Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The unifying power of sport

Watching the spectacle that is the football world cup, it’s hard not to get swayed by the passion and emotion of the fans, and the players themselves, as they seek to achieve glory by winning the cup. It bears testimony to the fact that sport is much more than winning or losing, it’s something that unites, transcending boundaries of caste, colour, race and creed. Sport has a unique and incredible ability to ignite passion, and steps over regional, linguistic, social and demographic boundaries.

We have seen in the past how sport has had the power to mend apparently insurmountable divisions in society. Consider South Africa itself, not too long ago..it was mired in apartheid and was on the verge of being a failed state until Nelson Mandela resolved to end it. And here again sport played a crucial role of unification, The 1995 Rugby world cup, subject of the film Invictus, was the first tournament played after South Africa was expelled from all international competitions. The world cup squad..consisting of just one black player, was initially booed by the local black population, until they started winning that is…South Africa since then has come full circle..now their Football team has just one white player!!

Or why go so far, look at our own country, I don’t think that apart from cricket, there’s a single aspect that unites our diverse nation. Did I hear Bollywood..no, not at all..its shunned in the south especially in Tamil Nadu..where there’s a visible dislike for all things north Indian. Cricket then, is the sole uniting factor. Be it Guwahati, Delhi, Dharamshala, Chennai, Mohali or Trivandrum, you can see fans openly declaring their loyalty and love for the men in Blue, sometimes bordering on the fanatical.

Needless to say, a team has to win to get support, or at least show that they are trying their best to gain legitimacy and loyalty. Also, this holds true mostly for team sports. Individual sports, like tennis, billiards, chess etc..don’t evoke that kind of emotion as a team sport.

Sport, on another dimension, allows small nations to punch far above their weight in the global arena. It allows a level playing field for large and small nations alike. A sport field is perhaps the only place where underdogs overwhelm large nations on a regular basis.

We saw this in the T-20 world cup last year where Pakistan, under attack for harbouring terrorists and shunned by the entire world, sprang a surprise by winning the world cup, winning respect from friends and foes alike.

Sport on a very basic level, extols the virtues of human beings..strength, intelligence, speed, stamina, mutual respect, team play, discipline and fair play, Citius, altius, fortius is what athletes strive for. This along with the unifying power of sport, makes it indispensable as a form of entertainment. It attracts immense audiences, and has great economic influence, power and reach into countries and communities.

Sports of course do not exist in a vacuum. Sports are a part of society. Accordingly, it mirror aspects of society and serve as powerful agents of social change.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Monday, May 17, 2010

Travelogue: Pondycherry and Tirupati

Well, I know this wasn’t the best time of the year for a trip down south but we risked it and were rewarded with empty beaches and sparse crowds in the Tirupati Temple.

Pondycherry is a quaint and charming city with a rustic, old world feel, life is very relaxed here and quite a respite from the slam bang, hurried life of the metros. Being a former French colony, the French influence is quite omnipresent with the names of the streets and some prominent buildings in French. In fact, Pondycherry feels like a town in Europe..it has narrow cobbled streets, lots of open spaces and buildings with French architecture.

Sunrise on the promenade

There’s not much to see here apart from the regular beaches and the Aurobindo Ashram. Walking along the promenade is quite a pleasant experience, especially at night, when the waves look like giant monsters racing along the waters to thrash the rocks on the coast… with the moon casting an eerie glow over the entire scene.
Another feature of this place is the almost total absence of cars...the entire city travels on two wheelers..a large percentage of them cycles.. the promenade is also out of bounds for any vehicular traffic from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

The next leg of my trip was Chennai-Tirupati by bus and then to Tirumala, which is a hill station 20 kms away, in the mountains, where the famous Tirupati temple is situated. Though the main attraction of this place is the Temple, on which the whole economy of Tirupati is based, Tirumala is a wonderful hill station as well during summers, providing some respite from the 40 degree heat of the plains. The road leading from Tirupati to Tirumala is truly a delight with hairpin bends and S- curves, snaking and curving its way to a height of – m. Once you reach the top, you are treated with commanding views of the – mountains and the valley below. N
Tirumala has nice little guest houses atop the hills, which give wonderful views of the verdant forests on the mountains and the town of Tirupati below.. it was quite a sight to watch sunrise and the clouds descending and shrouding the mountains in a blanket of mist.

View from the guest house

Cars going downhill from tirumala to tirupati

Wind Energy’s quite big here, and you can see at least 10 windmills perched upon the mountains, majestically swinging their blades in the direction of the wind.

Windmills atop the hills

So, overall it was a nice trip, covering landscapes of both beaches and mountains. My only complaint is the language barrier, its really difficult to communicate with uneducated people like vendors and shopkeepers who don’t know English in Tamil Nadu. And another strange thing is that people in Tamil Nadu understand English, but as soon as you cross the border into Andhra Pradesh, its Hindi which is the preferred second language after Telugu.. so you have to communicate either in Hindi or English according to the state you are in.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Travelogue: Alibag

Alibag is a great weekend destination for people looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of Mumbai. Located just about 100 km away, it offers a quiet, scenic getaway from the urban jungle that is mad Mumbai. Beaches and forts are the USP of this place, with five beaches located in the vicinity, Akshi, Kashid, Alibag, Nagaon and Murud, and two historical forts, Kolaba and Janjeri fort.
Coming to our trip, we started at 6 a.m. from Mumbai, looking to make it to Alibag before the heat set in. Looking at this in hindsight, it was one of the best decisions that we made, since we could really maximize our stay in Alibag, it being a day trip.

On the road

Thus, savouring the cool morning air and taking in the sights from the scenic Mumbai- Goa highway, we reached Alibag by 8 a.m. and headed straight to Nagaon beach, located some 15 km off Alibag. Being less known, this beach is less crowded and thus cleaner than the more popular Alibag beach and what’s more, it offers the opportunity for water sports as well.

Nagaon beach

The Sura trees surrounding the beach the beach give it an exotic, tropical look, something which you can associate with the beaches of Maldives and Hawaii.
Sports gear like Footballs and Volleyballs are conveniently available on hire, so you can have a great time if you are in a group. If you are an adventure freak like me, this is just the place for you, with parasailing, speedboats and a banana boat ride (more on that later) on offer.

The speedboat ride is great fun, with a speedboat with a maniacal driver (Ours was a complete speed freak, gunning the throttle harder when the waves came at him), taking you 2 km into the sea and back. For a first timer, it can be a bit unnerving, with the speed and the rough waves providing a double thrill. It is most enjoyable while going against the tide, with the boat cutting through the trough of the wave, then flying into the air as the wave hits it and landing hard as the wave passes. The way back is comparatively smoother, with the boat riding the crests of the waves to get back in double quick time.

Parasailing is also a great experience, with an awesome view compensating for the short duration and the low height. The view from the top is truly breathtaking, an endless expanse of sand ahead and behind you, the sea on your left and coconut trees to your right!! Sheer Bliss!!

View from the top

The banana boat ride is the most hair-raising among all these rides, where a speedboat tows an inflatable boat into the sea, and then the boat is overturned in deep sea, leaving you to fend for yourself (you have the life jackets of course) and then you get back into the boat and to the safety of the shore. For people who don’t know how to swim, it is the closest you can get to drowning and surviving to tell the tale.

It is best to finish all these activities before lunch, so that you can change and have a wholesome lunch ( Yes, all this time in the water makes you ravenous) . Do make it a point to have lunch by 3 since all the restaurants in this apparently TOURIST city close at 4, something we learnt the hard way!!
Our last stop was the Kolaba fort, which is situated in the sea and can be reached by boat. This was the surprise package of the trip, the fort truly turned out to be a hidden gem. Located just 2 kms off the coast ( you can even walk it up during low tide), the fort is a veritable fortress and must have been impregnable during its heyday in the 1700’s. This was one of the sea forts constructed by Shivaji to keep an eye on the naval power of the Portuguese and the English, the other being the mighty Sindhudurg.

Kolaba Fort

Surrounded by the sea on all sides, the fort presents wonderful photographic opportunities and we all went mad as soon as we got there, scouring new places to take photographs.
It also has a quaint little temple inside which provides a nice, quiet place for introspection. The fort is too huge to be explored in an hour and you must have at least 2-3 hours to fully explore it, something we learnt to our peril since we had to leave at 6, since the high tide had come up. Finally, we had to grudgingly leave the fort, promising to come back again sometime.

Sunset at Alibag Beach

We ended our trip by watching the beautiful sunset at Alibag beach, a perfect closure to a fairytale trip…

Monday, March 1, 2010

some more pics..

Ok, its almost been a 6 month hiatus for me..but what a better time to revive my blog than its 1st anniversary..so this time i leave you with some more pics of mumbai..will be coming up with a post soon..

This one's from Navy nagar, across the sea from marine drive..

Haji Ali seaface on a calm monsoon evening

Nehru Science Centre

Juhu beach

University clock tower near Flora Fountain