Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Joy of watching TV-Cricket

The contents of this post is especially for those who know at least a little bit of the game of Cricket.  Other ignoramuses also can read it!  Observations in this are "in my personal  opinion". 

My own TV grab of a memorable moment

Watching a cricket match on TV is not just sitting back, with some junk food by the side, counting runs, overs and wickets.  Cricket is for enjoyment of both the player and the beholder.  I have seen many people while watching games on TV or following the game, take sides.  Taking sides is not a healthy habit, because it is a hindrance to enjoy the other plentiful intrinsic thrills of cricket.  It is beyond mathematical figures and statistics. 

Cricket is one of the most unpredictable games, which we all know.  This is due to varied combination of many factors that get involved in the process of a match.  Climatic conditions, nature of the pitch, location, size and shape of the ground, time of the day, humidity, sunlight, now the dew factor in ODIs [day-night], quality and brand of ball, players' form, fitness and frame of mind and so on!

Cricket would not have got so popular at all if it was without those unpredictable elements.  Tell me why Don Bradman or Sachin Tendulkar, could not score a century each time they walked out to bat or Shane Warne  took a wicket every few deliveries he bowled.  Tell me why blinders of catches are held or simple catches floored.  Tell me why direct throws at stumps from a short distance miss?  Tell me why batsmen sometimes get out to seemingly 'loose deliveries'.  Tell me why they can sometimes hit a seemingly 'good' delivery for a sixer.  Tell me why batsmen sometimes get out at their own score on 99. Tell me why a player is said to be 'out of form' or 'in fine form'.  Tell me why players prepare so much, practice a lot, work hard and yet perform poorly in the match?  Can these be explained?  The post mortem words like 'ifs, buts, should have, should not have...' have no meaning.  Because, things 'happen at that moment it happens'!  They just happen!  

There are two categories of people who watch cricket on TV.  One category has just cricket fans or followers or casual enthusiasts and the other has players who have actually played the game.  Relatively, the latter enjoy more because they know why and how certain things happen or do not happen during a game as the nuances of the game are better understood by them from experience.  The former lot may miss grasping them, probably also because their focus is on 'their own desired end results'!  We find more 'side takers' among the former lot.  All said and done, there are quite a few from the former category, even mothers-in-law, that are good at analyzing games! 

Siding a team makes one tense esp., if the favoured team does badly.  I know some friends who stay away from the TV when India is playing, because they cannot tolerate Team India losing!  They expect the opponents to lose every match!  Patriotism should not be taken too far while watching a cricket match from a comfortable sofa!   Of course who does not like to see our Team India win games?  There are better ways to savour 'watching victories' than to go out to the streets and shouting or bursting crackers in the dead of the night disturbing the neighbourhood!

[A local cricket match at Maharaja's College Ground, Mysore].  

Cricket is a hard-fought game played between two teams on the field and the winner is always the one who performs better than the other on that particular day.  Sometimes we also say that 'cricket is the winner' when a game ends in a thrilling draw after the two sides that played good exciting cricket throughout.  Some people get involved in the game they are watching and get very emotional, to the extent that they feel as if they are commanding the actions on far away grounds, when even players playing the game do not know what happens in the next minute or ball!  Shorter versions of the game have less cricketing thrills than the longest version, Test Cricket.

After all, what is cricket [in brief]?  Read and understand this beautiful description inscribed on stone at Kingsmead Oval's Centenary Museum in Durban, South Africa.  It is about Test Match Cricket:

You have two sides; one out in the field and one in.  Each man that's in the side that's in goes out when he is out.  He comes in and the next man goes in until he's out.  When they are all out, the side that's out comes in.  And the side that's been in goes out and tries to get those coming in out.  Sometimes you get men still in and not out.  When both sides have been in and out including the not outs.  That's the end of the match.  That is Cricket!


Friday, February 10, 2012

Empty Photography

I was requested to help out in the role of a photographer for my sister-in-law's wedding.  Chickmagalur was the venue.  I reluctantly agreed [for my first stint], since 'I had a camera'. 1993 was still the 'film camera era'.  

'My' camera was actually my friend Girish Nikam's, of Russian make.  He had bought that camera a many years earlier for four hundred rupees [cheap] from a studio owner whom he knew, on Dhanvantri Road.  He had left it behind in his parents' house as he was not using it any longer and also had left the city for greener pastures.  It was a second hand camera which I think was 'repaired and sold' off to him because he was looking for a camera that used 35 mm films.

Here is the "Cosmic Symbol" Russian Camera, fully manual.

I had given my obsolete [it used paper film rolls - 12/roll] box camera to Girish some time ago before he left Mysore.  I wanted it back for its square lenses and also for its bit of sentimental value - this was the first camera that was bought in the family to coincide with my sacred thread ceremony.  Its cost was a hefty one hundred rupees 40 years ago.  There were others more expensive also at that time.  So when I went to his parents' house to ask for that camera.  Girish's mother felt bad to know that it was mine because she had disposed off as 'junk' with other items.  That was bad news to me.  Seeing my dejection,  she remembered Girish's Russian camera lying idle and brought it out to me saying 'you can have this', instead.  That is how it came to me!  I had written to Girish later about this!

It became a new toy for me to open up and experiment, as was my wont. After exposing a couple of black and white rolls [35mm] taking my kid's pictures, I had noticed that there was a slight glitch in the winding mechanism.  Black and white, because it was much cheaper to experiment than colour film.  It was taking reasonably good pictures, but the winding was not happening properly.  I set it right myself after diagnosing the exact problem.  My watch-repair tools and some common sense came in handy.   I shifted to colour rolls, once I was fully convinced.  It took reasonably good shots.  

I was looking for a flash.  I came to know that my cricket team mate from Hyderabad had one that he was not using and he was kindly willing to part with me.  He later sent it through his local team mate when we met in another city for another tournament!  That is how this got to me, a few weeks before the Chickmagalur wedding I was to use.


The camera and the flash [in good working condition] were both 'mine' now. A few dry runs were made to be assured about the flash’s performance.  It worked well most times.  'Most times' is not good!  It has to be every time!   Erratic.  I discovered that it was due to some glitch only in electrical contact.  It was getting 'shorted' somewhere.  The camera was now working well outdoors though. 

For the wedding at Chickmagalur, in order to be safe, I had borrowed from another friend, a simple automatic 'aim and shoot' camera with built-in flash.  This was supposed to be a stand-by arrangement.  Flash was of utmost necessity.   Taking shots indoors without flash was not feasible though not impossible.  

I loaded a new roll of colour film into my camera and another to the borrowed one as well. My friend had orally explained how to load the film into it.  This was the first time I was loading a film into an automatic camera, myself.

On the way to Chickmagalur, we stopped over for a brief visit to the beautiful temple at Belur late evening. For my third shot here with my camera inside the temple the flash worked normally.  For the next shot, it would not work!  What I had expected, happened even before we even reached the destination!  Time after dinner at Chickmagalur was spent in trying to shoot the trouble.   I had taken my tools, expecting such a situation.  But the exact glitch was undetectable.   Without flash, the purpose of this camera became invalid as all the shots were to be indoors.  I decided not to carry it for the event the next day, but to go armed only with the borrowed second option camera. 

At the wedding ceremony, I was on a roll, with a film roll, in a new role.  The 'photographer' in me was on song, clicking away, waiting for 'right moments' to capture.  I even made people stand for snaps where and how I fancied, like a veteran photographer with an experience of covering one hundred events!   They obeyed me like school kids!!  *Smile, smile*!   I was to 'take pictures' only in one roll of 35-36 exposures.  

This is a rough cartoon I had drawn in 1977, imitating one of R.K.Laxman's.

When we returned to Mysore there were still 3 or 4 exposures left  – according to the camera counter.  To use up the full roll, some random shots were taken and it was taking the 37th frame, then the 38th!  It would not stop as it should and I was told that rewinding happens auto at the end of the roll.  Even 36 frames/roll is a rarity. So I used the option of rewind button, operated by motor.  Whirrrl.... whirrrl... it kept doing that for a long while!  Common sense told me - since I have not rewound by auto before - that it was strangely taking too long.  I dared opening the back to verify.  

Flash and Camera that got me tricked instead of being clicked!

I took the camera to the studio for 'developing and printing'.  While the man at the counter was opening the back to take out the cartridge, I told him my doubt.  My doubt was a fact and I was looking at it!  'Oh no!'  The film stayed put exactly the way I had put. The slots at the edge must have slipped as the cover was closed while loading.  Winding was also automatic in that camera.  I was shown where I had gone wrong in loading the film, though the camera counter kept running!  That was the misleading point. 

That I used that 'unused' roll for myself later on is another matter. Now I had two rolls.  You know where the other was! 

My one-and-only-time role of a photographer turned out to be an unwitting drama.   Years later, I can recall and laugh.  Laugh because, there was a professional photographer on duty there.  There was also a lesson or two learnt from this episode.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sky gazing, Halley's Comet and more

Even since my younger days, star-gazing has been one of my smaller passions.  The 'Evening Star' [planet] Venus was the brightest object seen above the row of houses on the western side opposite our main door. The elders used to show it to me from a young age, telling it is 'Shukra Graha'.  Even now, it is a habit in the evenings to look for it in the evenings.  Some seasons it is a 'morning star'.  On numerous occasions Venus has guided me in knowing the direction when I am out of Mysore.  Of course, I used to watch the moon phases. My grandmother used to show the 'bidigay chandra' - the first crescent of the moon phase.  It became visible around sunset, low on the western sky.  Even this is a habit now.

[Picture by author]

When I was very young, I vaguely remember having got up in the wee hours of the night along with other elders in the family to watch a comet [in Kannada as 'dhoomaketu'], visible on the eastern sky, behind our mango tree!  I remember the tail to be pointing down and they compared the comet with a broom for its shape! This was probably in the mid 1960s.

In the 1970s or thereabouts, another uncommon phenomenon was observed above the Mysore skies. It was a colourful cloud-like thing, pinkish at that time, which they called as 'Aurora'.  It was also reported in the next day's paper. I remember it to have seen on the southern sky when it was getting dark that evening.  Auroras are common in some parts of the world.

There was another celestial event when planets Mars, Jupiter and Saturn had lined up one above the other on the eastern sky on that known day, sometime in the early 1980s.  I remember having watched it from the kitchen window from where it was clearly visible.

I have also not missed watching eclipses also.  

Old wives' tales go around and get stuck.  Will mention just two here.  Arrival of comets signal a bad omen and watching a 'falling star' or shooting star [meteor/ite] will bring bad news.  My grandmother had brainwashed others about such things, among many, to the extent that they left a deep impression on our young minds.  Once I had seen a meteor while walking with others in the family.  'Nakshatra bitthu!'.. I announced ['a star fell'] and someone said..'something bad may be waiting.'  A few days later an aunt died - in 1971.  After that, I had become so frightened that I dreaded to look at the night sky, lest I noticed any shooting star!  I now wonder, about people watching meteor showers or astronomers who keep watching meteors every night?

Halley's Comet flew by in 1986.  It was doing so after 76 years and because of its long periodic cycle, it was getting wide publicity.  It was to be visible to the naked eye for nearly a month.  Its mania also had gone to the extent that many countries, including India, issued postage stamps of this celestial event and Halley himself.  Astronomers, in an attempt to create awareness about the comet and to drive away superstitions, were giving frequent educative short lectures.  The sessions also included setting up of a telescope for showing the comet and other planets which were on that night sky.

[Image of Halley's Comet from National Geographic website, Photo by James Balog]

When they say 'naked eye visibility' it means that the object is not bright and clear, but it had to be located and spotted amidst a sea of stars.  Once we knew where exactly to look for, it was easy to see the object.   Myself and my friend Keerthichandra had both attended a lecture given by a professor from the University. It was an inspiring lecture.  He taught us where and how the comet could be spotted.  Clarity of sky is a critical factor in star-gazing.  I must tell that skies were clear and vehicular pollution had not affected so much as to create a strong haze, as it has now.  We were able to see a lot many 'dots' and even fainter 'dots' [celestial objects] before the 1990s. .

I want to mention here that the most brilliant and clearest night sky I saw was at Subramanya, a place in the midst of green forests in the great western ghats.  This was in very recent years.  There was power failure at that time.  It had become pretty dark with no substitute lights on the railway platform.  We were waiting for our train back home from that pilgrimage trip.  When I looked up, my jaw dropped, in awe!  It was the starriest sky I had seen in a long long time!  I called out my children to take a look too.  We can count only hundred stars from our city, but there, zillions of them, bright and dull, all were on crystal clear display!  That is the reason why astronomers and star-gazers go far away from cities.

Back to Halley now.  For our 'sky gazing cum Halley sessions', myself, Keerthi and sometimes Krishna would gather.  The place was either near one of the beautiful stone benches on the peaceful Krishnaraja Boulevard or a stone bench in the open field of what was the M.D.T.D.B.College [now housing the Zilla Parishad] - gates were open.  The benches on the Boulevard have been removed and replaced with an ugly lawn but at the erstwhile 'College' [where famous Kannada actress late Arathi studied], a nice garden has replaced the thorny field [our cricket pitch as well]. The Boulevard and the field was so close to our homes that we could run back from there in one breath!

Our meeting time was usually at 9 pm, after dinner.  There was no Television [in most homes] in those days and so we had all the time for good things!  We would spend the next one hour watching the skies, looking at the comet many times and discussing various things.  Let me show the telescope I had made myself around 1976-77.

Lenses have been diamantled. 

Here they are. The wide one was the objective.  I had combined 2-3 small concave ones for the eyepiece to get more 'power' [magnification].  Boast- boast..... I had secured 24 out of 25 in my 12th Std [2nd PUC] Physics practical exam! :)  Beg, beg...... don't ask about other subjects and result!!

My telescope consisted of lenses from toy binoculars I had broken in my childhood, junked flashlight cases and a table lamp stand! It was a crude instrument, but still good enough, despite the difficulty in bringing the object in the view-range. I used to focus to the Great Nandi Bull on Chamundi Hill. People moving around it could be seen from the top of our house through it. The view was unobstructed in that time when I made it. 

At the time of watching Halley's in 1986, I was armed with my own, but Keerthichandra had his powerful12x binoculars.  With this it was easier to spot the comet.  Once it was done, the 'comet haze' was visible to the naked eye itself. It was in the Orion Constellation which itself  is easy to identify, with its near rectangle arrangement of bright stars and a cluster of fainter stars in its centre.  Observing its path for the entire month until it disappeared, was a good experience for us.  So much about Comet-following.

Now, back to that lecture.  Besides information about Halley's Comet the professor also gave some other interesting tit bits on astronomy.  For people to easily remember and recall the order from the Sun, the nine planets in our solar system, he mentioned a mnemonic, "My Very Educated Mother Just Showed Us Nine Planets".  The first letter of each word represents the first letter of the planet names, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and Pluto. It reminded me of the two typewriting mnemonics, "A quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." and "Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs.", which contains all the letters of the English alphabet.  Just FYI, a mnemonic is a device such as a formula or an acronym, or a rhyme used as a memory aid.

After a few years, there was an article on star gazing in the local paper.  So I thought it was relevant at that time to let others also know about this impressive planet-mnemonic. My short letter was published.

Very soon, to my great surprise, there was this letter written by Sri G.T.Narayana Rao, who was a very renown personality in Mysore, an expert in astronomy and a science writer and critic, to briefly mention about him.  He was known to react strongly to matters that had even a slight inkling of  'astrology'.  He always argued with the planet number.

After a few years, I once met him during his walk, but he could not remember about this letter, quite expectedly.  I wanted to meet him again, more leisurely, to learn a bit more about stars and constellations, but that never happened.  He is no longer with us now.

I now found out from the web that there are quite a few mnemonics on this, besides the one I heard for the first time from the professor.

My Very Easy Method Just Speeds Up Naming Planets.
My Very Energetic Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas.
My Very Evil Mummy Just Sat Upon Nathan's Potty.
My Very Easy Memory Jingle Seems Useful Naming Planets.
My Venomous Equestrian Monkey Just Sat Underneath Napoleons's Plantation.
My Very Excellent Mother Just Sent Us Noodles.
Many Very Earnest Men Just Snubbed Unfortunate Ninth Planet.
Mary's Violet Eyes Make John Stay Up Nights.
My Very Educated Mother Just Said Uh-oh No Pluto.

Some of the above, without the 'P' were coined after Pluto was recently downgraded to a non-planet status, leaving the number of planets to eight.

In this link, you will find an interesting presentation about the comparative pace planets rotate round the Sun.

The tail of Halley's Comet touched earth in its previous visit, in 1910.  Something wonderful happened in the south Indian city of Kumbakonam. You can read a bit about it here in this link [click].  In 1986, it was not a close encounter.  I know not how close it will be when it flies by again in 2061.  There will not be many who survive to watch and also remember two 'fly bys' of Halley.