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Posts Tagged ‘Nostalgia’

Martin Gardner, R.I.P.

Posted by anandrr on May 23, 2010

When we were little, perhaps 9 or 10, our dad would bring home old issues of Scientific American from the large library at his work. I believe the driving reason for this was the Mathematical Games column in each issue. I eagerly devoured each of them, and when Dad took back the issue waited eagerly for him to come home that evening with the next issue. That column opened up a whole new world of maths and thinking. It also led to a lifelong love with maths, numbers and a lifelong preference for logical and analytical deduction. I don’t remember enough of his writing, and perhaps I will now go and rediscover it, but they clearly made a much bigger impact on me than the other books that we had at home or the similarly themed columns in Science Today, the other magazine we got at home.

Mathematical Games had other indirect impacts on me. Sometimes he had guest columnists, two of them have remained with me through the years: Raymond Smullyan and Douglas Hofstadter. Raymond Smullyan’s columns led me later to read his books starting with What is the Name of this Book, where he used mathematical and logical puzzles as a starting point to talking about and proving Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem. For a young teenager, this was heady stuff. Douglas Hofstadter renamed the column Metamagical Themas, and used them as a starting point to explore the themes of recursion, logic and eventually Artificial Intelligence. Between the three of them they were part of the life experiences that trained me so I could get into the Maths Olympiad, and also prepared me for my eventual career in computers. Under slightly different circumstances I would have ended up entirely with a life in mathematics.

Martin Gardner died yesterday. Thanks Martin, and most of all, thanks Appa.

Posted in Nostalgia, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Friday Flashback: The Older You Get

Posted by anandrr on February 27, 2010

Normally, I would have been content to relegate some of this story to a sidebar in my last post, but this really does deserve a post of its own. In my last post, I briefly mentioned a memory of Vijay Amritraj playing Martin Jaite in a Davis Cup match. I shall now try to memorialize that moment and another equally important moment.

Those of us born in India and of a certain age (mostly in our 30s) have good reason to look sympathetically at the younger generation. They might have 100 channels on the TV, they might have opportunities that we might not have had, they might have a lot more of a lot more than we ever could, but there are some sporting memories they will never have. India beating the West Indies in the Prudential World Cup in 1983 marked the start of India’s dominance of world cricket. India’s victory in the mini-world cup in Australia in 1985 (Ravi Shastri – man of the series and an Audi to boot!) continue that trend. Of course with these warm memories, we also have the traumatic one: Javed Miandad hitting Chetan Sharma for a six off a full-toss last ball when Pakistan needed four to win in Sharjah. Those of us of a certain age haven’t really recovered from that either. We can all remember where we were when those events occurred, what we were doing and the joy or crushing sorrow that followed each of them.

But besides these, two other memories stand out. And having arrived at a riper age, I am now able to appreciate those memories and sporting efforts much more than I did in my callow youth.

It was 1987, summer was approaching, and I’m not entirely sure how I managed to watch so much sporting action in that week of March, final exams must have been in a week or so, but yet I did and I’m quite thankful for that.

The Indian tennis team in those days comprised Vijay Amritraj and Ramesh Krishnan. Vijay was 34 or 35, his glory days were well past, but the Davis Cup always seemed to bring out the best in him. He was a natural on grass and could serve and volley with the best of them. This was around the time that tennis was transitioning away from the Borg/Connors style of play to the current style that was introduced by Becker, Edberg and the rest. Ramesh was always a curious anachronism, his serves so soft, his volleys silken smooth, his baseline play all touch no power. One imagined Rod Laver playing that way, but a player in the age of colour television? But there they were, Vijay and Ramesh waging battle against younger, more powerful, and higher ranked players in a sport that seemed not have room for them any more.

India was playing the Davis Cup quarterfinal against Argentina (in New Delhi perhaps?), and at the end of 2 days of play, Vijay had won the opening game, Ramesh had lost his to Martin Jaite, Argentina had won the doubles, and Vijay was now playing the return singles match against Jaite.

Simultaneously, India was playing Pakistan in a cricket test match in Bangalore. This was going to Sunil Gavaskar’s last test match, at 37 years old and many cricket records deep, Gavaskar was finally going to call it a day. The Bangalore pitch was a disgrace. Mostly loose dirt and cracks, the ball was unpredictable from day one. Pakistan was skittled out on day one for a pitiful score (116) and it wasn’t clear which way the match would go. Would India manage to pull it off or would the pitch truly wreak havoc getting worse from day one to day four? On day two, India managed 145, Vengsarkar managing a 50 in the process. Pakistan came back in, and set India a target of 221.

In the meantime, things were getting exciting at the tennis game. Vijay was playing Martin Jaite in the reverse singles game. Vijay was 35 years old, playing a 21 year old Jaite and getting beaten up. Down two sets to one, we were at set-point and match-point in the fourth set. The match had gone badly, Vijay was probably looking at going down badly and India was on the verge of getting kicked out of the Davis Cup for the year. Again. Jaite served for the match and the tie, Vijay returned serve, Jaite returned beautifully. The game was on the line, the Davis Cup tie was on the line. At this juncture, Vijay played the sweetest drop volley in the history of the game. What a shot to play at this juncture! The visual from that shot is burned into my sports-memory. Vijay plays the drop shot, Jaite rushes to the net, but can’t make it in time, match-point is lost. Jaite fell to pieces after that point as Vijay went from strength to strength. As an adrenalin-fueled Vijay recovered, fist-pumping his victories, the Indian supporters went crazy in the stands. At the end of it all, five sets later, Vijay had just handed Jaite the thrashing of his life. A match where Jaite had tasted victory had now ended with India having a fighting chance in the last match of the tie. Ramesh Krishnan went on to win that match as well, India won through, then played Israel in the quarter finals, won against Australia (including Wimbledon-winner Pat Cash) in the semi-finals and went on to the finals. The finals were against Sweden. In Sweden. In December. Sweden at the time featured Mats Wilander and Anders Jarryd, both unstoppable on clay. Of course they played on clay. India didn’t have a chance. But the memory of that unbelievable display by a 35-year old player stays with me. As I get older, I realize what it really meant for a 35-year old to play at the level that he did. As I think about it today, I still get the goosebumps.

In Bangalore, India was in chasing 221 on the fourth innings of a disastrous pitch. Nothing would go right for India. Losing to Pakistan was unthinkable but India was falling apart. In Gavaskar’s last test match yet. But Gavaskar, 37 years old, was not about to go away so easily. I remember sitting at home and watching him inch his way towards his century. At the other end, the batsmen wouldn’t stay long enough to give him company. As the wickets fell, the situation got more dire. Gavaskar was our last hope. At 96, if Gavaskar could manage to hang on for a century and then some, India would be home safe, Gavaskar would have one final century in his last game, and Bangalore would be happy. But even Gavaskar was no match for that treacherous pitch. All innings-long the ball had been obscured by the great mounds of dust kicked up every time the ball bounced or any other action took place. Even the great one would succumb to this treachery, and he did at 96. Four short of a century, and a victory that India could just about taste. But once Gavaskar was gone, so too were all hopes of a victory. The Indian tail was wrapped up shortly thereafter, 16 runs short of glory.

And thus over a weekend and a bit, a young adolescent watched some great sporting action that would stay with him for a lifetime. As I’ve grown older I’ve come to appreciate a lot more what that must have meant for Amritraj and Gavaskar and also what it must have taken out of them to put in the physical and mental effort that they did. It didn’t matter that India had won just one of the two ties at stake, what I had witnessed was some of the finest sporting action to which I would ever be privy.

Posted in Cricket, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Flashback Friday: The Sun is Brahman

Posted by anandrr on January 23, 2009

Solar heating, then and now

Solar heating, then and now

One of my fondest memories is from a summer when I was but a stripling of  10 or 11. We lived in Ulsoor (spelled Halasuru these days, I’ve noticed), back then it felt like it was very far away from the city centre, how things change. The corporation would supply water at least once a day, perhaps a couple times a day, this continues to be a luxury in Bangalore. It is up to the people to figure out how to store the water for as long as they need it. I am not entirely sure how or why this is a good idea, if people are going to store all the water they will need and then some, surely it is more efficient to just keep the taps on, but I’m surely missing something. But to get back to my story, we lived in a house built before I was born so of course it lacked “modern” infrastructure like overhead tanks and pumps to fill them up. The result was that the time that the water flowed through the taps was precious and enough water had to be collected in sufficiently large containers and so on so as to last the entire day.

Now, the year I am referring to, perhaps this was one of those years that the monsoons had failed, for whatever reason the Bangalore corporation decided that summer that they would cut back on the frequency of water supply. My dad in his infinite wisdom obtained a couple large black drums that would be filled with water so it could be used later in a last-resort situation. These were sufficiently large drums that once they were filled at the tap in our “yard”, they were heavy enough that they would have to be left there and not moved anywhere. And so they would sit there in the Indian summer and bake all day. It must have helped that they were black, so any sun rays getting anywhere in their vicinity had no choice but to heat the water within the drums. It didn’t take my brother and me long to discover that a drum filled with cold water in the morning had very warm and toasty water in the evening. After a summer day filled with playing cricket or running around in the dusty streets, we could think only of taking the very warm water and enjoying lingering baths in them. The fact that the water appeared to have heated itself must have added a surreptitious dimension to the situation, here we were able to take a hot water bath in the summer with apparently no adult help required in turning on the water heater or anything, just transport the water into the house, and you were good to go. Bangalore’s weather demanded that you use the water as soon as possible, any delay beyond twilight meant that the water would cool quickly even in the summer, if I had known Newton’s Law of Cooling back then I might even have found a way to intellectualize the bathing experience. The bathing situation was of course curiously dichotomous: as kids we were excited by the prospect of “stealing” hot water from what had been mere cold water in the morning and the prospect of getting to use it all for a bath seemed curiously exciting, our parents were probably quite pleased they’d found a way for the kids to get the grime off their bodies so willingly in the evening. It didn’t make sense but there it was.

All of which came back to me as I stood under the shower spewing forth scalding hot water at me from our newly installed solar water heater. There turns out to be a certain joy in knowing that the only conventional energy involved in bringing you your hot water is the motor that pumped the water up to the tank. The utter simplicity of the system is beguiling, no conversion of light to electricity or turning turbines involved here, just the sun heating water in tubes and letting the laws of physics do the rest. Beautiful!

Having lived so long in a city and area where sunlight and natural light are at a premium, the first thing I noticed on my return to India was how much free A-grade sunlight we had pouring over us every day and how little energy the average Indian gets by way of electricity. Unlike the Bay Area sun, temperamental and unreliable, the Bangalore sun is always on yet temperate. (Cue joke about Superman going from the red sun of Bangalore to the yellow sun of the Bay Area). And yet, our ability to use sunlight and sun-heat to do any thing more than heat water in a manner that is economically viable is severely limited by the technologies available. It’s a little frustrating, but also somewhat hopeful, after all the day that we learn to tap the sun, that’s the day we truly attain energy-moksha.

Posted in Nostalgia, Philosophy | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Flashback Friday: Name That Band

Posted by anandrr on December 26, 2008

Identify the rock bands?

Identify the rock bands?

Remember some 2-3 years ago this picture was making the rounds and it had some 100 rock bands cleverly hidden in it, and you had to identify all of them to prove your rock cred and all along you thought it was just some elaborate joke being played by Virgin and damned if you were going to get sucked in but you had to because otherwise your music cred was entirely at stake? And  you were walking around saying Radiohead was the greatest and you just knew somewhere in there was a guy with a radio for a head but damned if you could find it and this was only going to make you look worse than you already did.

I finally got around to listening to the latest Girl Talk yesterday. Oh it was downloaded the day of release for free and everything, but we clean forgot about it until we were reminded yesterday. And such joy. Easily among the top albums of the year. And non-stop entertainment as you try to name that band and song. Perfect!

Posted in Nostalgia, Showbiz | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Flashback Friday: I Want my MTV

Posted by anandrr on December 12, 2008

All this talk about the first video on MTV reminded me of 1986, back when DD would show us a heavily edited 30 minute versions of the Grammys, Oscars etc. I remember back then, sitting in front of our new colour TV watching the Grammys, all agape as Dire Straits came on with their Money For Nothing video. The animation blew my mind. (The music was wonderful also, but the music I already knew). Looking back at it now…

Posted in Nostalgia, Showbiz, TV | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Flashback Friday: India’s Bruce Springsteen

Posted by anandrr on December 5, 2008

I ran into this quite by accident. Is it me or wasn’t there an old Rishi Kapoor song, Rishi Kapoor at a traffic intersection, decked out in red, yellow and green lights making a complete ass of himself or am I completely misremembering a traumatic incident of my childhood? I was searching Youtube for this comedic gem and ended with nothing to show. Instead, let’s all doff our hats to the serendipitous wonders of the tubes, I ran into Mithun showing us how it’s done. The easily excitable aunties in the audience are so enthralled by his moves, it’s all they can do to remain seated! And that shrieking girl, oh precious.

Since I never write about anything until I’ve researched the shit out of it, I just now spent some time on the Wikipedia page for Disco Dancer (while you’re on the Wikipedia page, check out the “Cliche Dialogues” section, especially the, “He’s got guitar phobia. A guitar killed his mother,” priceless! One imagines an army of guitars descending on the guitar phobic, one also imagines a staunch 2nd Amendment defender claiming, “Guitars don’t kill people, People kill people.” One wonders if the purists booed when the guitar killers went suddenly from using acoustic to electric. Sellouts! But enough, back to the res), and what should I find but that the movie was made in 1982. Per the same Wikipedia, Bruce made Dancing in the Dark in 1984. Who copied whom? Does Courteney Cox owe her career to Mithun and Bappi L? We need answers!

To close out this discussion, I’m thinking it would have been cool if MTV India (or Channel V) had launched with this song:

I’m guessing they didn’t. However, for your viewing pleasure here is the original any way:

You’re making the first ever music video, and this is the best you can do? You’re changing the way the world experiences music and you have a little girl turning the dials on a washing machine? WTF? Seriously, WTF?

Posted in Culture, Films, Nostalgia, Showbiz, TV, wtf | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Flashback Friday: He Forgot Poland

Posted by anandrr on October 3, 2008

We’re reminded today that barely four years ago, Bush told us at one of the “debates” that he would use the Dred Scott decision as a litmus test when thinking about his Supreme Court picks. Naturally liberals were surprised, it was nice and all that Bush had finally decided that Dred Scott was decided wrongly, here was something on which they could finally agree with their President. But 150 years after the case was decided and overturned by Constitutional amendment, and Civil Wars fought over it, he had decided that views on Dred Scott would be a litmus test? WTF? Had he just heard somebody say Dred Scott in the hallway and latched on to it? There was no way an ignoramus like Bush even knew what Dred Scott was all about. Then the mists cleared and it turned out that liberals were the only ones puzzled. Conservatives had heard him loud and clear: He would appoint judges who would overturn Roe v Wade.

So it was rather surprising that when Sarah Palin was asked a similar question, the only case she could think of was Roe v Wade. Is she so unschooled in right wing evangelical dog-whistles that she didn’t know that the right phrase to use is Dred Scott? Weird.

Posted in Media, Nostalgia, Politics, TV, wtf | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Flashback Friday: P.B. Sreenivas Gets a Makeover

Posted by anandrr on September 26, 2008

It’s Friday September 26th. Which can mean only one thing. Buddhivantha, the movie all of Karnataka is awaiting with bated breath has been released. Yay for Uppi! Ups is the superstar  who rules our lives! Yippee-dee-do!

But Mr Cranky here has detected the dark cloud within the silver lining. You see, Buddhivantha includes this grating number. You can’t go an hour on Radio Mirchi (Sakkath Hot Maga!) or any other local radio station without being subjected to this torture.

This would be a remix of the melodious If by remix, you mean sung by a dude who rolls his R’s like he just stepped off the plane fresh from his 20-year stay in the States, and anyway just as soon as he seems to get a hang of the melody gets interrupted quite rudely by interlopers from the “chorus.”

And anyway, WTF is that bark at the 2:02 mark? Seriously, WTF?

Posted in Films, Kannada, Nostalgia, Showbiz, wtf | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Flashback Friday: Remember That Kid From Fauji?

Posted by anandrr on September 19, 2008

We’ve mentioned before our somewhat recent learnings about Don. It was even more recent that we finally got to watch the latest version of Don. It runs to 3 hours or more, so we cleverly skipped the first half hour and the last half hour. But we got the flesh, er, meat of the movie. We loved the movie. The entire movie was an exercise in titillation and how. You had your tech porn, gadget porn, automotive porn, action porn and of course plenty of luscious, soft porn.

But most of all, we loved Shah Rukh Khan. We’ve mocked him before for his ubiquitousness on the TV. We’ve mocked him personally for his seeming overarching desire to be bigger than the Big B. But man, what a star! He totally brings it, and totally owns it. But some things never change. The mannerisms that made him famous some twenty years ago? Still here! Back in the day, we used to love this and all, but looking at it now, it seems like a cheap Army recruitment video. Note to self: Don’t revisit the past.

Posted in Army, Films, Nostalgia, Showbiz, TV | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Flashback Friday: Juhi Chawla Gets Her Big Break

Posted by anandrr on September 12, 2008

Juhi is ok in this, but when we were 13, this used to hold us breathless.

Posted in Films, Kannada, Nostalgia, Showbiz | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »