Sunday, 21 April 2013

It's not too much to ask for, is it?

That women feel safe to go about their daily lives without any fear.
That they respect women's life choices.
That they are more civil to women.

'they': The ones who have this shocking bias towards women. Not just the violent. It's easy to blame it on their background. Come to think of it, most of them are not driven by rational thoughts and when away from their group, they are cowardly and very meek individuals. But what is startling is that even among the well-educated - the lawmakers, law enforcers and elected leaders, this strong prejudice comes to the fore in the statements they make and the actions they take.

There has been a massive outpouring of emotion over dreadful incidents this past few months. It's clear many people want a better way. But, when would it come? When would it stop?

Raise awareness. Be a part of the #RingTheBell campaign this Sunday, April 28, 2013.

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Thursday, 13 September 2012

Chintu Needs A Home

Those eyes...
I've never had a pet before. I've always wanted one. When I did get a chance to bring one home many years back, my mother promptly gave me two choices. "It's either going to be you or that puppy in this house".

That offer still stands.

We found Chintu just outside our office gate close to midnight, curling up in a corner - almost lifeless. He seemed scared when we approached him. But, he was too weak to fight back or even move. When we got close, we saw a thin rope tied around his neck (abandoned perhaps?). That was when we saw the horror. Ticks - hundreds of them - many the size of beetle-bugs crawling and rooted to his slender body. His gums were almost pale white. They had almost sucked him dry.

Chintu - When we found him

All the online articles suggested that he be taken to a vet. We decided to take him to the pet clinic first thing in the morning. But until then, we needed to shelter him. We took him to the terrace and fed him bread slices dipped in warm milk. He gulped them up quickly. We covered him in a blanket and placed him in a cardboard box to keep him warm. We were hoping Chintu would make it through the night.

Poses with his tummy full after a nice, warm meal

It was one of those bittersweet days. Earlier that day, we had gotten news from CUPA that the puppy we had admitted a couple of days back didn't survive. We'd found him on the road side unable to move - most likely hit by a motorbike or a car. It was a spinal injury. The doctors said his chances of survival were bleak. Eventually, he succumbed to his injuries. We had named him July. 

Cutting back to Chintu's story, we took him to the vet in the morning as planned. The doctor said that this was worst case of tick infestation he'd seen in his entire career. The horror was still unfolding... When the doctor checked Chintu's ears, our stomachs turned. More Ticks. There were so many, it looked like a bee-hive. A couple of days more and he wouldn't have made it.

On the road to recovery: Notice his ears

After the medications were administered to Chintu - and a huge list of prescriptions to go along with them, we took him back to our office. We fed him lean meat and a bowl of rice as advised by the Vet. We also gave him a gentle rub-down with a wet cloth. The ticks were still attached to his frail body. But, the doc assured us that the ticks will be gone in a few days once the medicines start taking effect.

Chintu in a playful mood: Sliding down the Solar Panel

Just as in all relationships, because we had bonded, we couldn't let him back on the streets. We just couldn't. It wasn't about those adorable puppy eyes he gave us or the fact that we'd grown to love him. It was something much more than that. The incidents that had transpired over the previous day - the tale of two puppies - one saved from the brink, and the other, not so lucky. Perhaps, there was a reason for us to keep him safe.

Chintu Soaking up the Sun. Notice his ears now!

We told ourselves that we will foster Chintu until his vaccinations and de-worming sessions were complete. He's become a healthy, strong and happy Indian puppy. He's about 4 months old now. Our landlord has been very kind all this while in accommodating our request. But, the time has come for him to find a new home.

Chintu is quite smart, loves to play and would make an excellent watch dog. He's a bit cautious near other dogs though. He has a high drive and is very energetic. So, he loves to go for walks.

Chintu - Today

My time spent with Chintu has taught me a lot. Dogs are remarkable animals. They make for amazing companions. I've always believed that when the right owner and the right pet come together in the right setting, it could lead to a wonderful life experience. We hope someone can give Chintu that and get the same in return.

Chintu playing with a rope in the terrace

If you would like to adopt Chintu or can help us find him a new home, please email me at praveen (DOT) rajaretnam (AT) gmail (DOT) com.

Spread the word. Share Chintu's facebook album.

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Saturday, 9 June 2012

Djokovic vs Nadal - Preview - French Open

French Open 2012 - Djokovic vs. Nadal

Eleven months is all that separates these two champions in age-terms. There really is nothing to pick in this fourth straight grand slam final between the two. In fact, the last nine meetings between them have all been in finals - which led me to write this blog.

Both men are incidentally just a match away from making history.

Djokovic had laid the genesis of what could turn out to be an unforgettable, history making season by winning the Australian Open back in January. But, even if he fails to match Rod Laver's feat (or perhaps go one up by winning the Olympic Gold), and the Australian Open is to be the zenith of this season, his achievements over the last one-and-a-half years will still go down as one of the greatest feats ever accomplished on the men's tour. And he can take comfort in the fact that after several years of playing in the shadow of Nadal and Federer, he hogged the front pages of newspapers for the right reasons.

As for Nadal, he would definitely like to avoid joining the list of beaten finalists yet again (perhaps he holds the record for the most consecutive defeats to a single opponent in grand slam finals). Right now, only one other player has managed to complete a career grand slam - Andre Agassi. So, that puts Nadal in a very exclusive group - for the time-being at least. He's also chasing an unprecedented seventh French Open title and go one up on the great Björn Borg.

If Djokovic manages to win the the remaining three majors and the Gold, he would be the one and only man in Men's tennis to have ever accomplished such a feat. Incidentally, Steffi Graf is the only player to have pulled off this epic feat.

Djokovic may end up with a leading head-to-head record against the Nadal (14-18) & Federer (12-14) as early as this year-end and the Rock, Paper, Scissors story might be put to rest. This man would then undisputedly be the best of his generation.

But, given the recent outcomes of the clashes between them, and their route to the final, I guess Nadal will prevail - and quite comfortably so. It's going to take a superhuman effort by Djokovic to down Nadal this time. 

Who's your pick for Sunday's final? Mention in the comments.

Praveen Rajaretnam
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Disclaimer: I do not own the copyright of the images. No infringement of copyright was intended and the images are not being used for commercial purposes. The original photographs were edited purely for non-commercial reasons.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Has Tennis' Greatest Rivalry Reached Its Conclusion?

Whenever these two players walked out to the center court, there is this pulsating sensation marked with excitement - Every Single Time. It's the nearest thing the game of tennis can get to the visceral intensity experienced in, say, a football match!

What makes their clashes so special?

The Greatest Rivalry In Sports

Contrasting Styles
If Federer's style is akin to that of a Tai chi master - Subtle, Elegant & Refined, then Nadal's is like that of a Taekwondo expert - Hard, Unorthodox & Abrupt.
If Federer's movements are graceful, then Nadal's is bludgeoning.
If Federer's game seems like an effortless ballet, then Nadal's is an adrenaline-packed power dance.
If Federer's opera plays Tchaikovsky's Overture, then Nadal's is Death Metal's greatest solo act. 
Federer waltzes on court with a Matador's grace. Nadal is the bull charging towards that Matador with extreme fluidity & an unyielding focus.

Federer showcases the precision and technique of the game to beautiful effect. On talent & grace alone, he should be considered the world's best player (his style is reminiscent of the great Björn Borg). Nadal, on the other hand, displays the strength and athleticism behind the game - an amazing blend of power & agility. Not to forget his ability to come back stronger when pushed to the brink each time, he shows a mental toughness seen only among the most elite warriors.

The History
Back in 2005, Roger Federer had established himself as the undisputed king of tennis. He wasn't just the dominant player, or the one who carried that then oft-used moniker - 'The Man to Beat' - he simply was in a different league altogether. There was no one to challenge his supremacy. Names were dropped - Roddick, Hewitt, Safin, Nalbandian - but they all faded into oblivion.

And then, a prodigious talent came along. A teenager from Majorca attracted the spotlight. On one surface, he was in his element and the world marveled as he weaved his magic on it. He was unmatched and he still is. The 'Ides of March', 2004 would mark the start of a great rivalry. Rafael Nadal, aged 17, beat the then seemingly invincible World Number 1, Roger Federer, in straight sets. A few months later, Federer would taste his first victory against the Spaniard. They would meet again in the French Open semifinal (the first of only two such occasions thus far - all their other meetings have been in finals), where Nadal would again emerge victorious. 

That 2008 Wimbledon Final
On a never to be forgotten night, in what many consider to be the greatest match of all time, their rivalry had reached its' peak. It turned out to be a very cathartic match for Rafa as he beat Fedex for the first time on grass, capturing his first grand slam on a surface other than clay. The battle for supremacy would continue for another two-and-a-half years until Djokovic broke out of his cocoon with a vastly improved all round game for any surface.

That following year, Federer finally won the French open and completed a career grand slam when Nadal was ousted in the fourth round by Soderling - his only defeat at Roland Garros till date.

For the past 8 years, this rivalry has delighted tennis fans and produced the best tennis of this generation, perhaps in history. Thus far, they have scripted 28 fine memories, and even though every tennis fan would hope for a few more, this famed rivalry may be reaching its' twilight. Federer has been performing at the highest level consistently for the past decade. And today, Djokovic and Federer meet again in yet another semifinal of a Grand Slam. The clashes between Nadal and Federer have reduced in the last few tournaments and it seems to have nothing to do with rankings. Most draws just put them in the opposite halves.

Both gentlemen are great role-models and represent everything good about the sport. Nothing could be more befitting for Federer than to play his farewell match (which is still a few years away) against his greatest rival and admirer, Nadal, and in front of his idol & legend, Pete Sampras.
Praveen Rajaretnam
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Disclaimer: I do not own the copyright of the images. No infringement of copyright was intended and the images are not being used for commercial purposes. The original photographs were edited purely for non-commercial reasons.

Monday, 6 February 2012

The Holy Trinity of Tennis

The Holy Trinity - Nadal, Federer & Djokovic

Rivalries maketh the sport. The world has seen many famous ones - Senna & Prost. Ali & Frazier. Sampras & Agassi. The list goes on... But, for the first time in tennis history, we are seeing a truel as opposed to a duel. Can three champions be more contrasting in style and yet dominate the better half of a decade by cementing the top 3 rankings between them? In the last 8 years, only one mortal has broken the hegemony of the trio - Del Potro won the US Open in 2009 and by doing so became the first player to defeat Nadal & Federer in back-to-back matches. 

The Relentless, Undisputed King of Clay
Here's the startling revelation - The one who made all this possible was Nadal. He pushed Federer & Djokovic to a whole new level they didn't know existed before - mentally & physically.  It takes a super-human effort to down Nadal in a Grand Slam final - so much that at one point, Roger trained with the left-handed former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanišević to find a way to defeat Rafa on clay... and still failed.

Nadal - The Phenom - who shot to fame as a 14-year old by beating Pat Cash in an exhibition match, has an equal stake in being called one of the greatest players of his generation. Like the Spartans, he never surrenders. He never lets the thought of defeat ever get into his mind - even if he is trailing by two sets and a break down. He's the fighter who battles on valiantly till the very last point.

Every time Federer or Djokovic met Nadal, they produced some of the most memorable and scintillating matches in the open era - year after year! This is not to undermine the matches between Djokovic & Federer, just that it lacks the intensity when they are up against Nadal. And it is still a budding rivalry and perhaps blossoming a bit too late? (Federer is already in his 30's and Wikipedia doesn't yet have a topic on it!). 

The Clone Wars

To prove a point, consider a hypothetical situation where Federer and Djokovic had to play against their own clones - Fedex vs. Fedex-clone & Djoko vs. Djoko-clone. We can safely assume that there had be at least 50% more winners in that match as compared to matches against Nadal. That is to say, if it is a point against Rafa, then it is a point against any other player in the world. The corollary, however, doesn't hold good

Rafa's ability to not just chase down any shot, but to return it in a way to force the other player to retreat, or concede the advantage in that rally, is just mind blowing! He doesn't return to keep the rally alive, he returns it to with the singular aim of gaining control of that point, if not, to win it. Doing that consistently, makes his opponents go into disbelief. They try harder to win each point, making them commit more unforced errors (Federer makes mistakes he wouldn't make against anyone else except Nadal). The statistics prove this (refer - here's one & another). Nadal almost always has had considerably fewer winners & unforced errors - particularly against Federer. And it is a given that if a rally extends beyond 8 or 9 shots, you can bet your money on Nadal and you'll make a handsome profit at the end of the match. The same holds good for 5 setters. 

(One can only wonder how long those rallies had last if the inexhaustible powerhouse that is Nadal, were to play against his own clone)

In one word, that is how I'd describe the current state of Men's Tennis. And Rafael Nadal is the prime reason for tennis to reach this level. He is the supreme athlete. And together with Roger Federer & Novak Djokovic, complete the Holy Trinity of Tennis

(No disrespect to Andy Murray, an insanely gifted player, is like the fourth musketeer. Perhaps , he needs a while longer to raise his game, just as Djokovic did in 2011, to be included into what would then become a quartet of great champions in the same era. But until then, this triumvirate shall rule tennis for the foreseeable future.)

Praveen Rajaretnam
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Disclaimer: I do not own the copyright of the images. No infringement of copyright was intended and the images are not being used for commercial purposes. The original photographs were edited purely for non-commercial reasons.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Rajni's Letter to SRK

A mysterious letter with some pretty explosive content has just surfaced. It appears to be a written response by the iconic thespian, Rajni, to Shahrukh Khan who had invited him to play a guest role in his soon to be released film, Ra.One

In the letter dated April 1st, Rajni, in his inimitable 'shtyle', gave a very crisp and curt reply expressing his disinclination to appear in - as he puts it - Ra.Onnu ('onnu' means one in Tamil). He suggests that he has more significant matters to concern himself with. The Superstar also gives King Khan a piece of his mind before he signs off with his trademark punchline - "Mind it" - aha.. Classic!

Rajni's Letter to Shahrukh Khan

The heavily crumpled paper suggests that SRK wasn't too happy about the reply. In fact, what is more surprising is that in the fit of rage that might have gripped him, unspeakable acts - the kind humanity had never before witnessed - were not performed on that dried piece of cellulose pulp. Sheesh Kebab!!

But now, all seems to be superb and awesome between Rajni sir and SRK, as reliable reports indicate that Rajni has indeed made an appearance in Ra.One. Can't wait for those Chuck Norris turned Rajni jokes to work it's magic on SRK ;-) This Diwali might just turn out to be more than just firecrackers lighting up the sky. And the movie has got everything going for it - Lights, Glamour, Action, Hype and the S.U.P.E.R.S.T.A.R.S.


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Sunday, 2 October 2011

Zomato - Ain't You a Sweet Potato Casserole!

The Top 3 things I like about Zomato!
  • Just love the slickness of the UI and the color palette used (which might probably have something to do with ketchup sounding name??) Hmmm... But Yumm!! :)
  • The new 'Events' (beta) feature is very welcome, wanted and desired. Sure, we all go out to gorge on our favourite dishes with friends or family. But, everybody wants to know "What's on today; or up this week?" So, while enjoying the food, we get to choose the kind of entertainment too - say a gig by a local band or a stand-up comedy routine or even watching that race red car that'll be scorching the Delhi tracks this month! And who wouldn't want to know about the madness of a Spanish festival (whose name has a strong connotation to the site I'm reviewing); or perhaps a Bavarian fair that celebrates beer and uhm... no, not Hasselhoff... but, eh well... the picture speaks for itself!

La Tomatina
  • The Zomato Crunch has got to be one of the best desi blogs out there (and their newsletter is even better). It's definitely my top pick in the 'food porn' category. Erudite, fun to read and informative, they've got the right dose and mix of topics. Definitely satiates one's appetite - even if you're on a diet.
  • Bonus: I have to mention the Android App. It is just too friggin' good. Love that shake feature for the random suggestion. 

What Next?!
  • A GrubWithUs like feature would help 20-something blokes like me to meet cool, new, awesome people! The new ex of Demi Moore found the idea so awesome, he invested in it. Zomato already has the restaurant network and the clout to pull in the celebrities and entrepreneurs. And more importantly, Zomato could just open the door for someone to have one of the best and most memorable meal of his/her life.
  • Real-time online restaurant reservations: I would very much like to book tables - either online or through the mobile app. It would also really help if this data is real-time and it could guesstimate the approximate waiting time. Here's why this will be a super cool feature - the IRCTC portal. Yup, that's right. People won't admit it, but there's a lot of thrill in not knowing whether you'll get the seats and the sheer excitement whilst hoping against hope is just too good an experience to miss out on.
  • Option to remove/edit outdated reviews: From a restaurateur's perspective, this is extremely relevant as it affects their business. Old reviews which bash up a eatery but for which sufficient amends have been made could be either archived or the reviewer could be given the option to edit the same. This might need some serious arse-on-the-chair time for the reviewers at Zomato to sort them out. But hey, it'll be totally worth it makes for better reviews - which is what the site is built on!

This post is with reference to the Zomato contest.

The images used in the site are not intended to infringe on any copyright.