A Mania filled Opening Night

Arsenal fans went through a variety of emotions on the opening night of Premier League. The new season got off to a flier, may be for a neutral viewer, but if you are a supporter of either of Arsenal or the Leicester you might have had moments when your blood rushed with excitement or heart felt like tearing open.

New Premier League is off and running. It didn’t just start but it was a night that might turn out to be the story of the season. The Foxes were asked to visit Emirates for their first outing of the season and it didn’t go that badly for them, even though the result was not in their favor.

 

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Lacazette, Welbeck, Ramsay, and Giroud scored goals for Arsenal | Source: Premierleague.com

 

The Gunners were forced to start the game with a makeshift defense, with everyone at the back playing out of position. But, the Arsenal manager made sure that he threw in all the attacking options he has in his armor, even pushing Ox to play in right back position.

The two new signings for Arsenal- Lacazette and Kolasinac looked really good with the new forward providing the early break through within 90 seconds of his debut. Kolasinac looked solid and he also contributed with an assist in the closing minutes of the first half which also marked the return of Danny Welbeck.

The hope and enthusiasm of early goal didn’t stay long as Leicester responded brilliantly with two goals from Okazaki and Jamie Vardy.  A lot of credit for Okazaki’s goal had to go to Harry Maguire’s brilliant debut with the Foxes making sure that the ball stayed in the game. It is also a lapse in concentration from Petr Cech who looked lot rusty.  Jamie Vardy shed off his agonizingly bad last season with a brilliant finish off the cross from Mark Albrighton.

At half time, both the teams leveled with two goals a piece.

The second half started off rather meekly with either side trying to calm the nerves but Riyad Mahrez’s cross supported by excellent finish by Jamie Vardy pushed Foxes into the lead and the Gunners fans into despair. What followed next is crazy 30 minutes of football. Arsenal subbed in Giroud, Ramsay and Walcott in quick succession which turned out to be a master move. This could have back fired for the team but the players ensured that they stayed switched on. A lion’s share of those final 30+5 minutes was played in the Arsenal half.

 

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Leicester might have lost the game but have a lot to look forward to| Source: Premierleague.com

 

It was a night that the Gunners might have avoided the scare but the poor passing and loose linking of defense would be something that they really need to address. All the goals scored by the Leicester City had something to do with the ridiculous passing or lapse in concentration by the Arsenal defense. They need someone to hold them through, but they might have to survive one more game before either of Mertesacker or Koscielny could come back.

And so the opening night of new Premier League season ended with a maniac driven 4-3 win to Arsenal.

This is Premier League back in style.

 

Match Facts:

Match: #1 | Arsenal vs. Leicester | Emirates Stadium, London | 11 Aug 2017

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Arsenal won the opening night fixture on Friday| Source: Premierleague.com

 

 

Arundhati Roy’s “The Ministry of Utmost Happiness”

First things first, if you have actively followed Arundhati Roy on the political screen recently and felt agitated by her comments like many of the social commentators, then this book will rile you up a lot.

The other end of spectrum, if you have loved her magnificent debut novel from 20 years ago, Booker Prize winning, “The God of Small Things” and was amazed by her incredible skill in narrating the deeper emotions, you will still be disappointed.

But, having said that, the book has its heart at the right place but the place wanders way too much for an average reader be focused​ at one point. However, like the many novels that focus on deep human emotions, the rewards are there to taking but you need immense perseverance.

The book centrally narrates the stories to women or rather say two people- Anjum, a trans who holds the first half of the book together and Tilotthama (Tilo), an architect student who turned an accomplice to a suspected militant, marries three men and steals a child from the protests.

But, the book has many important characters who come as close as to your heart but receedes with almost equal pace if not more. There are many hijras, many doctors, many militants, many journalists, and many police officers. 

Three characters steal the show for me: Singh, Naga and Miss Jehran the Second.

The book dwindles between Delhi and Kashmir, the phase where Arundathi Roy doesn’t hesitate even for a moment to put her political views across.

The greatest takeaway from the book is you could connect to at least one character at at least one point in the book. 

As the quote on the cover says:

“How to tell a shattered story?” 

“By slowly becoming everybody. No. By slowly becoming everything.” 

Overall, Arundhati Roy’s “The Ministry of Utmost Happiness” is brilliant as long as it holds the fiction part together but is absolutely difficult to persevere when it switches to non-fiction mode, unfortunately which is in every chapter.

Reading Books #4 to #7

Over the past three months, my reading schedule had depleted due to multiple personal commitments. But, I still managed to read four books during the period.

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#4: “The Ocean of Churn: How the Indian Ocean Shaped Human History” by Sanjeev Sanyal is a very interesting read. It provided insight into the evolution of landscape since the ages but it most importantly talks about the trade, the basic essence of human survival with Indian Ocean acting as a hub and multiple countries around the world its spokes. A must read not just for the economics but for the geographical understanding.

#5: “When Breath becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi. This book had been on my wishlist for way too long but the moment I set myself to read was also the moment I cursed myself to have delayed it so long. The book is excellent in every sense. No discredit to Paul Kalanithi but the foreword by Dr. Abraham Varghese is a masterpiece in itself. Please do read this.

#6: “Pachinko” by Min Jin Lee is a family saga set extended over a period of approx. 60 years where four generations of a family survived, existed, dominated but eventually lost their identity in a land away from home where war is evolved from a daily affair in an outside world to being within one own self.

#7: “The Noise of Time” by Julian Barnes is written with a strange sense of approval. Set during the time of Stalin’s era and post his time where musicologists and the art is heavily controlled by The Power. The book is very small for a historical but as they say commonly about great books, the message is hidden between the lines. I could strangely explore those messages and each sentence felt magical for me. Read this but most importantly think about it beyond the context of the book.

Ed Yong’s “I Contain Multitudes”

It is not as often that you find authors, either of scholarly or literary schools of thought, tell a story from the perspective of the misunderstood entities. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the voice of the voiceless but it takes efforts in understanding the world from the other side.

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Ed Yong’s “I Contain Multitudes” takes a stance completely opposite to the prevailing perception towards the microbial world. For the generation that defined the sanctity by wiping the hands with a hand sanitizer, the book sets out to change the perspective.

It is technically a non-fiction book that introduces use to the concept of the microbial world and it’s significance in the mere existence of the many species in the world, but Ed Yong makes sure that he puts the things in the right frame of setting up by drawing us back to the evolutionary era.

He uses the evolution as an “imaginary year timelines” and specifies the dominance of microbes in the evolutionary cycle. He provides multiple examples to quote why microbes are essential in every walk of life and the differential value that they bring into various species that’s ever walked on the planet.

For a moment, it would feel that he is trying hard to sell the concept of microbes as he mentions time and again about the positive impact that microbes create rather than the general scary-disease causing entities. But, as you finish the book, you realize why it was such an important thing to do as our perspectives change towards the end.

There is a section in the book that even questions the spiritual side of our existence where he puts in multiple aspects that define “You” as a human being. He highlights the physical, genome, cellular comparisons and makes drives home the point how non-existential we would have been, if not for our interaction with the environment we are surrounded with.

Overall, Ed Yong’s “I Contain Multitudes” definitely changes the perspective towards nature and our interaction with it as you were pulled deeply into the microbial world. A definite read. 

Listen to his reading session at “Politics & Prose”:

Gollapudi Maruti Rao “Saayankalamaindi” (It’s Evening Time)

Gollapudi Maruti Rao renowned for his association with Telugu film industry but made significant contributions towards Telugu literature and theater. His “Saayankalamaindi” first appeared as a weekly serial in Andhra Jyothy and later released as a novel.

“Saayankalamaindi” which translates to “It’s evening time” is a metaphorical reference to the phase of a human being. Per Hindu tradition, even human had to experience four stages in his life: Brahmacharya (Student/Bachelor), Grihastha (Householder), Vanaprastha (Retired) and Sannyasa (Renunciation). “Saayankalamaindi” is a reference to the ‘Vanaprastha’ phase of an orthodox Hindu Brahmin ‘Subhadracharyulu’.

The book is a social commentary set in the olden days where the foreign education is still a distant reality. That is the phase where western influences started to penetrate Indian households. The era where still caste based separatism was considered not only as a normalcy but as the way that the society operated.

Gollapudi Maruti Rao introduces many characters in this novel that are distinguished either by their caste, physical appearance, education, wealth or profession. Each character is written with a peculiarity that not only reflected their behavior but is also as representative of the community that has the traits associated with the system personified.

Central to this story is a family – Subhadaracharylu who is an orthodox religious Brahmin whose definition of activity is praying to the deity ‘Kunthi Madhava Swamy”, an avatar of Lord Vishnu. He is accompanied by his wife ‘Varadamma’, who knows no world other than her husband and Lord Vishnu. They are blessed with two children – ‘China Tirumalacharyulu’ (Tirumala) and ‘Andaallu”. As the years pass by, Tirumala leaves the country to work for General Electric and Andaallu is banished from the house for loving and marrying a person from the lower caste. The years pass by and a day comes when Subhadracharylu passes away almost two years after the death of his wife Varadamma.

The book treats you through some of the brilliant characters you might have read in the Indian literature – a rich kshatriya who is a dear friend to Acharyulu, a trickster who identifies the genius in Tirumula, an illicit wife, and her daughter dedicated their lives to the well-being of others, another youngster from a lower caste who believed in the education system and an orphan lawyer who helped Tirumala.

As the page’s flip, there is social commentary about the system existence in the society in those days. There are many moments where your eyes moistened by the expression of gratitude everyone lived with, by the sacrifices made and by the lifestyle one believed in. There are some moments in the novel where Mr. Maruti Rao gets carried away with the social commentary as the story progresses slowly. But, it is never out of life, sometimes it is stretched a bit too far that is all.

322 pages novel puts the principles of Karma and Dharma through the eyes of many individuals living in a co-existing society that messes up and purifies itself in its own ways. There is purity in many of the relations that exist in the book – Husband and wife, Son and Mother, Friends, Lawyer and Client, much more importantly Human and his God.

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Overall, Gollapudi Maruti Rao’s “Saayankalamaindi” resurrects the nostalgia about the rural societies and makes a strong social commentary about the transformation that intimately tangled many social relations. It is a brilliant novel that needs much more self-analysis and deep dive into questioning our beliefs and practices narrated through the lives of excellent characters.

“All The Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr

This is not the first story that we have read/heard about the World War II and it is not the last. Almost 75 years since the end of the great war, we still have stories to tell, emotions to curb, thoughts to ponder and tributes to pay. Millions of lives were lost during the war which would mean a million stories prevail.

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 “All The Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr narrates the story of two such lives who are on the either side of the war but not actively participating in it. Marie-Laurie, a visually challenged girl is only Twelve when they had to leave Paris and set foot into Saint- Malo. The Germans are on the other side attacking the city to capture the French. On the other side of this war is Werner Pfennig, who is charmingly intellectual but forced to be a part as a technical expert with radios and communications.

Over the next 532 pages, the story flip-flops in two dimensions: a) from the point of view of Werner and Marie-Laurie and b)

a) from the point of view of Werner and Marie-Laurie and b)

b) time starting 1940 leading up to 1944.

Anthony Doerr follows a technique that is not so commonly used in Historical fictions- the short chapters. Generally, historical fictions demand extensive attention to detail by loading off an intense amount of information to the reader. It is not a bad thing given the fact that someone is reading  a historical because they are interested in the setting as much as the story. Anthony Doerr does that too. He feeds you with loads of detailed information but ensures the focus is not on a single object.

Anthony Doerr does that too. He feeds you with loads of detailed information but ensures the focus is not on a single object.

He feeds you with loads of detailed information but ensures the focus is not on a single object. The chapters are occasionally just one page long and sometimes goes to seven to eight pages. The good thing about short chapters is you do not get tired of being in the same setting for way too long and the downside is keeping track of what’s happening at each setting.

He counters it with another technique – the sections. The sections and titles were marked eloquently such that you can separate out 1940s sections and 1944s sections and just read the story in a linear narration rather than the flip flops mentioned above.

The attention to detail and the empathy for the lives that were stuck amid the battle for power of politicians/ stories makes the book a wonderful read. If only it was easy to plug in information from a third, fourth and some other sources, it would be a great historical compilation of Saint Malo.

M S Dhoni – A Tribute

India’s most successful captain and probably the best in the present generation, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, calls it a day to the reigns of captaincy and he does it in his style – calm and simple. Multiple newspapers and digital media reported that he spent the day after his announcement playing PS with his Jharkhand teammates. It doesn’t come across a surprise for a man who always trusted his instincts and backed his decisions.

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My association with M S Dhoni is largely selfish if you might want to call it so. My journey with him, started back in 2007 when he was handed the T20I captaincy and I was going through a difficult phase of sorts.

10 years hence, the man had witnessed every success that you could think of for an international cricket captain. He won World T20 championship, followed it up with No. 1 Test ranking and completed the trio with ODI World Cup. It just doesn’t end there as India won Champions Trophy in England. The list continues with multiple IPL Trophies and Champions League title.

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I might not have seen success in the scale of his but I had won my own battles. The first and probably the biggest learning I had from him was way back in 2007 when he mentioned the reasoning behind why there is no point in worrying about the outcome. It might seem a simple proposition but the younger me needed someone to tell me that.

M S Dhoni might not be the most skillful or talented player of his times but he exactly knew where to put his money on. The question most people doesn’t often ask themselves is: if there is one attribute about you that you can bet your life on, what would that be? I asked the question myself and I do always now. Back yourself is what he always believed in.

As the limited overs formats started to reign over the longer format, it took a sense of adaptability not just for the players but for the viewers too. This is what M S Dhoni mentioned about the way to deal limited overs when you are constrained by your resources:

“In Tests, there is only one variable you can control – wickets and with limited resources, we had back then, it was often tough to manage the variable. Whereas in limited overs format, you have two variables to control – wickets and deliveries. The more variables you have, the easier it gets as long you have one variable sorted out.”  More variables are not always chaos; you just need to know the variable you can control effectively.

As the leader, he trusted his players. He wanted the ones who does the job for him- doesn’t matter if it was the most popular choice. The leader needs to do what it takes to get the job done which would often lead to unconventional decision making. “Think out of the box” is the most commonly and very abusively used terminology but to think what fits and ticks the box is not a common choice recommended.

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As like many admirers of his, I got into many arguments about why he is much resourceful than others. But, as time passed by, as the man transformed from being an example of machoism with his long hair and often references to his love towards advanced bikes, to a man of brains who brought the intellectualism to the game, I changed myself too.

He is a man who effectively helped transition Indian cricket from the generation of masterful Big 4 to the aggressive generation which demands them to be jack of multiple trades. The generation needed a leader that could choose the trade that is most needful and back it.

M S Dhoni is that mentor and role model for many of our generation as he is for me.