Monday, September 24, 2007

Twenty20 - Reactions From a Non-cricket Watching Indian

Nothing personal against cricket, but I don't watch sports ! (This is my first post where I've chosen "Sports" as the Section) Except gymnastics, ice skating and synchronized swimming.

Equally crazily, I am married to the ultimate cricket fanatic, who watches matches, repeats, highlights and replays on the news (that's all of them - not an either/or choice). Who remembers statistics from games I never knew were played. For eg. He just said "We have never lost to Pakistan in a world cup" OK, not a great example, but it needed repeating :)

Another of his gems just before the last ball "For a moment, I thought about the last time a Haryana bowler named Sharma had the last over against Pakistan in a final. New Sharma, New ending"

Now these nuances are lost on me, but I'm sure there is a large group out there who can appreciate them. (Like the employees of various MNCs in India who officially closed office at 4 P.M. today.)

Being away from India for the first time on a long posting, he quickly ensured that we got all the right technology installed at home for regular access to cricket matches.

There's a small population of desis in Cairo (about 500) and an even smaller subset of cricket "fan"atics. The previous matches in the last year went by without much community feeling and viewing in this country. But this 20/20 brought a large portion of the Indian community together.

A couple of rational reasons for this would be the shortened timings in offices due to Ramadan (offices close by 3, the matches started at 2 - Egypt time) and the BCA showing the matches on a big screen where desis could get together and watch the matches in a group with alcohol available to drown sorrows or celebrate victories.

The group did avoid meeting at the club on the day of the India-England match because of the larger number of British supporters. But they regretted doing that by the end of the match.

Many of the Indians met up at the BCA for the days the Indians were playing. The non cricket watching wives would sit around and watch each others husbands bemusedly, wondering which of them would make a bigger scene at a missed catch or a wide ball.

We were of course happy that the matches were shortened, it meant less time sitting around. But it also meant shorter, almost non existent ad breaks (except 2 very irritating Horlicks & Sensodyne ads on Ten Sports) to try and communicate with your cricket lover.

Some of them would sit in the same crazy position that they were in when the last 6 was hit or wear the same clothes/shoes to every match. All kinds of crazy stuff that only fans can indulge in.

This was a good opportunity for us to get together and celebrate being Indian outside of India. Yuvraj's 6 sixes was obviously the biggest highlight till today's match. He does deserve the quarter-million and its good to see the BCCI giving something back to the players.($2 million for the team)

We watched today's match at home, but the phone calls kept coming and going throughout the match from across the world. Reactions & moods of the husband were oscillating from wild elation to extreme dejection at each ball. The little bits of the match that I did watch, I found it difficult to keep track since I couldn't recognise more than half the players (I had completely lost track of cricket from the time the slide started, plus this team had tons of newcomers to the international field)

But it was good to see a young team selected and though they had their health problems, they kept at it. Their confidence and perseverance are to be commended & rewarded. The cup and the 40 lakhs each are just a beginning.

Dhoni from all the conversations I caught, more than proved himself as being an able captain willing to take risks (who else would play a complete newcomer as opening batsman in a world cup final?)

He also showed more class in taking his shirt off and giving it to that little kid (I didn't catch who the kid was) rather than waving it around :)

From the strange tie breaker at the last India Pakistan match to the 6 sixes, to the final world cup win, it was an amazing journey even to the part time spectator.

The final run around the field with the Indian flags was a "rungte kadhe hone wala" scene that would warm the cockles of any Indians heart.

Way to go Indian team. This is a victory to savor for a long time and I hope it paves the way for more new comers into the playing Indian team.

By the way, we did this without a coach !

Photo Credit :

The "Animal" Attraction

My personal love affair with pets began before the moment I was even conceived.

My nana (maternal grandmother, not grandpa in our part of the country) loves animals. In her younger days she nursed peacocks, deer and sundry other birds & animals back to health. The family household always comprised of a couple of cats, dogs, cows, goats, pigeons and various other species including a monkey at one point of time and a rat snake who would regularly appear to eat the pigeon or chicken eggs. All this was obviously long before the government started poking their noses into which species could or could not be allowed in family spaces.

Living a half day bullock-cart ride away from the nearest neighbours (while on the estates) made domesticating animals (for food and otherwise) a necessity.

By the time I came along, nana was pretty much restricting herself to dogs, cats, poultry and dairy animals. In most households, dogs were for guarding houses, cats were meant to keep the mice away. They were always fed a little below satiating point to keep them hungry enough to catch pests and scare away the people who had no business hovering around the gates.

Not in nana's house. Our cats & dogs were always overfed. So the dogs would sleep at the gate when they had to be guarding the compound and the cats would sleep in the attic when they were supposed to be catching mice ! All because she did not have the heart to leave them in the least bit hungry.

Nana's children - my mom, aunts and uncles - all absorbed this instant love for animals and most of her grandchildren were born to it. we were always surrounded by them and our dogs and cats were our friends too.

Even if the rest of the cousins ganged up against one, the dogs and cats would not take sides.
If you needed to cry away from anyone else's view, you could always take one of the dogs for a walk - who would silently lick your hands or cheeks (whichever was in closer proximity to their height)
If you wanted unconditional love - the dogs/cats provided that.
Non judgmental - bingo.
Non questioning - sure.

They know exactly when to come sit in your lap and when to give you an adoring look. As Dee elaborated about Zoya in Love, Grief, Pain, and a Kitten no matter how many times you push them away, they keep coming back to you.
They never judge you for anything - Feeding them late, not getting home in time, being pissed drunk, being lazy, being a few pounds overweight......

They will accompany you anywhere and everywhere where you let them and sometimes even if you don't. Our little munchkin (whom we adopted a couple of days ago) watches cricket with the husband. Husband is absolutely thrilled to have a cricket viewing partner in the same household.

They just keep coming back and give you more love. They insist on following you into the bathroom, but you don't mind since they aren't going to scrutinise your flabby thighs or beer belly. They just want to be around in your presence.

With a pet around you can never feel worthless. Because you are the world to them and they make it very evident to you.

How can you resist adoring eyes like these ?

Published on DesiCritics

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Book Review : Cairo - The Family Guide

In a previous article, "Bookshops in Cairo" I heavily recommended this book, but I never mentioned why.

The current issue of the Cairo Family Guide is the 4th edition (the first edition was in 2001). It has been revised each time to update the data and make it more current & relevant.

Its written by Lesley Lababidi in collaboration with Dr Lisa Sabbahy and printed by the AUC Press

Its one book any person planning to check out the sights of Cairo on their own, or living here for more than a week should most certainly pick up.

The book is categorised location wise and then each place worth a visit in that area is listed out with complete details.

For eg. there are 3 different itineraries for the Egyptian museum depending on a person's interest. It also helps split the museum into manageable trips so as to be able to absorb maximum information.

Special attention has been given to understanding and recommending activities based on a child's age and interests. So the book is especially handy for those visiting with kids.

Maps to the areas, the closest Metro stop, the timings (including changed timings for Ramadan), Entrance fees (for foreigners, residents, students & Egyptians - yes there are multiple rates), Photography and video fees if any, (or whether they are allowed at all), the telephone numbers to that location, facilities available (bathrooms, gift shops, cafeterias) the best place to park (this is a major issue in Cairo), relevant websites if any, activities organised at that location if any, how much to tip and whom. These are just some of the gems of information that she shares about each and every location.

This is a goldmine of information especially given the monumental difficulty of gathering such data in Cairo. This is one of our few books where the book has completely lost its crispness (I don't even like the spine cracking in my books)

The only drawback is that since this is a 2006 edition some of the data has become obsolete especially with the recent adding of a digit to all land-line numbers at some of the telephone exchanges. Some sites have revised their charges (upwards of course) But the changes would hardly be in 5% of the data in this book.

So go ahead and pick up your own copy today. At 70LE it's a steal! Make sure it is a blue coloured bind with the picture of children sitting in a donkey cart. This is the latest edition. Many smaller bookshops still stock the older versions with the green colour binding. The information in those would be about 25-30% irrelevant and/or obsolete.

Be sure to pick up this one : not this one

I'll review the practical guide (the second one) in a day or so.

You can buy it at any major bookstore in Egypt. Its one of the most popular books. Or even buy it off Amazon.

I plan to write a lot about the sights in Egypt in the coming week, I will be heavily referencing this book.

Diary of a cat

Sent to me by my friend and fellow cat lover - Alison.

Diary of a Cat

* DAY 752: My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while I am forced to eat dry cereal. The only thing that keeps me going is the hope of escape, and the mild satisfaction I get from ruining the occasional piece of furniture.
Tomorrow I may eat another houseplant.

* DAY 761: Today my attempt to kill my captors by weaving around their feet while they were walking almost succeeded, must try this at the top of the stairs. In an attempt to disgust and repulse these vile oppressors, I once again induced myself to vomit on their favorite chair...must try this on their bed.

* DAY 762: Slept all day so that I could annoy my captors with sleep depriving, incessant pleas for food at ungodly hours of the night.

* DAY 765: Decapitated a mouse and brought them the headless body, in attempt to make them aware of what I am capable of, and to try to strike fear into their hearts. They only cooed and condescended about what a good little cat I was...Hmmm. Not working according to plan..

* DAY 768: I am finally aware of how sadistic they are. For no good reason I was chosen for the water torture. This time however it included a burning foamy chemical called "shampoo." What sick minds could invent such a liquid? My only consolation is the piece of thumb still stuck between my teeth.

* DAY 771: There was some sort of gathering of their accomplices. I was placed in solitary throughout the event. However, I could hear the noise and smell the foul odor of the glass tubes they call "beer." More importantly I overheard that my confinement was due to MY power of "allergies." Must learn what this is and how to use it to my advantage.

* DAY 774: I am convinced the other captives are flunkies and maybe snitches. The dog is routinely released and seems more than happy to return. He is obviously a half-wit. The Bird on the other hand has got to be an informant. He has mastered their frightful tongue (something akin to molespeak) and speaks with them regularly. I am certain he reports my every move. Due to his current placement in the metal room his safety is assured.
But I can wait; it is only a matter of time...

Saturday, September 22, 2007

How to Bathe a cat !

Bacardi is driving me nuts at times and is completely adorable at times.

today morning she went straight from the bathroom sink (where I was washing her face-she had been scratching her face incessantly since last night) to the kitty litter & stuck her head right into it !!!!!!!!

She then proceeded to drive me crazy throughout the day, I had workmen come over to fix the ac.. With the front door and french windows open, I couldn't take the risk. so shut her in the other HALF of the house . She almost scratched the door down. Even after dh came home (she normally snuggles up to him on the couch and goes off to sleep) she wanted to come into the hall. Once the workmen left and I had finished cleaning up, all doors were opened again at around 7pm. After that she goes into her aqua fina crate (in the part of th ehouse she was confined to for half the day) and goes off to sleep ! Even now she is happily curled up & sleeping. Whole day she drove me nuts.

One of my friends - Alison - suggested the following methods to bathe her :

Method 1 :
1. Thoroughly clean the toilet.
2. Add the required amount of shampoo to the toilet water, and have both lids lifted.
3. Obtain the cat and soothe him while you carry him towards the bathroom.
4. In one smooth movement, put the cat in the toilet and close both lids (you may need to stand on the lid so that he cannot escape).
CAUTION: Do not get any part of your body too close to the edge, as his paws will be reaching out for any purchase they can find.
5. Flush the toilet three or four times. This provides a 'power wash and rinse' which I have found to be quite effective.
6. Have someone open the door to the outside and ensure that there are no people between the toilet and the outside door.
7. Stand behind the toilet as far as you can, and quickly lift both lids.
8. The now-clean cat will rocket out of the toilet, and run outside where he will dry himself.

Method 2 :
1) with thumb and forefinger extended lift toilet seat up and secure.
2) gently grab your cat by the jugular ( to minimise movement) and carefully place it in the toilet bowl immediately securing toilet seat to prevent escape, by placing 2 house bricks on top.
3) open the lid to the cistern and select an appropriate shampoo. Johnsons baby shampoo is a popular choice as it does not sting the eyes.
4) measure out 10 mls of the shampoo and pour it into the cistern full of water and close the lid back on the cistern.
5) select the half flush mode for a pre wash to remove obvious grime and sit on the edge of the bath inserting your Ipod headphones into your ears and some Rakmaninov to dampen down the sound of the prewash cycle
6) On completion of the prewash cycle with your right index finger placed carefully over the flush control select 2 half flushes to effectively rinse away any shampoo residue.
7) keeping the toilet seat firmly in place open all exits and entrance ways and lay down plenty of old newspaper in gentle sloping pathways leading to all exits.
8) taking a tin of tuna dip the fingers of your right hand into it and carefully draw an invisible line on the path with the shortest route to the outside world.
9) return to the bathroom and removing the cistern lid for the final time measure out 15 mls of a good quality hair conditioner. Pantene Pro V for fine flyaway hair would be a good choice in most instances. Pour the conditioner into the now refilled cistern and select the final full flush to complete the washing cycle.
10) when the cycle is complete and you will know this by the complete refill of the cistern chamber carefully lift the lid of the toilet preferably whilst wearing some form of body armour and whilst standing well clear summon the now beautifully coiffured cat by saying in a medium tone so as not to alarm the cat 'here Kitty' whilst gesturing with your left index finger the most appropriate exit path to take. In all likelihood the cat being a trifle disorientated will choose the longest and most convoluted path to exit. This can easily be remedied next time by increasing the amount of tuna on the newspaper with the shortest distance to the nearest exit.

Method 3 :
1. Know that although the kitty cat has the advantage of quickness and lack of concern for human life, you have the advantage of strength. Capitalize on that advantage by selecting the battlefield. Don't try to bathe him in an open area where he can force you to chase him. Pick a very small bathroom. If your bathroom is more than four feet square, we recommend that you get in the tub with the cat and close the sliding-glass doors as if you were about to take a shower. (A simple shower curtain will not do. A berserk cat can shred a three-ply rubber shower curtain quicker than a politician can shift positions.)
2. Know that a cat has claws and will not hesitate to remove all the skin from your body. Your advantage here is that you are smart and know how to dress to protect yourself. We recommend canvas overalls tucked into high-top construction boots, a pair of steel-mesh gloves, an army helmet, a hockey face-mask, and a long-sleeved flak jacket.
3. Use the element of surprise. Pick up your cat nonchalantly, as if to simply carry him to his supper dish. (Cats will not usually notice your strange attire. They have little or no interest in fashion as a rule.)
4. Once you are inside the bathroom, speed is essential to survival. In a single liquid motion, shut the bathroom door, step into the tub enclosure, slide the glass door shut, dip the cat in the water and squirt him with shampoo. You have now begun one of the wildest 45 seconds of your life.
5. Cats have no handles. Add the fact that he now has soapy fur, and the problem is radically compounded. Do not expect to hold on to him for more than two or three seconds at a time. When you have him, however, you must remember to give him another squirt of shampoo and rub like crazy. He'll then spring free and fall back into the water, thereby rinsing himself off. (The national record for cats is three latherings, so don't expect too much.)
6. Next, the cat must be dried. Novice cat bathers always assume this part will be the most difficult, for humans generally are worn out at this point and the cat is just getting really determined. In fact, the drying is simple compared with what you have just been through. That's because by now the cat is semi-permanently affixed to your right leg.
7. You simply pop the drain plug with your foot, reach for your towel and wait. (Occasionally, however, the cat will end up clinging to the top of your army helmet. If this happens, the best thing you can do is to shake him loose and to encourage him toward your leg.) After all the water is drained from the tub, it is a simple matter to just reach down and dry the cat.
In a few days the cat will relax enough to be removed from your leg. He will usually have nothing to say for about three weeks and will spend a lot of time sitting with his back to you. He might even become psychoceramic and develop the fixed stare of a plaster figurine.
You will be tempted to assume he is angry. This isn't usually the case. As a rule he is simply plotting ways to get through your defenses and injure you for life the next time you decide to give him a bath. But at least now he smells a lot better.

dh & Bacardi are enjoying the matches & looking forward to the finals now :)
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