Tuesday, July 27, 2010


I hate tunnels.

Especially the under-passes built near railway stations or under flyovers, for teeming millions to cross over from one side to another. There is one near Sealdah station in Kolkata, and one under the Western Express Highway in Malad, Mumbai, which I had/have to familiar on a daily basis. And, in this case at least, familiarity breeds contempt. Ugh!

They are dank, dirty, musty and crowded. There's water dripping down walls and from cracks in the ceiling, and I shudder each time a cold drop falls on me. There are rodents and cockroaches scurrying along the drains at the side. There are pushing, groping crowds hurrying past in the permanent semi-darkness.

And what amazes me most are the tenacity of the vendors who have made these tunnels their workplace, staying in these claustrophobic surroundings for hours on end, like denizens of a nightmarish nocturnal hell.

And they sell spinach and bananas, garlic (to ward off vampires?) and knick-knacks. I always feel too suffocated to buy. The walls seem to close in, the ceiling seems to press down upon me. I rush as fast as I can, tripping on the uneven tunnel floor, ducking the leaking water, holding my breath to avoid inhaling the stale air.

The sunlight at the end of the tunnel always seems a bit too far away for my liking.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


Grand Slams look unfamiliar these days.

Because Federer is exiting so early. No, not the first-round, but even the quarter-final is such an unexpected result from my favourite player. In fact, I usually do not watch the early rounds in Grand Slams at all, catching up with Roger when he strode into the quarters and beyond, mostly winning, sometimes losing, but always, always immensely, delightfully watchable.

Now, without Federer, the courts seems emptied of artistry, bereft of magic. The red clay of Roland Garros is harsher, bloodier with the grunting, lunging, gutsy, athletic Nadal and his power-tennis. Wimbledon's grass is no longer that shade of brilliant green it was for the past so many years.

Now, watching the finals of a Grand Slam is no longer a matter of biting fingernails, knotting-up stomach and clenching fingers together in prayer. Where I would jump from point to point, game to game, set to set, swinging between hope and despair. Where I could cry unabashedly when Federer's subtle charms would self-destruct or be mauled by the hard-hitting determination of his opponent, usually Nadal. Where I could watch, enraptured by the mastery of a man who could transform a movement into a masterpiece with his timing, touch, grace and fluidity. Where I would rejoice at witnessing magic and history weaving together a unique spectacle.

Now, I can relax during a Grand Slam final. It's just two men slugging it out - with the stronger one, in mind and body, the one who seizes the moment, winning. Tennis has become a battle of power once again. A game for gritty warriors, not the magic of the artist.