Friday, 26 July 2013

Grandparents will always be Grand!

[My Nana and Nani with my brother and a two day old baby me.]
There is a reason why grandparents are called thus; they are indeed 'grand' parents. One of the best part of being an Indian is having large joint families, and not just having them, but loving them as well. There are so many brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, and nephews and nieces, that you may never fall short of friends and companions, but most special of them all are your grandparents. They are the nicest parents you can have, for your parents have to be stern with you, which is for your own good, as they shape the lump of clay that you are into shapely earthenware that can endure the rough handling the world dishes out; but your grandparents can afford to cosset and coddle. They spoil and indulge you, partaking in your harmless misadventures, which is also necessary, for what good is a childhood where one hasn't had some fun and frolic at some unsuspecting person's expense and most important of all help you fight the common enemy, your parents, shielding you from their wrath.

Their hair hasn't turned silver overnight. They have seen the world, and all kind of people that inhabit it, and all the ups and downs that life throws at them, and coming out with flying colours. Drinking from the well of their vast experience is an experience unlike any other. Men learn from their from mistake, great men learn from other's mistakes, but the greatest share their mistakes so that none may repeat them. Grandparents make up the third kind. They love you unconditionally. They may require a stick to support their ravaged frames, but if they have to come meet you or when you are in trouble, they can run faster than the road-runner. Their hands may be shaking from Parkinson's, yet they would whip up divine food in a jiffy. There is just so much that they do, and all they ask for is some love in return. Yet it is a sad tale, that more and more people seem to ignore their importance and treat them as old discarded pieces of furniture, and forget fulfilling their wishes, they don't even pay for their everyday needs and medical bills, which are bound to increase with age. A nice way to treat the hand that fed you, huh?

An incident I heard from someone shocked me. If I were in a cartoon, my eyeballs would have probably come screaming out like Mr. Wolf's in that Droopy and Dripple cartoon. My aunt was telling me what a prospective bride asked a prospective groom in a typically Indian meeting for an arranged marriage. That horrible bimbo had the audacity to ask the guy, 'How many dust-bins do you have in your house?' At first when I heard this, I thought whoa, are people this lazy that they need dust-bins in every room? When I learnt that what she meant was 'How many old people do you have in your house?', I felt a rage bubbling inside me. Had I been the guy sitting opposite her, I would have promptly replied, 'Well, none so far and I don't want to marry you and give you the privilege of being the first.' Is that what they mean to some of the base vile loathsome kids of today? Do you spurn the once indispensable hand just because it does not contribute to the household's kitty anymore? How can someone fall that low!

Thankfully, I have much better values and morals, but more importantly, the love that I share with my grandparents binds us together. I was unfortunate to have never met my Dada (father's father), for he had passed away even before my elder brother , and my Nana (mother's father) passed away when I was just 7. However,  I have spent a lot of time with my Dadi (father's mother) and Nani (mother's mother), and fortunately my Dadi stays with us, which means that I have spent nearly all my life with her, except of course when she is visiting other relatives. She has taught me much more than I can repay. She taught me everything I know about my religion, Jainism, how to read and write Gujarati, a skill not many from my generation care about, everything about our culture, she has recounted tales from her life and the hardships that my family's faced to ensure I have an easy relaxed life, and narrated stories of bravery and truth and kings and princes to put me to sleep, she has taught me to cook some scrumptious typical Gujarati dishes, and just so much more that I could fill pages upon pages with what I've learnt from her. My Dada was already deceased when I was born, but from all that I hear, he was one gem of a person, kind at heart, hardly ever angry, and so practical. He used to always believe in giving people second chances and never shied away from extending a helping hand. His father died at when my grand-father was just 12, and since then he worked so hard to support his family and then move to Bombay and set up the very business that I may one day inherit. He has helped so many people from his village to come to Bombay and establish themselves, by offering them a roof over their heads and food in their bellies, monetary assistance and any other help that may be required. I hope one day I can be as generous and kind-hearted as him.

I may have been too young when my Nana passed away, but I still learnt a lot from him. He was a great businessman, one of the best diamond merchants of his time. He had to start from scratch a couple of times, whether it was because he left his village to fulfill his dreams in Bombay or they had to leave Burma as they government suddenly didn't want any Indians there, but wherever he went, he worked hard and smart to establish himself, and establish well he did. It just taught me that you have to always move on, you cannot live in the past. You learn from it, and enjoy the memories made, but cannot live in it. He was also a man who believed in all gods and religions, showing no disrespect to any, something that I still believe in. I may now be an atheist and have my own opinions and ideas on gods and religions, I still respect the thoughts of each person when it comes to this. He was the one from whom I inherited the hobby of collecting antiques, stamps and coins. A large part of my collection of coins and stamps came from him and after his passing, my Nani. My prized possession, a 1928 British India ₹ 1000 note was also given to me by her. Both him and my Nani believed in always giving to others as per your capability. Even when you do not have a lot, you can still find something to donate or at least share. They taught me that family is the most important of all relations, your friends may come and go, but blood ties are an eternal bond and nothing is as good as helping your family. My Nani too has taught me so much. She was the sweetest person I ever knew, and a tough cookie who was extremely level-headed with an iron mind, yet so emotional and loving, that she could reach out to just about anyone. She has seen more ups and downs than the most terrifying roller coaster in the world, the ups higher than a life the kings led and downs lower than what you would wish for your enemy; but through all that, she never gloated nor complained. She taught me to be content with whatever you have. Life may not always be fair. In your doldrums, you dwell upon the wonderful moments you've had and get through the ebb, for the tides are an uncontrollable force, and ebb and flow happen, whether you like it or not. She was a fighter, who battled breast cancer, brittle bones, diabetes, and horde of other physical and financial problems, yet was always smiling. She was the best cook I ever knew, whipping up traditional treats like a fairy with her wand, especially her sweets, chillies and pickles were unparalleled. She too has meant so much more to me than all of this. That is why I was so shattered when she left us.

My Nani passed away on the 26th of July, 2012. Seven years ago on that very day, the rains had brought the city to a standstill, this time around, it was as if our lives came to a standstill. She had been out of the hospital two weeks ago and well on the road to recovery, however, that evening she felt breathless and was admitted to the hospital. She even spoke to everyone till nine that night and seemed to be fine, but then within an hour, she couldn't breathe. It was as if the little fighter didn't want to fight any longer. She had everyone at her bedside, even her daughter that lives in Belgium was with her, and she had bid her goodbyes. She somehow felt content that everyone she held dear was with her and happy in their lives. Me and my brother were at home and rushed to the hospital by which time she was already put on ventilator. Her body seemed to give up and by eleven thirty that night, there was no hope, not unless she were kept as a listless vegetable with a dozen tubes piercing her body, and the ventilator was switched off. We had lost her for ever.

The giver that she always was, gave a parting gift to society even in death. We donated her eyes, which could be used for research purposes, and skin, to ease the pain of burn patients. At times like these, I feel like a toddler, hoping for a miracle, that somehow she comes back to life or wishing that I were not so realistic and atheistic and that God could somehow descend to our world and restore the life he took, but I guess emotional distress is the price one pays for being pragmatic. It's been a year since her departure, and there have been numerous moments when I see something that would have interested her or I have some great news that I want to share with every loved one and I think, 'Oh I must call B...' and I leave that sentence hanging in mid air. Baa is no more with us. There is no one who will answer that phone call...

All her life she has taught me innumerable things, and even as she left she taught me a couple more. To this day I regret not calling her the last week she spent in this world. I had met her two Sundays prior to her passing, and spoke to her over the phone a few times after that, the last being on the Sunday before she left us, but after that for four whole days I thought I'd call her, but never ended up doing so. Alas, now I shall never have that opportunity. That is one regret I have and one that I can never try and alter it. Maybe that's why I still have those moments when I feel like just dialing her phone and hoping against hope that she answers. I guess that's my way of trying to compensate for something that was my basic duty to perform. However, that did teach me one lesson - Never ever procrastinate; something that I'm rather fond of doing. Do what you wish to, intend to, right at that moment and live life with no regrets. Life's too short, you never know when it could be your last moment and then it's better to leave this world with a clean slate, leaving behind only memories and material possessions, but no negative feelings or regrets. Live life to the fullest and take every day as it comes, with a smile on your face. That is what is living, rather much different from what most of us do on a daily basis, exist.

In loving memory of my Nani, Taramati Dalsukhlal Vora, who left for her heavenly abode on July 26, 2012. May she be happy wherever she is and may she ever be in our thoughts and memories.

[I planned to post on my blog so many times after that post on July 24, 2012, but just couldn't. The next post had to be about her, but each time I tried to pen something down, I'd well up or feel emotional drained and just couldn't do it. Now, one year on, while her memory is still fresh in my mind - the way she'd kiss me on my cheeks, mind you the only person who was allowed to do that... and the feel of her soft hand on my face or how even after growing up she'd take my head in her lap and stroke my hair like one does a baby's and put me to sleep, I finally managed to write something for her.]

Monday, 23 July 2012

The Dark Knight Rises and how! Wow!

[Batman - The greatest superhero of all time.]
Superheroes, a breed of extraordinary beings that transcend the barriers of age, sex, race, religion, mystical creatures that shock and awe us, inspire us to greater things, who wouldn't like them? We  dream how exciting and expedient it would be to sprout wings and fly or spin spiderwebs with the mere flicking of our wrists, but often conveniently ignore the fact that these superheroes, well most of them, aren't possible in real life. That makes the ones that are all the more likeable and desirable. I can think of only Batman and Ironman as the two superheroes that are possible, of course considering you have all that money to splurge. And for some reason, Batman was the one that always intrigued me. A man leading two lives, a vigilante cleaning up the streets of a rotting corrupting city at night, someone who works without taking credit for it, yet indulging in theatricality and show with flashy gadgets and toys, and still a rather vain person, who is not beyond all human emotions, particularly anger and vindictiveness. He is the most believable superhero there is, and thus the most adored.

[Just love this dramatic poster. The collapsing buildings reminiscent of Cobb's falling world in Inception.]
My fascination with Batman was further boosted by the genius of Christopher Nolan when he rebooted the Batman series; the earlier Batman films look awful! Nolan is known to make amazing films, films that just blow your mind, whether it was with his first one Following [1998], Memento [2000], The Prestige [2006], Inception [2010] or the Batman trilogy, starting with Batman Begins in 2005, followed by The Dark Knight in 2008, and the last instalment, The Dark Knight Rises this year. Nolan has transformed the Batman franchise into one of the biggest, most talked about and highest-grossing franchises along with The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Harry Potter series, the Star Wars saga, and for some unfathomable reason, the Twilight series. He has proved time and again that he is, without doubt, a cut above the rest. My top three favourite films of all time are all Nolan. When I first saw The Prestige, I couldn't believe that someone could come up with something so good, and it became my favourite film, but was replaced within two years by The Dark Knight, the most perfect film anyone could ever make, a flawless gem, which again was replaced by Inception in 2010 for its sheer brilliance and ingenuity. Although, this time The Dark Knight Rises could not dislodge Inception. but let that not take anything away from it.

What often happens with me, is that I have exceedingly high expectations from almost everything, films, books, my favourite athletes, ... and I am rather fastidious, exceedingly difficult to please. It would have to be just perfect for me to really like it. And after tasting the deliciousness of his earlier movies, Nolan's latest did taste a little bit off. But it still was an amazing film. The direction was outstanding as usual. The character's of the film, having grown on you due to the earlier two films, now seem even more genial, especially Lucius Fox, played by Morgan Freeman, the genius who designs all those awesome things for Batman, the coolest being his latest flying Batmobile and the Batcycle, and I still can't get over how smoothly and coolly the Batcycle's wheels swivel and enable the bike to stop and change direction. Another lovable character is Bruce Wayne's butler Alfred, portrayed by Sir Michael Caine with perfection; the quintessential butler who does everything for you, cares and loves you like a parent, never gives up on you and eggs you on, yet does not shy away from taking a hard stand to convince you from taking stupid decisions. The villain in the film, Bane, portrayed by Tom Hardy, was nothing compared to Heath Ledger's Joker. Probably the mask hindering the acting capabilities of an otherwise fine good-looking actor. Joker shall forever be the villain to beat, for Heath did bring something never before seen to a film character.

[The Rise of the Dark Knight.]
I was surprised at how well Anne Hathaway did her job as Selina Kyle, a.k.a. Catwoman, especially after her horrendous performance at this year's Oscras, co-hosting with James Franco. She looked stunningly sexy in that lycra dress of hers and her feline grace. The incredibly dapper and dashing Joseph Gordon-Levitt played Blake's role to perfection, and the way they reveal at the end that he is Robin, was a nice way to leave a window open for possible future sequels. Oscar winner Marion Cotillard played her part well as Miranda Tate and the twist at the end where she is revealed to be Talia al Ghul was shocking, to say the least. My cousin, with whom I had gone to see the film, did mention in the forced interval that we have here in India, that in the comics she was Ra's al Ghul's daughter, and I brushed it aside, chiding him for always Googling and Wikiing everything and reading up the wrong stuff; well he was right then. Earlier, both Marion and Nolan, when questioned on whether Miranda's role would be similar to the one in the comics, had very smartly denied that, although in the end that is what happens. Christian Bale was of course great as Batman and Bruce Wayne, but when you think of it, very many actors could have pulled off the role as it does not require much acting, with a mask masking your expressions most of the time and a voice that is hardly yours. Nolan seems to have stuck with actors he has already had the pleasure of working with; a large number of them having worked with him in Inception. Maybe this comfort level is what makes the actors deliver power-packed performances.

The music and score for this film was by the great master Hans Zimmer and unlike the earlier two Batman films, James Newton Howard did not return to work with Hans. Hans, who has earlier produced masterpieces for films like The Lion King [1994], Gladiator [2003] and Inception [2010], wowed us once again with music that is grand and moving, giving you goosebumps and making you want to get out of your seats and become a masked saviour the minute you exit the cinemas. The main Batman theme is just out of this world. I loved the way Batman makes his return in the dying stages of the film, with his insignia burning over the bridge and him indulging the cops in a sensational chase.

It wasn't the acting or the music or the direction that let me down just that little. It was certain parts of the story. I think the whole welled prison, though it mirrored the title as Bruce 'rises' from it and even as his fellow cellmates are chanting 'deshi basara', meaning 'he rises' in Moroccan (Ra's al Ghul was an Arab), made little sense. The prison seemed to be one that did not have any guards, and if no one did leave or enter how did the prisoners get their supplies? Why would anyone just leave ropes lying there for prisoners to escape? And why was Bruce biding his time in the dinghy cell, waiting until the very last hour to go and save Gotham? That big a fan of theatricality, huh? And of course those stupid moments when every second is valuable and instead of saving the world you have the hero making out! I found it extremely stupid that Batman did not kill Bane when he had a chance right in the beginning of the movie when the flying mobile is first used and Bane is right there at the edge of the terrace of a building and within shooting range. Also, as Catwoman too said, why did Batman and Bane try and use muscle-power rather than fire-power when sparring with each other? Was it to satiate their mighty male egos? On the dialogues end too, I preferred those legendary ones in The Dark Knight rather than these ones. I was half-expecting Alfred to interrupt one of their fights, shooting Bane and shouting 'Step away from my son'; that would have been a good touch to it. However, the end of the film was really good and positive, with them revealing Blake as Robin and good ol' Alfred greeting Bruce and Selina at some quaint café in the lovely city of Florence. For us die-hard Batman fans, there is hope, despite what both Christian Bale and Christopher Nolan said about there being no Batman sequels after this.

Despite my criticism, I would still say it is one of the best movies, with great action and acting, unbeatable music and direction, and multiple twists and turns that make you wanna stay through the whole three hours, which is pretty long for a Hollywood film, although you just wish it would never end. The film is gripping and a blockbuster entertainer. I am most certain it will smash all box-office records with the frenzy it has generated. And it has generated quite a riot. The day it was released, a deranged man, James Eagan Holmes, donning protective gear, set of smoke canisters and fired in the audience at a Century cinema in Aurora, Colorado killing 12 and injuring 58. Why is it that a majority of these mad men and psychos are always from the Unites States? However, this incident did not mar an otherwise great box-office weekend for The Dark Knight rises. I am going to contribute to that further by going for the film a second time this week, if not more, for the next big film seems to be The Hobbit, and there is still some time to it. Hope the rebooted Superman series, with its first film Man of Steel coming out next year and produced by Nolan, though not directed by him, is just as stupefying as the Batman reboot.

Rating: A well deserved .

False Felicity From A Fake

[The obverse of the East India Company coin, which I perceived to be a rare find.]
A part and parcel of my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is, among other quirks, Compulsive Hoarding, where I find it extremely difficult to discard items, though worthless and valueless for the most part, rich in nothing but emotional wealth, and I always find myself running out of closet space, with the result that I do hijack empty cupboards and nooks and crevices in the house; well until recently, when I moved everything to my room and realised just how much crap I had accumulated over the years. I have collected everything from books, sea-shells, toys, Legos to items of worth such as stamps, coins and currency notes.

In a materialistic world, one adores things we get for free or as gifts or at throw away prices. It does not matter whether the thing possesses any utility or not, all that matters is the price at which it was obtained and the bargain is further sweetened if the thing is indeed an object of desire. Recently, I, well actually my father, acquired a certain coin at a really cheap price and was I ecstatic!

One day, when I was over at my friend's place playing cards, my father called me up on my mobile phone and asked me what would be the fair price of a certain East India Company bronze coin. He does this often, being full aware of my interests, and always gives me a holler when he spots something that may be valuable in his eye. The East India Company was granted the Royal Charter in 1600 when it started trade with India, although it was only after the decisive Battle of Plassey in 1757 that 'Company Rule' began in India. So the Company coins are available right from the 1600s to 1858, when after the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, later re-christened the First War of Independence to make it sound grander, the East India Company was disbanded and control of all its activities and territories was brought directly under the British Crown, then sitting primly on the head of Queen Victoria, one of my favourite rulers of all time even though she was an enemy at that time Thus began the days of the British Raj with the Queen's Proclamation of 1858 at Allahbad. Now one of the first things you do to ascertain the price of a coin is take a look at the year, but I was engrossed in the game and just said anything under 500 bucks should be a steal.

When my father got home that day, I was really excited to see the coin, like a kid waiting for his father back from a trip, expecting a toy. I was even more excited when my father told me he got it for ₹ 50, which is dirt cheap for such a coin. That day, he had taken a cab to work, wanting to avoid driving through all the crazy Bombay traffic, and on reaching office, when he alighted and paid the cab-driver, he was surprised to find in all the change that the cabbie had, an old bronze coin. He asked the cabbie if he would sell it to him, on which the cabbie replied, in Hindi of course, translated here for your convenience, 'I don't want to sell God. You can have it for free.' The coin had an image of some Gods. I was actually surprised and happy to hear that a poor cab-driver could be so righteous and satiated. So just to be nice, my father handed him a fifty for him being so nice, which he reluctantly accepted. He called me right after, and when I told him coins of the Company usually are upwards of 500, the businessman in him gloated, just a little, at the serendipity. I had also experienced a similar moment when a photocopy guy handed me a Saudi coin instead of a 50 Paise coin and I know exactly how you fell.

[The reverse of the coin that brought me back to ground.]
I felt a wave of felicity hit me when I saw the obverse of the coin, it depicted one of the most common and oh-so repeated scenes from the Ramayan, with Ram, or should I say Lord Rama, in the centre, flanked by his consort Sita on his left and brother Laxman on his right, with Hanuman paying obeisance at Ram's feet, for these coins are rare. I had a couple of Company coins with Hanuman or a crab, depicting the Zodiac sign Cancer, on the obverse, but never one that had that scene from the Ramayan. The words 'Shri Ram Darbar' were inscribed on the face of it in only the Devanagari script and not in English, which I found a little weird, but didn't doubt it. However, my happiness was short lived when I flipped the coin over to the other side. On the reverse, there was the usual 'East India Company' along with 'One Anna' in English, and also Urdu. But what was so strange was the year when it was supposedly minted. It read 1939! That told me it was a fake. I should have probably realised that on seeing 'Shri Ram Darbar' in just the Devanagari script, or 'One Anna' not mentioned in the same script, although such coins are not uncommon, but somehow I kept thinking it was a real find. Well, at least until the year brought me back to ground here. The Company did not exist post the Queen's Proclamation as early as 1858 and ever since all coinage was in the name of the British monarch, who in 1939 was actually George VI, the guy on whom the film The King's Speech is based and father of the incumbent one, Elizabeth II.

On some internet research, the layman's, and the lame man's  answer to all questions, I found out that there are a lot of these fakes doing the rounds. I could of course dupe someone by selling it to them. However, despite my atheistic beliefs, I do have morals, and decided to keep it with me as a reminder that one must never get overjoyed about anything without having complete knowledge of what it truly is, not that it would make that much of a difference to a rather stoic person like me, who rarely displays emotions in public, save laughter, which I expend like a spendthrift. It shall also be a reminder to ask ten different questions when someone else is buying stuff for you. And for all of you out there trying to collect something of value, all I'd like to say is 'Inspect before you invest.'

Saturday, 14 July 2012

30 the new 20 for the King and Queen of Tennis

[The Wimbledon 2012 Singles Champions, tennis's own royalty - King Roger Federer and Queen Serena Williams.]
As I have mentioned before, 30 years old in a game of tennis just stand for 'old', nothing more. A game that is physically challenging, where there are no teammates, at least not in singles, where the match has no time limit, and you have a gruelling packed season. It becomes difficult, well nearly impossible to achieve what you did in your 20s. No wonder you have such few champions who are in their 30s. But then again, that is what describes them - Champions are those who defy age barriers to redefine the game's barriers. They fine tune and adjust their games so that they can continue to gun for glory. Just as Sachin Tendulkar may no longer be whacking sixes off the cricket ground like he used to in his 'Master Blaster' days, but he continues to shatter records and cement his position as the greatest cricketer of all time, the greats of the game of tennis too did the same, making subtle changes in their games to achieve victory. Last week, at the Wimbledon Championships, which were marred a bit by the rain and controversy surrounding the £ 80 million roof on Centre Court, two players, both past champions but of late written off by most to never again win a Grand Slam, did just that, proving all those people wrong and making it the first time in the history of the 126 year old Championships that both the winners of the men's and women's singles were over 30 years of age; just the third time at any Grand Slam. Incidentally, the winner of all the doubles titles, men's, women's and mixed were over the age of 30, with the exception of Frederik Nielsen. So much for the old tag!

[Serena thundering yet another ace.
Don't mind the exposed purple rear.]
On Saturday, Serena Williams trumped the timid Pole, Agnieska Radwańska (how can she even play tennis when she has just no power whatsoever! She is a pusher!), to pocket her fifth Wimbledon crown, her fourteenth Grand Slam Singles title. She also became only the second tennis player after the legendary Martina Navratilová to win at least one Grand Slam in three different decades. The gutsy American, who bowed out of the French Open in the first round in both singles and mixed doubles, was written off as being tool old and fat to win. However, she silenced her critics with a powerful performance all through the tournament; maybe the early exit at the French Open motivated her to muscle through the draw here. She started off her hunt for the title a little slow in the earlier rounds, but picked up pace in the third round match against the Chinese player Zheng Jie, in a great three-setter where she thundered with 23 aces, a new Wimbledon record, and picked up her game in the quarter final to send the defending champion, fourth ranked Petra Kvitová of the Czech Republic, packing in tight two sets, again firing 23 aces. She bettered her own record by serving 24 in the semis, against second ranked Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, a new Wimbledon record, and probably for most aces in a woman's match, even though they played only two sets. That is a whole set of aces! Her service motion, often described as the best and most consistent of any tennis player, male or female, was the talk of the tournament, and it did not disappoint her, with a bag-full of of unplayable serves and a plethora of massive unreturnable serves and again a bunch of aces, 17 to be precise, (and that includes one particular game in the third set where Williams fired down four aces back to back to finish the game) in the final against the third ranked Pole, Agnieska. That meant Serena finished the tournament as the ace leader with 102 aces, more than even any man (Philip Kohlschreiber, the men's leader, finished with 98), which is unbelievable, given that she was stretched to three sets only thrice, while the men play best of five sets!

[The amazing Williams sisters claiming their fifth Wimbledon and thirteenth Grand Slam Doubles crown.]
Serena played an amazing versatile game, abundant with drop shots and lobs, and did not shy away from coming to the net and volleying, something the doubles play has improved in her. She is also one of the finest returners of serve in the game and hit blazing returns, not even giving the server to complete their service motions on some occasions before she has hit a winner. She also moved much better and hung in those longer rallies, but of course she played her usual heavy ground strokes and as Vijay Amritraj rightly describes, 'first-strike tennis', where she pounds the ball as if she wanted to tear it apart, swinging her racquet wildly at the ball the way an aborigine would have his bow at an explorer. The rain-delay at the end of the first set put a halt to Serena's momentum, just when it looked like she would run away with the final, which had only one-way traffic, and allowed Agnieska to win the second set. However, that just pushed Serena to grab the decider and with it the title. She was ecstatic on winning her fifth Wimbledon, tying her with her sister Venus, Charlotte Cooper Sterry and Lottie Dod, and her first Grand Slam since the 2010 Wimbledon, which is extremely impressive, especially considering that just a couple of years ago she was battling a respiratory disorder and even holding a tennis racquet was doubtful. All that time off court has further boosted her hunger for victory. She jumped higher than her flowing skirt, which has revealed far more purple than anything Thai Airways, and then went on to hug her coach and father Richard and sister Venus, who always cheers her on and is genuinely happy in her younger sister's victory and her younger sister matching her own Wimbledon achievements; quintessential caring elder sibling! The two of them also played that day to clinch the doubles title at Wimbledon, their first tournament together since the 2010 Wimbledon. This gave them their fifth Wimbledon together and thirteenth Doubles Grand Slam. That is thirteen wins in thirteen Grand Slam finals! In the Doubles' Final, Serena seemed to be the one pulling the team through most of the match, but Venus also picked up her game in the second set and played exceptionally well on their serves. The win must have given Venus some much needed confidence after her first round loss to Elina Vesnina. They instilled my belief in them and I most certainly was right in saying this isn't the end for the Williamses. They shall return stronger during the Olympics and defend their titles and scoop up some other ones as well. What I did not like about all the doubles finals at Wimbledon was that the finalists were given no opportunity to address the rather sparse crowd gathered post their matches! Hope they change that soon. And why were a lot of Serena's early matches scheduled on Court while players who hadn't even won a title at Wimbledon or were not even ranked number one ever graced the Centre Court? That is disrespect shown to a former Champion, one who has notched up four titles there. They should avoid such instances.

[Federer trumping Murray to regain his throne.
Is that a pineapple sitting atop the trophy? Just wondering...]
On the men's side of the draw, the first week brought up quite a surprise when Rafael Nadal, the world number two and my hero, bowed out of the competition in the second round itself to a hitherto unknown Czech by the name of Lukáš Rosol, who has won only a handful of matches at the professional level. Rosol played like a maniac and surprisingly, much to the frustration of dear Nadal, and whatever he touched seemed to go for a winner or an ace. The early loss of Nadal, meant that Roger Federer had a real chance, for Federer has lost seven Grand Slam finals to Nadal. As I had mentioned in an earlier post, that I wanted Federer to win for just one reason, to equal Sampras' records - of seven Wimbledons and weeks at number one, with at least 286, and maybe surpass it. He did exactly that. Like Serena, he seemed sluggish in the first few rounds and his genius seemed to have gone, especially in the third round clash against Frenchman Julien Benneteau, where Federer recovered form two sets down to win the match and thereby preventing another shocker. He pulled up his socks in the latter rounds and his master performance was against top-ranked Novak Djokovic in the semi-final, where he displayed his Midas touch and beat the Serb in four sets. It was almost certain that the winner of that match would also win the final, for on the other half of the draw, after Nadal, the best player was Andy Murray, but he just doesn't seem to have it in him to break the hold of Nadal, Djokovic and Federer at the top of the game.

I personally don't like Murray, who looks more like our ancestors from whom we evolved, and do not enjoy his game much (and despite a hint of Schadenfreude, found it exceedingly hilarious when he got dumped by his girlfriend a couple of years ago for playing virtual tennis and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 on his Play Station 3 for hours). However, in the first set of the final that he claimed, he played an amazing game and it seemed like he would beat Federer. He is the first Brit man in a Wimbledon final since Bunny Austin, who made it to the last two way back in 1938, and could have become the first male Brit to win it since 1936, when Fred Perry won it. No British player has won here since 1977 when Virginia Wade won the women's singles title, the same year the Queen celebrated her Siver Jubilee. So there was heavy hopes on him to win it for the country in the Queen's Diamond Jubilee year. He had the burden of an entire nation, and unlike other sports (where also United Kingdom doesn't seem to win the most important title be it football or cricket), he has no teammates to lighten his load. Royalty too extended their support, Prince Charles visiting Wimbledon earlier after 42 years and Prince William and his wife Katherine watching him play in the quarters, the latter also coming in the final with her sister, which saw the Prime Minister of the UK, David Cameroon, and other notable guests cheer for him from the Royal Box. Murray-mania swept over the UK and prices for the final crossed an astronomical £ 45,000! That is insane, about ₹ 40 lakh (4 million) for one match! Some cinemas were even screening the final in 3D too to cash in on the craze. Alas, they were disappointed! For all they got to see was Murray losing the final to a mastercraftsman. Federer glided on the hallowed grass at Wimbledon, with his deft touches and glorious backhand, and the shot of the tournament was his disguised off-forehand drop shot in the fourth game of the third set. That was a message that the old Federer was back.

He went on to win the match, the most crucial part being winning the monumental sixth game of the third set which lasted 20 whole minutes and which say Murray fall thrice. Federer played the final a lot better, or so it seemed. His brilliance and artistry overshadowing Murray's tenacious effort. And as Federer realised he had finally won the title, his seventeenth Grand Slam and seventh Wimbledon, equalling Pete's seven, he did his usual, collapse to the ground. His box, with his coach, parents and wife Mirka with their twin girls Myla Rose and Charlene Riva, was beyond joy, for even they knew that being over 30 in a young man's sport and performing the way he did was rare and an unparalleled effort. The win also propelled him to the world number one spot for a record-equalling 286th week and hopefully he will surpass that. Murray could not hold back his emotion and his tears as he grasped for breath while making his speech. His mother and others in his camp too joined him as did thousands in the Centre Court and millions across the nation in shedding a few tears. Your heart does feel for him. Despite what Murray himself or anyone else says, the pressure does get to you and maybe that is what prevents him from making it large at the big stages. Just to comfort him, maybe they can now re-christen Henman Hill at Wimbledon to Murray Mound or honour Federer by naming it Federer's Folly or Federer Fields.

[The cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar, with his wife Anjali, sitting behind the tennis legend Rod Laver in the Royal Box watching the men's semifinal matches on July 6, 2012, Day 11 of the Championships.]
Why is royalty making a comeback here (the Queen had visited last year, her first visit since 1977 when Wade had won)? Is it due to the increased popularity in the wake of the Will-Kat wedding? Anyway, Wimbledon did receive it's own royalty in the form of tennis greats such as Martina Navratilová, Steffi Graf, Andre Agassi, Rod Laver, Goran Ivanišević, Virginia Wade, Martina Hingis, Manuel Santana and other distinguished guests such as Kylie Minogue (and her toy boy hottie Andrés Velencoso), players of the English Cricket Team, David and Victoria Beckham, Sir Cliff Richards, and my favourite cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and his wife Anjali, among others, warming seats in the Royal Box and then enjoying some nice evening tea and snacks in the Royal enclosure. This year the event got a lot more publicity due to all those guests, Murray making the final, the controversial roof (although the sound of the tennis ball being hit under the closed roof and as its echoes is magical), and it also being a stage for the Olympics which are round the corner, for which they have already grown grass separately, to replace the worn out courts, wow! The men's final had an average audience of 11.4 million in the UK, which peaked to 16.9 million, which is tremendous, yet it fell short of the all-time record achieved during the 1980 final between Björn Borg and John McEnroe, which had an average viewership of 17.3 million. Maybe a Federer-Nadal final at the Olympics will beat that. Keep your fingers crossed.