray between the different characters.  The differences between the two epics are best reflected in the main characters of the two different epics -- Ram and Krishna.  Ram is simple; Krishna is complex.  Ram is straightforward; Krishna is manipulative.  Ram always follows the rules; Krishna, on the other hand, bent the rules as needed for the situation.

Now, everything I stated so far are all well known facts.  However, when I'm with friends and/or when discussions come up about the two epics, people completely lose sight of these very well-known facts!  There are also many who openly vilify Krishna online.  For example, one guy labels Krishna as "the real villain" of Mahabharath; another woman goes on to say that Krishna actually became a murderer of humanity because of all the trickery that he did.  Similarly, many others denounce the Pandavas as cowards for screwing over good people like Karna, Bhishma and Drona in order to win the war.

Come on, people!!  Get off your high horses for one minute and buy yourselves some goddamn perspective!  Krishna did what he had to do; no one said he was perfect.  But he was a clever and resourceful guy who got things done at the crucial moment without being directly involved.  And really, that's what was needed for those situations... and that's also what you need in today's real world.  That was the whole point that Mahabharat was trying to convey in the first place! So, he bent a few rules..... big freakin' deal!! He got the job done, didn't he?!?!   In the same fashion, the Pandavas also did what they had to do to win the war -- some people like Bhishma and Drona are so unstoppable that you have to cheat to get them out of the way.  Krishna and the Pandavas came up with some dirty tricks to accomplish this goal.  Yep, at many times, they beat the Kauravas at their own game -- good for them!  They did what was necessary -- like the saying goes, all is fair in love and war!  So stop whining that they didn't do it by following the straight and narrow path like Lord Ram did and give our Pandavas and Lord Krishna the credit they deserve!

Ohh, but what's the difference between Krishna and Shakuni then?!  And since Pandavas also used trickery, how does that make them any better than the Kauravas?!, some of you may be wondering.  The answer is quite simple -- selfishness. Yep, it's as simple as that -- Shakuni and the Kauravas fought for their own selfish gains while Krishna and the Pandavas fought for the greater good.  It's not the way you fight, but what you fight for that's important!

Quite honestly, I find Krishna to be a better hero than Ram.  Ram was an ideal man, an exemplary being in character and practically perfect in every way, just like Mary Poppins!  But the problem with him is that he tried too damn hard to please everyone!!  He went to the forest just to please that selfish bitch Kaikeyi... he sent Sita to the forest to please his whiny subjects... and pretty much followed the rules down to the letter like a good mama's boy.  But, beyond that, there's not much more to him, and that makes him somewhat uninteresting.

Krishna, on the other hand, didn't confine himself to such rules and tradition -- he simply did what he had to do; for him the ends justified the means.  He invented clever ways to steal butter for himself & his friends.  He used clever means to beat that weasel Shakuni & those damn Kaurava bastards.  Could Ram do it with his straightforward method?! No way in hell! Only a clever khiladi like Krishna could out-fox sly cowards like Shakuni, Dhushasan or Duryodhan.  Krishna never worried about pleasing anyone, just on fulfilling Dharma by whatever means necessary.  But, as it turns out, he ended up being a more popular character than Ram anyway... especially with the ladies! ;-)

Well, I could go on and on about this topic, but then this post would become an epic by itself!  It was merely meant to be a generic light-weight treatment of the whole subject of realism vs idealism.

So, in conclusion, remember my friends.... an ideal is a nice thing to aspire for, but we live in a real world, so let's all get real.... not ideal! :-)

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Obsessed - Part II

Click  here to read Part I

Surya woke up the next morning eager for revenge -- he got to the courts early and met Roy there.  With a look of determination, he started playing like a man possessed.  He would fight hard for every point and wear Roy down by making him play long, grueling points.  After 2 hours and 15 minutes, Roy was physically spent as Surya won easily 6-2,6-3.  Surya walked home very satisfied that day.  He loved the thrill that that win would give him, but as satisfying as it was, it only made him hungry for more!

He entered for his first tournament at the Midtown Club Championships and defeated his first few opponents quite easily.  He had solid ground-strokes and was consistent enough that he could wear down his opponents with solid defense.  Each win was more satisfying than the next and he wanted more.  He wore one opponent after the other and won the tournament quite easily.  The thrill of this victory gave him a confidence that he never had before.

There was a sudden swagger about Surya now, as he headed into his next tournament, the DuPage World Championships.  This was an international tournament, and as the name suggests, it featured people from different countries.  Surya played his usual safe-and-effective style for the first few rounds and won them quite easily.

But then, in the semifinals came Zhang, a crafty Chinese man with a wacky spin and incredible foot-speed.  Surya's usual safe game didn't work against this old man -- he was forced to play a more aggressive style which was well out of his comfort zone.  Many errors came from his racket as he lost the first set 6-4.  In the second set, Surya was forced to change tactics.  He took the ball on the rise more and went for riskier shots, closer to the lines.  He also came to the net more, a place he wasn't very comfortable in.  The tactic was hit-or-miss but Surya won the set 7-6.  However, there was a certain unease in Surya's gait and movement and Zhang, being a clever tactician, had picked up on it.  Zhang started to play more spins and hit the ball even more aggressively in the third and final set.  At this point, Surya was all out of answers and started to simply go through the motions as he lost the set (as well as the match) 6-2.

This loss was his worst one....and it hurt a lot more than his loss to Roy.  This wasn't a matter of choking; it was a matter or giving up -- he had packed it in and he knew it!  As much as his previous wins boosted his confidence, this one loss devastated him!!  For several weeks, he couldn't eat or sleep right, as he kept playing the match (against Zhang) mentally in his head.

After weeks of mental torture, Surya finally decided to change his game and mindset to win at any cost.  Nothing else in his life mattered at this point except to be a winner.  For many weeks, he would train with a coach and personal trainer to hone his body and mind like never before.  He entered the Midwest Championships and started playing with this new improved style of play and won his matches more easily.  In his matches, he made more errors but also hit more winners too, and overall this new aggressive playing style took less out of him physically.

At last, in the finals, there was his old nemesis Zhang, once again ready and waiting for him.  Surya was nervous as he walked into the court.  Remember the game plan.... controlled aggression is the key, he kept telling himself over and over.  As the two players warmed up, those words kept echoing in his head.  Surprisingly, after a few minutes, Surya's tension started to fade away.  The foe on the other end, while a tough opponent, was after-all a familiar one.  The game plan was clear, and Surya started to believe in the game plan as well as in himself.

As the match progressed, Zhang was playing his usual unpredictable style.  But this time, Surya was up to the task.  He took the ball early and moved Zhang both deeper and wider, thus limiting his nemesis' options.  The match was tight, but Surya's game plan was paying dividends.  Controlled aggression... controlled aggression..., he kept telling himself.  He won a tight straight-setter 7-6 (8-6), 7-6(13-11).  As soon as the umpire uttered the words "Game... set... match...", Surya dropped to his knees, overwhelmed and overcome with joy over his huge victory!

This win was a particularly satisfying one, because he knew it was a match that could have gone either way.  Surya would go on to play many more matches, and in the process he would become a more confident young man.  As his game grew, so did his personality.  He had stretched himself beyond the 78.0 x 36.0 feet rectangle -- he was ready to face any opponent within those four lines as well as anything that the rest of the world could throw at him!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Obsessed -- Part I

It was a warm and humid summer evening.  As many were heading back home, a young teenager named Surya was heading in the exact opposite direction.  He was wearing a simple T-shirt and shorts and carrying a small gym bag with him.  There was spring in his step, a look of eager anticipation as he sprinted across the sidewalk.  After about 15 minute walk, a satisfied smile came across his face as he finally reached his destination -- the community tennis court, a place where he would visit almost everyday.

As he stepped onto the green concrete, Surya headed straight to the practice wall.  It was this wall where he began honing his skills over many years.  A perfectionist by nature, he was also a very shy kid who had trouble fitting into a society where almost everyone else was a different race than him.  But once he stepped on the courts, all the shyness would disappear! The repressed emotions would run free and the real Surya would come out.

Surya started to hit back and forth against the relentless wall with his over-sized racket and his own relentless drive to hit each ball perfectly.  Tennis was more than a sport to him -- it was also a haven, a second home away from the cruel world that surrounded existed beyond  the 78.0 x 36.0 feet rectangle.  Unlike most people, the tennis court never passed judgement on him or discriminated against him because of his race, color or religion.  It openly accepted him as he was, all day & everyday.

As Surya continued to hit against the wall, the satisfaction of playing started to fill some of the void within him.  Much of the loneliness was still there, but this small amount of solace would be good enough to get through the day.

The next day, Surya came back to the exact same practice wall and began hitting the exact same way. A tall thin man approached him -- he was outgoing and had an almost arrogant swagger about him.

"Hey kid, wanna hit?"


"Whats your name?"



Roy and Surya started to play a three-setter.  Surya was up 3-0 in the third and deciding set, when nerves suddenly got the best of him. Oh god I'm so close, I better not lose this one, he thought.  He made error after error with his shot-making.  Shots that were winners turned into unforced errors, and he lost the match 6-3 in the final set.

As a dejected Surya walked towards the net to shake hands, Roy, looked down at him in disgust and said "Congratulations kid, you just beat yourself!". Surya was hurt and in total disbelief!  What an asshole!! Did he just rub my loss in my face?!?!

As he walked home, Surya began to realize deep down that Roy was right. He had choked away the match and he knew it -- it left a bitter taste in his mouth and he hated it more than anything.  He was also no longer in the tennis court, so it made the bad feeling even worse!

But this incident also sparked a fire inside young Surya later that night.  The anger switch turned on inside him, a change that would mark a defining moment in his life.  A few days later, Surya called Roy casually for another game.... but deep down, all Surya really wanted  was revenge, a chance to make the douche pay for his remarks!