25 August, 2008

Phelps would know!



Okay, first the caveat. I admit its blasphemous for someone who's never inspired for his own good to write an inspiratory article. But this came out! It started with this article by Rohit Brijnath that I happened to read, and I wanted to tell you why I would never ever achieve anything great. But this happened, and I was quite impressed. Read on!


Michael Phelps, the papers say these days, has the perfect physique for a champion swimmer. As if to explain the impossible. But let’s put that in perspective. Surely so do a dozen other professional swimmers. Then we say it’s the system, the well oiled machinery that is American Sport. But again, is it really a secret that for the handful of real champions produced by that system, countless others fall short, achieving but a fraction of their potential?

Roger Federer, till the myth was shattered over the last few months, could make the tennis ball obey his racquet like no other in history had. He was way too talented for his peers, we said, drawing comparisons to extra-terrestrial invaders and supernatural beings. Or, we speculated, a divine power stood beside him courtside, to do his beckoning!

Yelena Isinbayeva makes us sit up in surprise only if she fails to break her own world record at an event. Ussain Bolt seems to be on a pursuit to prove that ‘You aint seen nothing yet’ to mankind. The Chinese have won more gold medals than any other country in a single Olympics with a few days remaining.

These are tales that could easily be mistaken for one of those greek legends. But very true in substance. We salute these champions. We take them to our video recorders, our dining table conversations, and the posters on our bedroom walls. We write brilliant articles, and follow it up with commemoratives for each anniversary of the feat. Articles that hail the champions, even deifying them.

That is appreciable. Deifying the champions that elevated our collective imaginations. But that is a ghastly injustice too. For deifying a champion is to imply that he achieved what he did because his maker was partial. As much as it is glorifying a feat, it is also claiming that if we were just as gifted, we would also have achieved that. Who knows, maybe even more!

****

Champions are not just people with extraordinary talent who worked hard. They are talented people who worked harder than any of us imagined was necessary. Worked harder while the rest of us just found excuses not to, blaming our circumstances, our fate, our limited abilities, or simply ate, slept or hung around.

Ana Ivanovic should know. She wanted to be a champion tennis player. So she practiced in the best facility available - a drained swimming pool, of all places. At an unearthly hour, which happened to be the only hour that was guaranteed to be free from NATO bombing. Of course, praying that when the bombing resumed she, or her loved ones wouldn’t become just another casuality. No wonder she’s the first Serbian world number one, and the first Serbian gran slam winner

Andre Agassi should know. He had a father who’s only aim on earth seemed to be making his son a world beater. So he hurled tennis balls from across the court for the reluctant kid (not even a teenager, he was just eight) to return, so that he would learn to face every kind of shot. It didn’t matter that Andre hated every bit of it, but he had to do it even on Christmas. No wonder he could match Federer point for point for most of the US Open final of 2005, at the age of 35 (something his young peers on the circuit rarely managed), coming after 3 excruciating 5 setters in 5 days.

Micheal Phelps should know. His coach Bob Bowman seemed to know just one thing. “you trust me, it'll pay off down the road” and he didn’t have an option. It did. No wonder at 23, he is hailed as the greatest Olympian ever.

****

When Roger Federer hits another of those impossible winners at the end of an excruciating rally, we ought to pay homage not to a genius, but to a mortal who spent hour after hour, day after day, perfecting his shot-making, never content with what he had achieved, as though taking a cue from one of the watch companies his country is proud to boast off.

When Micheal Phelps hit the buzzer a hundredth of a second before Serbian Milorad Cavic to win his seventh gold at Beijing, we ought not to pay homage to a super human aided by fate to achieve the impossible, but to a young innocent boy who believed that if he, anybody, wanted to achieve something, he could!

“You can't doubt. If you doubt, then that's it. The biggest thing is staying positive and imagining anything is possible. Because it really is.”

That is what causes the Australian tail-enders to come in at number eight and go on to score the century partnership required to win the game. They know that no amount of blaming can give the satisfaction that victory brings. They know that not being a specialist batsman is only an excuse. They know that ultimately only one thing matters. Winning, and that was what they had set out for!

That is what causes Tiger Woods, stricken with a maze of bad luck running into the last few puts in the tie-breaker final of the US Open, to direct his every bit of energy to getting his shot right, not fretting over the fact that he couldnt win unless his opponent, Rocco mediate bungled his shot, but also knowing that he would ultimately win. He was after all, the best!

That is what causes Roger Federer, down a set in a Gran slam final, to hypothetically pat himself in the back saying, ‘dude, wake up. After all, its just a matter of doing what you’ve been practicing all your life for’ and go on to clean sweep the rest of the sets.

*****

“There were days in the where I was so tired, exhausted, I just wanted to go back to bed…” Phelps recalls. But his response was always mighty, for he told himself: 'This is the Olympic Games, I can't be tired, I've got to get up. If I didn't get up, then why am I here. This is the biggest of the big.'

It pays, I guess. But we can only say that. Only Phelps would really know

17 August, 2008

Getting in control

I recently read Paulo Coelho saying in an interview that at 34, he finally decided to become focussed in life.

Way to go Ab. You’re just 23!

But well, yeah, I think the time has come for me also to settle down. Even without doing any of the crazy things that most kids moms are afraid their kids would get trapped in, I still managed to attract the angst of mom and virtually all my relatives and the few friends who cared, with the lack of direction in my life.

The problem is, there aint much to settle. Like Iv told you, Iv been pretty good by most of your standards. But I sure need a steady job. For the record, in less than three years since I started working, Iv already quit three jobs. And that’s gotta change. Atleast I should be doing something that makes me feel happy for more than 8 months on average. Iv finally decided I am indeed going to become a journalist. Of course, that’s not to say that I wont get tired of news, but I feel Ill do well, and how better to test it than to actually see for myself.

And I need to settle down in my relationships. Well, all my friendships this far have gone the same way – out of my life. And all I have to show for the efforts is, I guess, what Karen Carpenters meant when she sang 'all Iv learnt from love is how to live without it'. But it looks like I have come a long way, though. Today I don’t worry a whole two days at my insolence when a friend explains the lack of communication with ‘I thought it was your turn to mail’. I mean, how could someone have the nerve to tell me that. Or maybe it is indeed my fault all through. So its quits. Lets see if there are other pleasures in life!


09 August, 2008

Let It Be

Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be great!

Allow for a few Misunderstandings - They’re inevitable, and not worth losing sleep over. And anyway, the only relationships in life worth having are the ones that endure such trivialities

Allow for a few Humiliations - It’s a world with a fair share of sadists, who need to prove their superiority over another mortal to be accepted by themselves. You can get even only by stooping lower!

Allow for a few Failures - It doesn’t mean the end of the world. As long as you never lose your hunger for victory!

Allow for a few Disappointments - They’re the spice of life. You would never realise what you’re worth without them!

Allow for a few Mistakes. – The fundamental right to be wrong, and not feel ashamed about it.

Allow for a few Heartaches – It means you’re alive. And that there’s a heart yearning for something that transcends human limitations!