Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Greek Tragedy

K had said it a hundred times by now but decided to repeat it once again,” I am going to settle down here. The girls are so damn beautiful.” The second part of the statement was hard to argue and the first, well K is known for exaggerating. 

Greece was turning out to be as beautiful as or rather more beautiful than we had imagined it to be. Ofcourse Greece had its own set of problems-Illegal immigrants being one of them. A Pakistani shopkeeper warned us right on our arrival that we should keep our passports safe as they are the most stolen thing in Greece. But it was not a problem to our travelling as long as we paid heed to his advice, which we did. We had planned to visit Athens, San Torini and Olympia (if time permitted). Our first stop was Athens which was living lesson in history-the Acropolis, Temple of Zeus, Ancient Olympics stadium and so much more. The two days we spent in Athens were a treat if we ignore the incidence when M & A were stopped on the street by SWAT type police officials and asked to lean against the wall with hands up. They were left alone after passport verification etc. Though A remained in shock for some time but he got relief from the fact that they were policemen and not muggers.

As we took a ferry to San Torini we were all super excited to have a look at the trademark white houses of the island(Remember Tauba Tumhare Ye Ishare) and the beaches of Black and Red beaches of the island. For anyone who has been to San Torini would know that it is impossible to explore the island unless you rent a car or a bike. We chose All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs). That is when things started to go a bit wrong. ATVs are not the easiest thing to drive and M soon realised that as he banged into a car whose driver started shouting stuff in Greek which made no sense to M but he did catch the word “Police” to which M’s only response was “No Police!” The driver agreed to that bit but only after M paid him 300 Euros.
Things became smooth after that as M,G,H & K got comfortable with the rides. After having seen arguably the most beautiful sunset in the world, all of them headed back and returned the ATVs. Next day started off with a visit to the Nea Kameni Volcano but we were free by around 3 PM and our return ferry was to leave at 10 PM so we still had a lot of time so we decided to head off to the Red Beach on the island. Hence we again rented the ATVs which was not an altogether unanimous decision. As we reached the destination, we parked our ATVs and were about to walk towards the beach when A, who had been riding pillion to M all this while asked H if he could drive his ATV. So A took a very small round at incredibly low speed with H following him throughout to make sure nothing unwanted happens. Watching this, B, who had been pillion to K throughout asked H if we could also ride the ATV? So this was B’s turn. B also took a small round and he decided to test the ATV a bit more and took it straight which was slightly uphill but it was fine. The problem was the journey downhill. As B brought the ATV downhill, He didn’t realise the road had a slight curve towards the cliff and the ATV slowly kept moving in that direction. H shouted frantically and asked B to press the brakes but B had lost control by then and he went off the cliff along with the ATV. Meanwhile, G & M were being photographed by J on the other end of the cliff and hence they saw B and the ATV flying. After the initial shock of a couple of seconds, everyone ran towards the cliff. Underneath there was a sea of sharp edged rocks and water was constantly gushing against them (SEE: Bandra Bandstand). A fear gripped everyone and we shouted B’s name and were relieved to see him not his head. K & M headed down to bring him back. M made a brave attempt to bring the ATV back as well but it was not the easiest task in the world. M immediately headed for a doctor alongwith B. J & G left to look for a pick up van whereas K, A & H waited.

A lot happened in the following 3 hours but it was nothing compared to what had happened just now. Otherwise, a dog getting on top a scooter and being up against G’s chest and G&J escaping after letting the dog get on top of the person who tried to help them would have been a story in itself. 

As the night set in, we were feeling better as the doctor assured that B was fine but having paid 1800 Euros for the ATV, who could have been fine. To top it all, one of us lost his phone.

As hours went past, we started to get a bit relaxed again. Everyone was trying to cheer up everyone else. It felt great to be with a bunch of people all of whom were standing up for each other in the times of trouble. We headed for our ferry with a hope that the bad luck may get over with San Torini but the sadly, it was the Greek Tragedy not the Tragedy of San Torini.

As we got off the ferry at Phireaus, we decided to get our tickets for Italy booked and that is when it dawned upon H that he does not have the Eurail Passes of himself and two others he was carrying. As everyone searched their bags, calls were made to the hotel guy in San Torini if something was found in our rooms. We made efforts of getting a replacement but the stupid Eurail rules don’t allow that.

Tired and gloomy, we headed for Patras to head back to Italy. After having reached Patras, we relaxed for sometime at the port. Just when we thought that the worst is over, H realised he had lost his sunglasses in the bus. But ironically even H himself didn’t feel very bad about it. After all that had happened it just seemed like a drop in the ocean.

As we were heading into the ferry, we were asked by the port authorities to wait as we were required to be checked by the port police. We waited for some time patiently but soon anger and anguish started to grip us as all the fair looking people were being let into the ferry without any checking whatsoever and we saw this as a racial discrimination without a shadow of doubt. We tried to argue with the port authorities, asked them check our passports but to no avail. M & A went and talked to some official inside the port who finally checked our papers and let us go. But this was after we had been standing there for a good 2 hours. By the way, another fellow who was not even European and was let inside by the captain of the ship despite a couple o people asking him not to. A few Euros must have been exchanged there. Alongwith us another person was let in who later told us that he had a fake passport. If this is how they check, Why Check at all!!

And hence ended THE GREEK TRAGEDY!

And who am I you must be thinking. I could be anyone of A,B,G,H,J, K or M. We all suffered the same, just the money that got burnt differed.

Monday, November 15, 2010

With love & Peace

“Kal tak tan ji khatte hi si, o tan ena ne aiven hi vand te”
“We were One till yesterday, they divided us for no reason”

These were the words used by a Pakistani national when I met him in Greece and I couldn’t have agreed more. 

After having spent around 3 months in these foreign lands, I have experienced the love Indians and Pakistanis share for each other.  Sitting at home, in India or Pakistan, there can be anger and disgust towards each other for various reasons but in the end, we are the same. It has been just 60 odd years till nothing of this stupid rivalry existed.  The love and affection of thousands of years can’t just evaporate in such a short period and the fact is, it should never evaporate.

Being a punjabi, I feel elated when I meet someone speaking punjabi in Europe. In a lot of cases, that person is not an Indian but why should that matter when he speaks the same language, wears the same clothes, has the same culture. If you come to think of it, India's history is incomplete without Lahore and Pakistan's history is incomplete without Delhi. 

The funniest part to all this the fact that those who are responsible for separating us and those who have tried to make sure that we don’t see eye to eye are often offering to act as arbitrators in Indo-Pak talks.  I think we can manage without them, rather we can progress without them. 

Diwali of 2010 would always be etched in mind for what happened that day. We were in Athens and we wanted to have some Indian food and hence we headed to a Pakistani restaurant we had been to the previous day as well. As soon as we entered the restaurant, we saw a jam packed hall with Pakistanis watching Pak play SA in an ODI match. We were about to turn back when the owner saw us and recognised us from yesterday. He came running towards us, got some tables and chairs vacated for us and served us in the best possible manner. He indulged in a small chat with us when he discussed the bad economic condition of Greece which was forcing loads of Indians and Pakistanis to go back home. When he was talking to us, it never felt that he belongs to a different nation because deep within, there are 2 countries divided out of the same nation. I don’t think there could have a better diwali celebration than watching cricket sitting amidst separated brothers and having your own food.


This is just one of many examples that I have of how I have enjoyed and relished the company of people from our neighbouring nation. In my college in France, we have loads of Pakistanis who are studying as full time students. They have been more than willing to lend a helping hand if it came to searching for accommodation, advising where to buy groceries from and even invitations to play cricket.

The person whose quote I used right at the start of the article met me in San Torini, Greece asked me after observing me and my friends for some time , “ Punjab to?” I had made out from his accent that he is from the Pakistani side of Punjab so I replied, “ Hanji India wale Punjab to han.(Yes, From the Indian Punjab)” And he was quick to add,” tan ki ho gaya ji. Punjab tan Punjab hi hai.(So What, Punjab Is Punjab)”
I quoted this instance to my dad and he said,” waise dona punjaban nu chahida aape khade ho k koi reunification movement chala den.” Or “Both Punjabs should themselves start a reunification movement.” Though he said it in a light mood, this may be the only hope we have. Some fanatics, who don’t belong to any religion or any nation have created all these unnecessary problems and some politicians are not letting this die. Reunification is a far fetched dream but the least we can do is-Live like two brothers should, with love & peace.  

Naraz to tum bhi ho
Naraz to hum bhi hain
Galtiyan kuch hamari bhi hain
Galtiyan kuch tumhari bhi hain
Par kum tak yun roothe baithe rahenge
kab tak ik dusre se kuch na kahenge
kab tak yun dono taraf aansu bahenge
bhula do gile shikwe
do kadam tum chalo, do kadam hum chalenge

Saturday, November 6, 2010


This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 16; the sixteenth edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton.

 Sunil Dev had now been a professional tennis player for 13 years. After struggling to set his foot for the first 2-3 years, Sunil had been a huge success. He was currently the 3rd best ranked player in the World and had been in the top 3 ranked players in the world now for more than 10 years.Being the only player ever from India to be ranked No. 1 in the world was won of the biggest achievements for Sunil. He had tasted success of on surfaces, winning 28 titles in total including 7 grand slams. But he had always been eluded of that one Wimbledon crown he egarded the most. He had always been good on grass but fate had just not been in his favour. 3 finals, but always on the loosing side. He was now 30 and was beginning to lose his pace. New players like Peter Rogers and Gordon Jacobs  had emerged onto the scene in a bg way and were now regular features in grad slam showdowns.He knew if was to come, it will have to come soon.

The Championships in the year 2020 began on the 22nd of June. Sunil had a decent draw and the experts were expecting him to make it to the Quarters with ease and that happened as expected. Sunil came up against his old time rival Craig Withers in the Quarters and won the match in 4 sets. It was looking as if things might finally turn his way. He came up against Gordon Jacobs, the current World No. 2 in the semis and Sunil was not the favourite.  The match went down right to the rubber. The score after the first four sets was 6-3, 4-6, 7-6. 2-6. Gordon had won the 4th set with ease and it seemed as if Sunil's old legs had worn off. But the Old Warrior still had a trick or two up his sleave and he won the 5th set 6-1 in just 25 minutes. The Closing remarks of Roger Federer during commentary being, "Not even God knows where that came from."

Sunil had now reached the stage where he had been 3 times(2013,2016,2017) in the past but had always had to be content with the plate instead of the trophy. His opponent in the final was the 21 year old sensation Peter Rogers. Peter had risen to No.1 position on the rankings in merely 2 years. But it was his 1st Wimbledon final. Peter and Sunil had faced off only twice in the past. Peter had won on both occasions, that too in straight sets. No one was putting his or her money on Sunil. But, there were a few who knew the Indian could come up with one last surprise in his career. The sun was shining brightly in the village of Wimbledon. BBC had roped in legendary Indian doubles specialist Leander Paes for commentary on this special occasion. Leander started off, "This could be a historic day for Sunil and for India."

The match started off with Peter Rogers serving. Peter won the game at love with two aces and not having had to face a return. But, Sunil soon found his groove and both the players were matching each other shot for shot. Peter won the frst set 7-5, Sunil took the next one 7-6, Peter was back in the next one-winning 6-3. Peter was looking set for a maiden Wimbledon title when he was leading 3-0 in the 4th set. But while serving the ace that made it 3-0, Peter twisted his ankle. The doctor was out attending to Peter as Sunil was desperately loooking on. He wanted the Wimbledon crown, but he wasnted to win it. As Peter got up and started to jog a little & the crowd started to roar, Sunil had a sigh of relief.  As the half fit Peter came back, Sunil made the most of the opportunity and dominated the set from there on, winning it 6-4. The 5th set brought out the best in both players, with each matching each other point for point, game for game! Peter was fighting the pain in his ankle the best he could. As Sunil finally got a break point and a  match point, leading 9-8, he knew he couldn't let it go. As Peter served deep on the right corner, Sunil antipated the move and his return fell of the left hand corner on the other side of the court. Peter made a diving attempt to return the ball but Sunil had hit the shot to perfection. As the reeling in pain Peter got up,he challenged the decision but he lost the challenge. Sunil had his hands up in the air. Peter threw his racket down on the grass. The youngster couldn't take the pain or the loss and was all tears. Sunil was lost in his own glory and forgot to head to the net so that he could shake hands with Peter. Sunil was straight off into the crowds to hug his parents and his wife. The crowd roared him on. Peter kept waiting at the net.

Shehnayiyan bajti hain tumhare ghar
Hamari aah nahi sunta koi
Tum haste haste chal padte ho
Hamara hath nahi pakadta koi
Aisa kya garoor jeet ka tumhe
Bhul gaye tum Hamesha jeetta nahi koi

As the emotional Sunil headed to collect his trophy, he had realised his error. He headed to Peter and bowed to him.

Har kar yun na ho mayoos
Yun kya hi hoga haasil
Har ka kar istikbaal
Ho tu bhi jeet k jashn mein shamil
Fir kar le khud ko tayar
Fir sajegi mehfil-e-jung
Aamne Samne honge tum aur hum
Marle lena maidan aur fir dekh jeet k kya hota hai mehsoos

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