Monday, June 19, 2006 

Adios, Mumbai


Well, its time to say good-bye to Mumbai, at least for some time. I am headed to Kolkatta (Joka, to be exact) to do my MBA at IIM C. Not that this is the first time I will be away from my beloved city, but this seems to be the longest period I will be staying away, and will miss the sights and sounds of the lovely city. Here is a list of the things I will miss the most about the city.

Being a foodie, the street food of Mumbai is placed high on my list. The variety of foods offered on the streets of Mumbai is a delight. (Needless to say, very easy on the pocket too). From the ubiquitous Vada Pavs (They have been branded as well in Mumbai) to the different types of “puris” (No, not the Amrish and Om types), i.e. Bhel Puri, Pani Puri, Sev Puri, Dahi Batata Puri etc. etc.; all are my culinary favourites. Add to the list roadside sandwiches, Pav Bhaji, Kulfi, Chinese and another Mumbai specialty, the Golas. Made from crushed ice laced with sherbets of different flavours, these are a relief from the scorching heat.

Well the street food reminds me of the best place to relish them: The Beach. “Chowpatti jaayenge, Bhel Puri khaayenge” was made famous by Rishi Kapoor. And the beaches of Mumbai are certainly one of the best places to enjoy the Mumbai street food. In addition, the strolls with family as kids, football matches with friends, sand castles, and sunsets are all parts of memorable evenings spent on the beaches of Mumbai.

Traveling in Mumbai isn’t easy with the crowded local trains and BEST buses. And yet I will miss them, for they are a quintessential part of Mumbai. (I am sure the “100 years of bringing people closer” slogan for centenary celebration of railways must have been inspired by a peak hour Virar train). The public transport in Mumbai may be far from convenient, but it is cheap, efficient and quick, especially the Mumbai locals.

What makes Mumbai special is the security one feels while moving around the city. I have no data or figures to support it, but I believe Mumbai is one of the most secure cities in the country. Petty crime is very limited, and is not the biggest worry the common Mumbaikar. One can travel across Mumbai at anytime, and yet feel safe and secure.

Having stayed in the same suburb of Mumbai all my life, I will really miss taking long walks down the roads of Borivali. It is almost impossible to walk around this area without bumping into someone I know.

Ganeshotsav in Mumbai is something special, something in which every individual from all walks of life involves himself. The Ganeshotsav has become an integral part of the Mumbai identity. I especially enjoyed visiting various pandals to see the creative forms in which Lord Ganesh was portrayed. (I know Durga Pooja holds a similar charm in Kolkatta, but I am not sure whether you can actually enjoy dancing during the visarjan the way one does in Mumbai.)

But what I will really miss is the people of Mumbai. And by people I don’t mean my friends and family (Of course, I will miss them too!). I mean the common man of Mumbai, the Mumbaikar. Resilient, helpful, honest, cosmopolitan individuals that make Mumbai the great city it is, a microcosm of India.

Friday, June 09, 2006 

Football World Cup: Missing Talents

The greatest sporting spectacle, the football (soccer for the Americans) World Cup starts today. The sport is the most followed in the world. And there has been a huge build up to the sport, with all leading dailies in India (a country, which hasn’t ever qualified for the World Cup) dedicating a lot of print space to it. “All the best football and all the best contemporary players will be on display”, they claim.

Well, I certainly hope for the best football, but the world cup will definitely miss out on some of the greatest contemporary players. Some due to injury, others, due to non-qualification of national teams, and yet others due to coaches preferring younger players.

Wayne Rooney’s injury has been much publicized, with Englishmen ready to cite his injury as an excuse for not winning the World Cup (Not that too many are betting on England to win anyways).But Rooney is an exciting player, and amongst the best strikers in the World today, and neutrals like me would love to watch him play (recent reports show that Rooney may be able to play in the world cup). Djibril Cisse, French striker fractured his foot in a friendly against China, which leaves him out of the World Cup. Other players on the doubtful-due-to-injury list include the mercurial S&M player Mateja Kezman, Euro 2004 top-scorer and Czech striker Milan Baros, teammate Vladimir Smicer, and more recently, the Dutch trio of Phillip Cocu, Van Bronckhorst and Wesley Sneijder, all limping off in a friendly against Australia.. Claudio Reyna, Roque Santa Cruz, Rafael Van der Vaart and Golden boot favourite Andriy Shevchenko are on the list too.

Aging players will also be missing, especially with teams whose coaches have a fetish for youth. Edgar Davids, Roy Makaay and Clarence Seedorf, all in good form, will miss the World Cup, losing their position to younger players. The Dutch coach Marco Van Basten has gone in for a young squad, forcing viewers to miss the talents of these players. Darren Bent, who impressed all (all but Eriksson) with his performance in the Premiership will also be missing.

Senegal, which beat defending champs France in the last World Cup, Wales, Colombia, Ireland are some teams which have not qualified for World Cup this time. Hence the talented players from these teams will obviously be missing. Which means the likes of Diof, Cisse, Keane, Cordoba, Moreno etc. will also be absent from the World Cup scene.

But the player I will miss the most this World Cup is arguably one of the greatest left- wingers in the world, drawing comparisons with George Best, and like Best, a player who hasn’t played any World Cup. This was the last chance for this Welsh Wizard to prove his mettle on the greatest stage, but again, Wales couldn’t qualify. Yes, I am talking about Ryan Giggs.

Ryan Giggs has been one of the stars at Manchester United, causing havoc in opponent’s defence with his dribbling on the left flank. He has been the cause of many United victories, and even at 33 years of age, played a pivotal role this season in ensuring Manchester United a second place in the league.

The other players mentioned in this article have had their World Cup moments, or can look forward to playing the World Cup in the future. But Ryan Giggs will be one footballer who never got an opportunity to set alight the World Cup, the grandest footballing event, with the magic only he can unleash.