Sayontan

Jun 272011
 
 June 27, 2011  Posted by at 5:41 pm Series Reviews Tagged with: , , , , ,  3 Responses »

Few people associated with the Indian Cricket scene are as reviled as Greg Chappell, the former Australian batsman and captain, later the coach of India preceding over a disastrous World Cup in 2007. In fact the only other person who has been despised more is probably Mohammed Azharuddin in the aftermath of the match-fixing scandal.

Chappell took over the reins of coaching the Indian team in May/June 2005 after John Wright’s long and successful stint. John Wright, it must be remembered, forged a combination with Sourav Ganguly that helped take India to the finals of the 2003 World Cup, and pushed India up the test and ODI rankings. Under his tutelage and Ganguly’s leadership Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman became the architects of many groundbreaking victories (2001 Eden Gardens, 2002 Headingley, 2004 Adelaide), Virender Sehwag became the first Indian to score a test triple century and the Indian batting order morphed into the juggernaut that it always had the potential to become.

Tracing the Roots

During the halcyon years of the Wright-Ganguly partnership, two tours stand out: India in Australia in 2003-2004, and India in Pakistan in 2004. During the former everybody expected Australia to stomp over India. However what took most fans by surprise and changed the tone of the series was the very first match – a rain-marred drawn fixture at Brisbane. The match featured a stunning innings worth 144 runs of counterattacking brilliance from India’s captain, Sourav Ganguly. The innings was surprising because it came from the least expected link in the Indian lineup: prior to the series the batting hopes had been pinned on Dravid, Laxman and Tendulkar. Ganguly was seen as an asset on the team more as a captain who could bat rather than as a pure batsman. It was before this innings that Ganguly took some suggestions on playing on the bouncy Aussie wickets from Greg Chappell. Chappell was a legendary left-handed batsman in his day and his advice to Ganguly proved invaluable.

Convinced that Chappell would be of immense help as a coach, Ganguly proved to be the catalyst in hiring Chappell when Wright retired. And so Chappell started amidst a lot of fanfare in a role that must rank as one of the toughest in all of Cricket.

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Apr 042011
 
 April 4, 2011  Posted by at 10:41 pm Series Reviews, Sports, Take a Bow 7 Responses »

28 years after Kapil Dev led an unfancied India to a sensational World Cup triumph at the Lord’s 25th June 1983, M. S. Dhoni led a thoroughly efficient Indian outfit to repeat the feat.

When Kapil won:

  • I was as old as my son Aikataan is at present: not yet 5.
  • Colour TVs weren’t in vogue in India. You had to place an order for one and it could take up to a few months to get one, as my father found out when he tried to buy one before the LA Olympics in 1984.
  • The only sport where India had previously made a mark internationally was hockey, where it had won the Olympic gold medal 8 times (3 times as British India, including Pakistan). This happens to be a record not yet broken.
  • ODI matches in cricket had 60 overs a side and they were played in whites with a red cricket ball.
  • Cricket World Cups were named after their chief sponsors. The 1975, 1979 and 1983 trophies were called the Prudential World Cup, the 1987 trophy was called the Reliance World Cup, in 1992 it was the Benson & Hedges World Cup and in 1996 it was the Wills World Cup. Only from 1999 did the trophy start being called the ICC World Cup.
  • India were beyond rank outsiders, quite in contrast to being the favourites this year. In fact David Frith, the founder-editor of the Wisden Cricket monthly had claimed he would eat his words if India won the World Cup. He famously kept his word.
  • Broadcasters were too few and Kapil’s breathtaking knock of 175* against Zimbabwe was lost forever due to a BBC strike.
  • The Man of the Match for the Finals took home £600. In contrast the BCCI has promised $200,000.00 to each member of the winning team this year.
  • There was no concept of a Man of the Series.

I haven’t a recollection of the 1983 World Cup (we didn’t have a TV then), and I am pretty sure Aikataan is too young to have a recollection of his parents celebrating this World Cup. One of our lighter moments throughout the World Cup was getting him to say “India will win”, or “India has won”. Whoever the opponent – Australia, Pakistan or Sri Lanka, he was always giving two thumbs down to India and saying that the other team would win. The superstitious lot that we are, whenever India’s fortunes were on the downturn my wife and I prodded him for his opinion as to who the winner would be. He would promptly answer “Sri Lanka” and immediately there would be something good happening for India.

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Apr 032011
 
 April 3, 2011  Posted by at 3:38 am Random Rants 11 Responses »

I normally don’t do this through my blog, but this time the circumstances were just too much to keep quiet.

A few months back I moved from San Jose, California to Vancouver, British Columbia on a new assignment with my employer. One of my considerations was that I wanted to move my car, because it was just 2.5 years old, it had been driven just about 40% of the national average, and most importantly it was the metaphorical brand-new-looking car.

So I put out a request for quotes and received a few. One of the companies that responded was Autos on the Go, a company based out of Franklin, Michigan. A person called Mirel Molnar, who some claim is the owner of this company got in touch with me and sent across the forms required. This wasn’t the cheapest quote I had (though it was close), but what convinced me to go with this company is that Mirel seemed pretty professional. This company was a broker rather than an actual mover, and basically arranged for door-to-door service, doing everything from the pickup of the vehicle to the delivery and insuring the move.

The Contract

The contract I signed was pretty straightforward and among other things it had the following clauses:

Damages and Required Documentation. Neither AOTG nor carriers will be held liable for damage caused by leaking freezing, exhaust systems, acts of God, or flying objects from the road or objects falling off of cars. In the event a vehicle is otherwise damaged during transport, the carrier’s insurance is the primary insurance. Shipper agrees to fully inspect the vehicle at both pickup and delivery and denote any and all damages on the carrier’s bill of lading/condition report BEFORE the driver leaves.

Damage must be properly noted while the driver is still there, regardless of the time of day or dirty condition of the vehicle. Signing the carrier’s bill of lading at the destination without specific notation of damage shall be evidence of satisfactory delivery of the vehicle.

Claims for Damages. Shipper’s vehicle will be transported by a trucking company and the carrier actually transporting the vehicle shall be liable for any and all damage claims arising from transport. Shipper is responsible for getting an inspection sheet from the driver both at pick up location and delivery location. Shipper agrees to release and hold harmless AOTG from any damage claims. Upon request, AOTG will furnish Shipper with name, address, and phone number of the carrier and provide a copy of the carrier’s Certificate of Insurance. In the event of damage, shipper is to provide AOTG a copy of both inspection sheets from the pickup location and the delivery location within 48 hours after receiving vehicle at the delivery location. All claims are to be submitted directly to the carrier within 7 days of Shipper receiving vehicle unless noted otherwise on the carrier’s bill of lading.

Any claims for damages not noted on the bill of lading/condition report will not be honored by the carrier’s insurance company. Department of Transportation regulations require that all claims be filed in writing and all tariffs be paid in full before claims are processed; therefore, Shipper agrees he/she will not seek to charge back a credit card or stop a check to offset a dispute for damage claims. AOTG will support you in filing claim against a carrier should a problem occur, but in no way will AOTG accept responsibility for any negligence of the assigned carrier.

The above clauses are very significant in the context of what transpired.

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Mar 212011
 
 March 21, 2011  Posted by at 7:16 pm Sports No Responses »

It has been a while since I have wanted to write an article on Tendulkar, however other priorities have taken over and I have not been able to spare the time to do it. However, I recently had the opportunity to post a comment on the great man in response to Steve James’ post in the Telegraph. It is no substitute for the real thing, but given the circumstances this is the best I can offer as of now.

Nov 052010
 
 November 5, 2010  Posted by at 1:29 pm Sports 4 Responses »

As any loyal fan of Indian cricket would agree, we have our fair share of biases and perceptions. That is why we love to see our favorite players win and hate it when they are beaten by anybody. And as any sports fan would agree, many of these perceptions change over time, mainly due to a renewed perspective and some rather heart-warming incident on or off the field.

I was a fan of Tennis before I became a Cricket fan. My idol growing up used to be Boris Becker. Steffi Graf was soon added to my list of idols thanks to her outstanding play. As a result whenever Becker or Graf played a match I never supported their opponents and if my favorites happened to lose, I was never sporting enough to admit that they were beaten by a better player. Two players who often got the better of Becker were Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. And I never liked them for it. But as a few years went by and each established his status as a world-class player I became more appreciative of what they had achieved and I even became quite big fans of them.

In cricket too the tale was similar, with my perceptions changing about three different entities. The first of these was the former Pakistani captain Inzamam-ul-Haq. India and Pakistan being traditional rivals in cricket, I never really saw why Pakistan (and Imran Khan in particular) kept talking of Inzamam as one of the best batsmen in the world. Apart from some very good performances in the 1992 World Cup, he never seemed like a player in the same league as Brian Lara or Sachin Tendulkar. He relied so much on his skill with the bat that he tended to ignore the other attributes of a batsman, like running between the wickets. This insouciance endeared him to many, but it often made him a comical figure on the field, responsible for running out himself or his partners several times. Added to this was the fact that prior to 2000 he had very few “big” innings in tests and ODIs, and he had a disastrous showing in the 2003 World Cup with just 16 runs – tragic for a person talked of once as Pakistan’s answer to Tendulkar or Lara.

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Aug 202010
 
 August 20, 2010  Posted by at 4:00 pm Random Rants, Web Development Tagged with: , , , , ,  11 Responses »

I recently received a message on FaceBook that quite literally horrified me. It said that I was using Steve McCurry’s picture of the Afghan Girl in my WordPress design and that since it was a copyright violation the least I could do was to acknowledge who the photographer is. So I immediately responded with the background: I had written a very laudatory post about a year back called Haunting Photos on this very blog, complete with references of who took the photos, where it was originally published etc, and provided links to all the original articles.

I explained that what had happened is when I provided a screenshot of Suffusion to WordPress, there was a screenshot of the original “Haunting Photos” post (which had proper crediting) and unfortunately the credit information did not appear on the screenshot. I immediately apologized and within a day got the screenshot for the theme changed on the official WordPress site. Steve understood that this was an honest mistake and appreciated the fact that I had always had the credit information on the post and gotten the image removed from the screenshot almost immediately when notified of the copyright violation. So I could breathe easy.

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Jul 272010
 
 July 27, 2010  Posted by at 11:53 am Pinched It, Random Rants Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  3 Responses »

While reading the The Da Vinci Code a few years back, I came across this passage:

He felt himself suddenly reeling back to Harvard, standing in front of his “Symbolism in Art” class, writing his favorite number on the chalkboard.

1.618

Langdon turned to face his sea of eager students. “Who can tell me what this number is?”

A long-legged math major in back raised his hand. “That’s the number PHI.” He pronounced it fee.

“Nice job, Stettner,” Langdon said. “Everyone, meet PHI.”

“Not to be confused with PI,” Stettner added, grinning. “As we mathematicians like to say: PHI is one H of a lot cooler than PI!”

Langdon laughed, but nobody else seemed to get the joke.

Stettner slumped.

“This number PHI,” Langdon continued, “one-point-six-one-eight, is a very important number in art. Who can tell me why?”

Stettner tried to redeem himself. “Because it’s so pretty?”

Everyone laughed.

“Actually,” Langdon said, “Stettner’s right again. PHI is generally considered the most beautiful number in the universe.”

The laughter abruptly stopped, and Stettner gloated.

As Langdon loaded his slide projector, he explained that the number PHI was derived from the Fibonacci sequence – a progression famous not only because the sum of adjacent terms equaled the next term, but because the quotients of adjacent terms possessed the astonishing property of approaching the number 1.618 – PHI!

Despite PHI’s seemingly mystical mathematical origins, Langdon explained, the truly mind-boggling aspect of PHI was its role as a fundamental building block in nature. Plants, animals, and even human beings all possessed dimensional properties that adhered with eerie exactitude to the ratio of PHI to 1.

– From the Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown

That passage set me thinking about other numbers considered pretty or at least very interesting. As an Indian I can point to quite a few numbers that we can be proud of. At the top of the list is Aryabhata’s invention of the most famous number of them all – 0, which by helping establish the place value system and the decimal number system made innumerable mathematical and scientific discoveries possible and practical. Just imagine having to write a number like 999,999 in the Roman Numeral system. You would need to write CM XC IX CMXCIX. And if you weren’t aware that adding the “overline” multiplies a number by 1000, then you would have to struggle significantly more to represent a number such as 999,999.

As an ex-IIT’ian I have had a fascination for numbers and so have many of my classmates. Both during and after life at IIT I have seen my friends use one particular number quite often – 1729. I myself used 1729 as my page id when I was building my hostel’s website back in the days when you needed to sign up for a free web-page at sites like GeoCities. A few years after graduation my friend asked me to unlock his bicycle. The code – 1729. A few more years later another friend sent out an email saying that his previous email id had been handed out to several mailing lists and he was receiving a lot of spam. So he changed his email id to something that had the number 1729 in it. If you are not very mathematically inclined you might think of 1729 as a very weird number to be fascinated with. But there is history behind it. 1729 is in fact called the Hardy-Ramanujan number, following a very famous conversation between G. H. Hardy and Srinivasa Ramanujan.

Hardy used to visit him, as he lay dying in hospital at Putney. It was on one of those visits that there happened the incident of the taxi-cab number. Hardy had gone out to Putney by taxi, as usual his chosen method of conveyance. He went into the room where Ramanujan was lying. Hardy, always inept about introducing a conversation, said, probably without a greeting, and certainly as his first remark: “I thought the number of my taxi-cab was 1729. It seemed to me rather a dull number.” To which Ramanujan replied: “No, Hardy! No, Hardy! It is a very interesting number. It is the smallest number expressible as the sum of two cubes in two different ways.”

That is the exchange as Hardy recorded it. It must be substantially accurate. He was the most honest of men; and further, no one could possibly have invented it.

– Foreword by C. P. Snow, to G. H. Hardy’s “A Mathematician’s Apology (Canto)

For those trying to figure out what Ramanujan meant, 1729 = 123 + 13 = 103 + 93. Not only is this number an Indian favorite (Ramanujan was Indian), but mathematicians worldwide recognize it for the brilliance and simplicity of the discovery. This number is also referred to as a Taxicab number due to the associated incident, though the unique property of this number was actually discovered by Bernard Frénicle de Bessy.

There is another number that piqued my interest, however, when I was preparing for the Indian National Mathematics Olympiad in 1994. I came across a number that was referred to as the Kaprekar Number – 6174. In later years I came to know that the information was inaccurate, because this number was called Kaprekar Constant, and Kaprekar Numbers referred to a separate category of numbers. A Kaprekar Number is a number that is thus defined:

A Kaprekar number for a given base is a non-negative integer, the representation of whose square in that base can be split into two parts that add up to the original number again.

As the Wikipedia article states, 45 is a Kaprekar number because 45 = 20 + 25 and 452 = 2025. These numbers were discovered by another Indian mathematician Dattaraya Ramchandra Kaprekar, who had a penchant for discovering several results in number theory and was very well known as a recreational mathematician. Funny what people come up with during their free time!

But back to the Kaprekar constant – 6174. Again, this falls wholly into the category of an unremarkable-looking number. But there is a lot more to it. Arrange the digits of the number in descending order: 7641. Arrange its digits in ascending order: 1467. Subtract the two: 7641 – 1467 = 6174. This happens to be the only 4-digit number that exhibits this property. If you think that is surprising, there is more. Take any 4 digit number with at least 1 digit different from the rest. Repeat the operation of subtracting the ascending order of digits from the descending order. After a finite number of iterations you will hit 6174!! I was so impressed with this number that I couldn’t rest till I had established the proof of this. Yutaka Nishiyama has a well-documented proof, which is much more rigorous than what I came up with (plus I am too lazy to type out my proof in HTML here).

There are other Kaprekar constants when you change the number of digits to 3 (495) or something else.

I am sure there are several other numbers that have even more quirky properties. Having had an affinity towards mathematics in general since a young age and towards number theory in particular since I was 15, I know that I am missing out on such a huge treasure by pursuing a career in something so far removed from mathematics.

Jun 252010
 
 June 25, 2010  Posted by at 5:52 pm Grandpa Tales, Sports Tagged with: , , ,  5 Responses »

It just so happened that my project and my client decided they wanted me in UK in a week when England was on the brink of elimination from the Football World Cup 2010 and when John Isner and Nicolas Mahut produced an 11 hours 5 minutes long monster marathon in the first round of Wimbledon.

I had spent close to 8 months in London from early October 2001 to late May 2002. But my main regret from trip was that I had no photographs from the more touristy places of London thanks to a rather debilitating bout of illness that killed my will to venture outdoors for the last few weeks of my trip. So when I got the opportunity to travel again, I was determined to fill up the missing pictures from London in my photo album.

If you know me well, the only sport I enjoy following more than Tennis is Cricket. Since India doesn’t have any matches scheduled in Lord’s next week, I accepted Wimbledon, the Mecca of Tennis with open arms. A couple of colleagues from work, Gaurav and April picked today for the visit. The plan was to get there after 5:00 PM when ticket prices go down. I was apprehensive, however, since today was a Friday and last year’s Champion Roger Federer and the runner-up Andy Roddick both had third round matches. I was expecting long queues.

Given that I was changing hotels today after an unsatisfactory experience at Hilton Croydon, I decided to first drop off my baggage at Hilton Euston. The journey from Croydon to Euston took me time because I had to familiarize myself with the Oyster ticketing system that did not exist back in 2001/2002. After checking into the hotel it took me some more time to top up my Oyster card so that I could travel to Wimbledon. It didn’t help that the queues were long at rush hour and my credit card got rejected for some arbitrary reason the first time I tried to buy.

Anyway, I reached Wimbledon station at about 5:25 PM. By then Gaurav and his brother Saurabh were already in the queue for tickets, which by their estimate was at least 500 people long. I still hadn’t gotten to the stadium, so this was depressing news. But I anyway decided to take a shuttle from Wimbledon station to the park. After I disembarked I asked one of the people there as to where I could buy tickets. Thinking back, his directions were eerily similar to what the bystanders at Surat Railway Station had told me when asked where the bus stop was. I walked a good amount and at a pretty brisk speed, passing the stadium on my way.

The Stadium from outside

The Stadium from outside

The price list

After walking seemingly endlessly I finally reached the entrance of Car Park 10, where the queue started for the tickets. Actually the queue started at least 200m inside the car park. By the time I joined the queue, though, it was 6:00 PM and Gaurav and Saurabh were already chugging along. To give you an estimate, right about the court entrance where you purchase tickets, the queue index is A, where I was standing was K9 and Gaurav was probably around F. It had taken him an hour to get there.

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May 132010
 
 May 13, 2010  Posted by at 7:33 am Consulting, Random Rants 3 Responses »

I grew up in an era punctuated by the liberalization of the Indian economy and India’s subsequent ascension as a power in the world economy. During the years that I was an undergraduate my peer group was comprised of people from Indian upper middle class families. So most of us, while not really starved for means, weren’t exactly rolling in money either.

We used to start the semester with a wardrobe that stayed reasonably constant, unless we happened to venture to Palika Bazaar or SN Market during a weekend and spent a couple of hundred rupees getting ourselves some T-shirts. Occasionally when one of us had an expected or unexpected windfall we went to South Ex because the shops there were otherwise beyond our means.

Once we reached our final year, of course, we had to prepare for placement interviews. A typical firm doing a placement interview had 3 rounds: a preliminary CV screen, a written test and an in-person interview. Some firms did one of the first two, some substituted them with a group discussion, but all firms had an in-person interview.

Now, people had clothes for different occasions. There was the regular stuff that you would wear in the hostel and that could range from something that looked like a dirty rag to a half-decent T-shirt. Then there were clothes you wore to class and they were somewhat better, in the sense that they did have encounters with a bar of detergent once every few weeks.

Next came “date clothes”, which were essentially an assortment of clothes that you thought looked cool on you and you wore them on those special events where a girl was probably milking you for all your pocket-money’s worth. A lot of us didn’t have the need or the luxury to worry about date clothes though, because the prerequisite of having a girlfriend, real or purported, was never met. Nonetheless I could regale you with tales of some gentlemen, who would shave only on date days, thereby never letting their girlfriends form even casual acquaintances with their raging stubbles, but that is a tale for another day.

Last came the “Interview Clothes”. This was a tricky category. Some people were dead sure that they would go into academia after graduation, so they never bothered themselves with mundane matters like their appearance in an interview, and as a result they never had anything different or unique to wear for an interview (some such people didn’t even bother themselves with job interviews!). Some were certain they wouldn’t graduate in four years, so they too never bothered. But there were others who were very, very serious about job interviews. But even here you had groups. First came the people who made several attempts at interviews, but started getting dispirited after multiple failures. Such people typically paid attention to their appearance initially, then lost enthusiasm. Then came people who made it to the interview round of their dream jobs, and they, naturally, had to look their best.

So what really comprised the “Interview Clothes”, or more particularly, what was the “Interview Shirt”? In the most general sense, this was supposed to be one shirt that you wore once a semester, if not once during your entire four years in college. Shirts hardly ever strictly met this condition – in most cases you would end up wearing your interview shirt about 5-6 times a semester. Some people liked calling it their formal shirt, but they would have been the only ones calling it that. Some people simply reused their “date shirt”, if the date involved going to an upscale restaurant. Simply put, this was the one shirt you possessed that met all these criteria – long sleeves, cleanest of the lot and most importantly, hadn’t been worn after being last ironed.

Given the economic era we were in, a formal shirt would cost you equal to your entire semester’s tuition fees. You see, the market had been liberalized allowing consumerism to rise, but our families didn’t really fit into the category of the targeted consumers. Moreover our college hiked fees tenfold the year after we joined, making us the last batch to pay a total of around Rs. 8920/- (approximately US $255 those days) for four years of India’s best undergraduate education. So spending more on a shirt than you would spend on half a year’s fees was tantamount to sacrilege. Of course, some saw this as money well-spent and they not only had a designated “interview shirt”, but also had a suit or a blazer and a tie to go with it. Given the heat in Delhi, interviewers never actually expected you to wear a suit for an interview, but the people owning one felt obliged to wear it.

Wearing a suit absolved you of owning a decent “interview shirt”, because your shirt would essentially get covered by the layer above. But for people who preferred comfort during an interview, the shirt was mandatory. People were generally okay with wearing a long-sleeves shirt without lurid patterns, and which showed prominent creases from ironing. Checks were generally considered a no-no, and some people even excluded stripes from their consideration. Solids, particularly those in light colors were most welcome.

People who didn’t possess a shirt that met their own definition of an “interview shirt” usually borrowed one from a friend. Some people also wore ties to interviews, but the opening up of the Indian economy made sure that ties that were in vogue at the start of our education were considered passé by our fourth year. As kids we considered it fashionable to wear a tie in school with a four-in-hand knot, which we referred to as the single knot. Later we figured out that the formal way of wearing a tie was the Windsor knot (what we called the triple knot), or the somewhat less time-consuming half-Windsor knot (aka the double knot). Without intending to lace the statement with double-entendre, it wasn’t the length (of the tie) that mattered, but it was the thickness (of the knot).

Times have changed. In my first job the emphasis was on feeling comfortable, so wearing jeans and T-shirts to work was considered the in-thing. My second job being in consulting, the emphasis was on dressing “smart” (read Business Casual) for regular work and formally for client presentations. So my definitions have changed. What I revered as “interview shirts” during my college days is now a part of my everyday wear. But I still have interview shirts – plain, expensive, clean and well-ironed.

Feb 152010
 
 February 15, 2010  Posted by at 1:51 am Grandpa Tales 5 Responses »

If the title sounds familiar, you must be watching Smallville with great attention to detail.

A lot of us, growing up have fond desires that we are never able to fulfil. As a kid I had numerous hobbies – reading, badminton, tennis, philately, numismatics: you name it. But in each of my hobbies I stopped short of having what would be uber-cool, mainly because of my upbringing. I was always taught to save money and spend with caution and never to have my grasp exceed my reach. Coming from a middle class family I couldn’t really afford expensive hobbies. To cite an example I had a Badminton racquet (a DSC Colt, to be specific) that had cost me Rs. 135, which as per the conversion rates of those days must have been worth around US $4.5. This was the most expensive racquet I had owned and more importantly, it was bought with money I had earned. I had always dreamt of a better racquet like a Yonex or a Carlton with a graphite shaft or with a graphite body, but such racquets never cost less that Rs. 1000. Heck, even the high-end models of Silver’s seemed out of reach. So it was my desire to buy one when I grew up.

Ditto for tennis, where I had a Symonds’ wooden racquet that I really liked. Tennis balls in India used to cost around Rs. 50 each, which was very expensive. Whenever I played tennis with my friends we did so on a clay court where it was a struggle to see the lines and we played with threadbare tennis balls that had been handed down by my friends’ fathers after weeks and weeks of play. But we still had fun. My dream those days was to have a Silver’s Headley, an Indian racquet that cost around Rs. 700, because I simply couldn’t dream of getting a Wilson or a Dunlop that would cost no less than Rs. 2000.

As an aspiring philatelist every kid has a dream – owning a Penny Black. Unfortunately this was an even more ambitious dream than my other ones, given that I had never come across a person owning a Penny Black, so this was the stuff of legend for me. I had no idea how much it cost, but it surely couldn’t be something that years of pocket money could afford. Philately has a sister hobby, numismatics and though I had no specific dreams there, I had a fascination for coins of the old and rare variety. Here luckily I wasn’t so hard done and I had access to some outstanding Indian antiquities thanks to my grandparents. The numbers, though were quite small.

I was an avid book reader as a kid. It never was about novels, though. I could read anything you gave me – a book on general knowledge, a book about past civilizations, a book to study, a telephone directory, anything. This bibliophilism served me very well as I managed to read all my study material while preparing for my engineering entrance examination. That was no small feat considering that I must have had to read not less than 50 books for this. But if there was something that I lamented, it was the lack of story books as a kid. I really cherished the handful that I had won as prizes in different contests at school.

And so time went by and I joined my first job in June 2000. When my first paycheck came in July, here is what I did. I went to a sports goods store and bought myself a Yonex Carbonex 7000 DX, a graphite-bodied Badminton racquet that I absolutely love even today, apart from the fact that isometric racquets came up after I purchased this. I guess it felt so much better to buy it by myself rather than have my father buy it for me!

During those days dotcom startups were the in-things. There was one rather interesting startup called Ticklewit, whose business model I never succeeded in deciphering. Ticklewit published a variety of puzzles daily – crosswords, quizzes etc. If you succeeded in cracking those you got points. And you could redeem points once you had accumulated at least 1000. The redemption was in the form of gift certificates for an erstwhile company called Fabmart. Not one to let this opportunity go, I got started and made a significant amount of money by doing something I loved – more than Rs. 20,000/- in Fabmart gift certificates. Given the type of merchandise that Fabmart offered, I built up a significant collection of books with this money. Another dream fulfilled.

Given the expense of tennis in India I held off buying a tennis racquet. Moreover I wasn’t really sure that I would get a good racquet in India. But when I got a chance to travel to London in October 2001, I bought a Wilson Europa there. Unfortunately I never got to play with it very much, so I gave it to my brother so that he could make better use of it. When I moved to the US a few years later, though, I purchased a Wilson nCode n6.1 and boy! Did I use it!

Then it came down to philately and numismatics. With some rather smart hunting and judicious spending I managed to lay my hands on not only the Penny Black, but also the Two Penny Blue, the Penny Red (perforated and unperforated), the Bull’s Eye (30 Réis and 60 Réis) and the entire Trans-Mississippi Issue, including the rare Black Bull. And it sure felt good.

So I guess it is okay to have a ton of unfulfilled desires as a child. If you want something with a passion as a kid and that passion survives the test of time, when you are finally able to bring it to fruition the results are truly sweet to savour. I never regret not having any of these as a child, because when I finally was able to get them I got more than I had dreamt of and I felt it was well worth the wait!