Friday, April 27, 2007

Sushi, hunan shrimp or Shish Kafta?

How do you compare foods? Based on taste, or based on your sense of tastefulness? or based on how you satisfy your hunger at a particular point of time?

Hunger is probably the driving force in this world. The world biota is existing because hunger is driving it to exist. The evolution dictated the creation in such way that you can enjoy the deliciousness and juicy drops of a shish kabob. But do you always want to eat what you think you would like to eat? Most of the cases, the answer would be "no".

We used to grow up with one particular cuisine. Mom-cuisine. The taste-buds are accustomed to the taste that mom-cooked food tasted. Be it "luchi-aloor dom", be it "khichuri", be it "mangser-jhol", be it "pabda maachh", be it "alu-posto" it numberous other dishes that I cannot name it here because blogspot does not have that much space. Then you go outside the familiar home dining room, hit the college canteen, late evening coaching classes, the roll corner behind the bus stop, the egg-chowmin, the pakoras. There is a major transformation zone of your nerves connecting your taste bud. New enzymes, new hormones, new chemical reaction all-together. And before you realise, you started liking shish kabobs, the beef roll of Khaliques, the parantha and beef curry at Nizam, the biriyani in Shiraz. You already connected yourself to the same dinning plate of your rulers 500 years ago.

The odd connection to oriental food so far has been the chow-min, and noodles. You cross overseas, reach either Europe or North America. Opportunists around the world gather over there to sell their own-self. Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Mongolian, Indian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Middle-eastern, Africans. The most funny and interesting thing is, these people came late, by atleast 120 years. Their ancestors migrated to America in mid 1800s. The issue with Europe is different. Well, we all migrated from Africa. Lets not get into the root of civilization arguement, keep it with food and cuisine, shall we?

Getting back to what I was discussing, you see restaurants from all these countries. People came to do business. A business prospers only when it get along with the neighbourhood where you are doing business. May be this is true for small business only. Nevertheless, to get "along" with neighbourhood, the cuisine style changes to fit in the "taste"-style. The sauces of Sushi or japaneese food is much different, more bar-b-q style. The Chinese dishes rely heavily on the sauteed vegetables. The rice becomes sticky. The south-asian subcontinent is known to be home of most delicious and tangy-spicy food. I am proud to say, this subcontinent cuisine does not lose its touch even it travels 1000s of miles. You still find delicious ilish maachher jhol in Boston, New York, you get awesome Tandoori Chicken in California and Pittsburgh. A whole street in London is devoted Bangladeshi and Indian restaurants. The "foreign"-isation of desi foods is minimum.

I think this is becoming a reflection of a common trend observed in most eastern country's culture. Desperate attempt to cling to the west, be it food, be it clothes, be it sports, be it cars, be it life style, be it relationship with your dear ones. Okay, check , not going into philosophical discussions, lets keep it into food.

So the point that emerges from it is, whether you eat a Sushi dish in Japanese restaurant in US, or a Hunan Shrimp abroad, or be it a Shish Kabob, all of them have travelled a long way from its actual cooking pan, and in the process it has lost its taste. A $6.99 lunch combo. One heavily soya-sossed Hunan shrimp with tons of broccoli and onion, hard fried rice with chunks of scrambled eggs, a tangy soup. Or 4 sushi, one tempura, some lettuce, a salmon, $ 7.95 . Satisfy your hunger, forget about the taste. Pack your taste bud chemicals, enzymes and hormones in a bottle, and send them home. Ask your mother to keep them in a secret place, and ask her to label them " Taste-bud chemicals, when I was young".

Give in to the culture and pace with which the world is revolving. The physics text book may say it takes 23 hours 54 minutes to spin once around its own axis, but it actually spinning a LOT faster. You feel the centri-whatever force, and your taste is feeling that too. So do not be surprised if on one fine morning you wake up, and realising that the driving force is gone. It does not matter what you eat, be it shrimp, kabob, bannana, water, broccoli, grass anything. The empty space in your stomach just need to be filled, the small guys up in the tongue deserve no attention.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Decline of excellence

"A sharp bouncer from Jeff Thomson, Roy fredericks just pushed to backfoot and hooked it for six..!!..what a shot"

Fast forward to 2007

"Jacob Oram delivers a straight delivery, around the off stump line, the ball jumps a bit from the pitch, O..Marlon Samuels cannot read it, he tries to leave the ball, could not get his gloves out of the way, the ball kisses the top of gloves, and to the safe hands of Brendon McCullum. Westindies 3 down for 78.

I am not trying to prove that westindies never been to 78/3 in the past. The purpose of this writing is to enlighten the fact that cricketing genious has declined over the time. Human nature is to cling to excitement. Though we want to know the outcome of the happenings in our life, but the element of uncertainity in every turn of life is the impetus that is given to life's journey. Be it sport, be it ones profession, be it politics, be it anything.
So, cricket is also the same. Excitement, uncertainity, unpredictability, these are the terms that made this game so popular around the world, though only a handful of nations play them. Yet you go to the grounds, you see national flags flying high, you see mexican waves, you see colorful characters with extravagant jourseys, you see sponsorers big advertisements. Cricket has turned into big business now-a-days, but in the process it has lost the competitve edge, it has lost the artistry.
I am going to focus on this very point right now. From its modern birthday (1877 Melbourne test), the game has travelled a long path in last 130 years. Like any other historical element, it had also ups and downs, kings and villains, goods and bads and ugly. The earlier years mostly saw battle between English and Aussies. Walter Hammond, Sid Barnes, W G Grace, Jack Hobbs are some of the names. Then came Bradman era, the bodyline series. During all these years, cricket evolved from a not-so-exciting-nottinghamshire-county game to controversial-pride and passion-melbourne-lords tactical game. Tiny Larwood targeted and demand blood with instruction of captain Jardin. Don Bradman amassed runs like thirsty vagabond in middle of desert. The level of excellence, the ease with which these achievements were achieved, are enormous. The elegance, the courage was high enough to scare the opponent on first glimpse.

Then slowly, but assuredly, other nations under british rule started to play the game. WestIndies, NewZealand, India, Pakistan(after 1947), SouthAfrica. The competition increased. Number of players with sheer brilliance and courage and skill increased. Don Bradman retired with an average of 99.94 in test cricket, playing 52 tests, 70 innings,scoring 6996 runs. No one in the lifetime of this universe will be able to put some record like that.

WestIndies slowly began to take over the reign from england and australia. Due to their physical build, due to the exotic life style and weather, due to pure love for the game, the westindian posed a dare-devil care-free attitude in the ground. The destroyed things that came in their way, but destroyed with elegance, without letting the opposition realise the pain. Gary Sobers scored 365, the then world record in a test innings, and the opposition players later said that they wanted Gary to carry on. It was such a beauty to watch that the opposition wanted the saddistic pleasure of getting killed. Bapu Nadkarni bowled a spell of 27 overs with 26 maidens in it. Batsmen did not wanted to score runs, because it was such an exceptional display of economical spin bowling.

And there are examples aplenty. I dont want to divert from the actual issue. Excellence of cricketers probably peaked during 70s and 80s. Each and every team had handful of matchwinners with bat and ball, who on their sheer excellence on individual basis, can turn a team game like cricket upside down. I just name a handful of them. LLoyd, richards, greenidge, marshall, holding, garner from westindies, Chappel brothers, lille, thomson from australia, botham, willis, snow, boycott, gower gooch from England, Kapildev, Sunil Gavaskar, Mahinder amarnath, viswanath, chandrasekhar from India, Richard Hadlee, Martin Crowe, Glenn Turner from NZ, Imran Khan, Javed Miandad, Zaheer Abbas, Sarfraz Nawaz from Pakistan. There are plenty more. These players capability with ball, bat were above average, above normal. The names weighed heavily in the team line-up. The next generation started to fade away.

In 90s, when you start to build a world eleven, there were some automatic limited choice. Sachin-lara-waugh brothers, jayasuriya, Aravinda desilva, pollock-mcgrath-vaas-murali-warne. May be a few more players here and there, but on a general note, thats about the number of players you can come up with whom you can compare with the lot i mentioned in earlier paragraph.

The competitive edge from the game is also gone. Australia has dominated world cricket for last 6 years, and the nature of dominance was enormous. Just because the other teams are not simply good enough. Australia adopted to a hard hitting aggressive power cricket, and the other teams mostly didnot adopted that. Definitly what australia has done is not good for cricket. Name a australian batsman in the current line-up whom you can watch day after day. You wont be able to name one, may be Michale Clarke.
Try naming the same from other teams, you will come up with a lot. Because they still stick with the artistry, creation, elegance. But in the process, they lost the edge and lagged behind.

India during 2000-2004 was the perfect mixture of artistry and power. Under the captaincy of Sourav Ganguly, they changed from middle to last benchers to exam toppers. Rahul Dravid became a run machine, Sachin Tendulkar became a 18 year old kid again with the old excellence and freedom. In Yuvraj and Kaif India had the two most energetic frielders ever to play donning tri-color, and Zaheer Khan, Nehra, pathan provided the best pace attack for India in its cricketing history. But all good things come to an end, especially if the captain of the team doesnt score runs, and human nature of grabbing power comes into forefront rather than cricketing skills. That led to India's downfall in the last two years, and the exit in the 2007 worldcup in the 1st round was icing on a defarmented cake. The lack of brilliance and supremacy. It was really painful listening and watching the past great players as commentators. Because of the agony they suffer when they see their respective nations surrender so meekly. Botham, Barry Richards, Michael Holding, Bob Willis. You listen to Viv Richard's interview, you will feel the pain. The current westindies side cannot even stand straight, they dont have the spine.

Vivian Richards, Michael Holding cannot bear this pain. Their spine was straight like concrete. Their dominance was as powerful as it can get. The glory days are over. Look at South Africa. Clue-less, mindless, tactic less, hotheaded, impetus based bunch of people. No imagination, no embarassment. How would barry richards, grame pollock, ed barnes,..even clive rice, allan donald, late hansie cronje would think and feel about that?

Daniken theory is not proven, and its only a proposition. But in cricket reality, there were men who used play the game with courage and passion, with artistry and creation in the past. That generation is gone lost. Now is the age of power cricket, business cricket, hard-hitting cricket, sledging cricket, cricket with little competition. Its a slow death, and the whole cricketing world including australia is dying with time.