Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Peter Roebuck- A fortnight after!!

'Alas, the dismayed will continue to take their lives for it is all more fragile than it appears' - PETER ROEBUCK IN 2004

The normal pressures (and pleasures) of life may in fact have, after all, taken the toll on Peter Roebuck

In the character assessment of Peter Roebuck, his father had said ‘His prickly response to challenge is promoted by a personality that is tough and austere and responsive neither to bribe nor threats. Since he does not seek reward or bother to avoid punishment the normal pressures of life do not affect him. Accordingly he can strike as hard and often as he wants without fear since he is beyond the range of normal weaponry.'

Peter obviously liked this assessment and he may have found this the most apt description of what he stood for, for him to have included this as the last piece in his autobiography.

Over the last fortnight, a large percentage of the media (and they have been accused of having played a silent role in his life outside of cricket) have chosen to stick to his cricketing skills ignoring what his other side may have been, though almost everyone have slated him as a complex person and as one who did not necessarily disclose his personal side of life and his preferences.

The few that have taken the contrary view have gone the other extreme of bringing out the darker not too pleasant side of Peter Roebuck and almost positioning him as a criminal.

A read through of the chapter on Trial and Tribulation in his autobiography throws up a few questions, answers to which, in hindsight, would have helped clarify some of the doubts that may still linger in the minds of many.

1. A young man (whose mother had earlier asked Peter Roebuck to assist her son and he had not come back to her as promised) committed suicide by gassing himself at 3am. He says he took a vow that day never to go half way.
2. He says that ‘K’ along with a few other visitors played for a club run by Botham’s closest friend. If Peter never wanted to talk to Botham again after the late 1980s, why would he have wanted/allowed his wards to play for a Botham (related) team?
3. He says he gave an unfit boy a few whacks with a stick ( and he was not embarrassed to write ‘from a bunch of sticks’) for not having been able to run in the snow ( the contention is that he got a written consent from them to get whacked).
4. In another case, he talks about a hysterical girl and a likeable boyfriend arguing loudly long into the night…He says that it never occurred to him that his treatment of their cousin was the topic of the conversation- A loud argument in his house late into the night and he leads us to believe that he did not venture to check what it was about
5. Even more surprising is the point where he says he suddenly woke up at 3am the next morning as it struck him that the bedrooms were not tidier and that the other inmates may have left. Yes they had left him and the house was empty
6. In the next episode, he says that one of his students (who wanted to return to him) had left him to stay with Botham’s 2nd closest friend in town for the ‘time being’.
7. He says he had never run away from anything or anyone and adds ‘ least of all youngsters who had run up huge phone bills by calling sex lines’- If he was the strict disciplinarian who wanted his wards to succeed or perish, why did he allow them to make sex calls from his phone lines!!!
8. He had graduated in Law and also had great proficiency in the ‘Language’ ( English) that almost every story over the past fortnight has credited him with…however he says he let pass an answer ( in the Interpol questioning) he gave as ‘yes’ that was recorded as ‘yeah’ without raising that as an issue, though he later acknowledges that as a mistake.
9. He talks about some of those complainants being back in Taunton and about one of them being bitter about the campaign against him (Peter Roebuck). He also talks about a Somerset player urging one of his students to lodge a complaint against him. He does not name either of them.
10. He says most former students had refused to answer questions from the Interpol. Why did they refuse to answer questions on Peter Roebuck if he was almost a father figure to them. Again, in hindsight,he says that may have been a mistake ( for them not to answer any questions)
11. In another reference, he says his house was an alternative to the feebleness of the prevailing youth culture.
12. After he was charged, he says he did not read the complaints and that now and then he did try to read them but always felt ill after a few paragraphs. And says ‘isolated’ incidents were blown out of all proportion, without giving us an indication as to what those incidents were.
13. He says he agreed to the deal to plead guilty to the lowest form of guilt because he was tired and wanted to see his orphans in Zimbabwe while at the same time saying that he did not grasp that pleading guilty meant accepting everything in the statements made by the complainants
14. On the judgement, he says, ‘ I did not care anymore, wanting the thing to end and life to resume.’ In another context, he says ' Mistakes have been made and one or two people have been hurt, but I like to think ' the good has outweighed the bad'.

He sums up saying ‘as a private person, it was the intrusion I hated most of all.’ And that he stood by his overall record with young people.

His tail piece in his book : ' With a bit of luck I will continue writing about the game and broadcasting for the ABC for another 20years.'Unfortunately, it seemed he had only a bit of the ' bit of luck' that he was looking.

But what saddened me the most in his death was that, in the moment of truth, it seemed that his father’s assessment of Peter Roebuck, did not seem to stand the test of time - ‘His prickly response to challenge is promoted by a personality that is tough and austere and responsive neither to bribe nor threats. Since he does not seek reward or bother to avoid punishment, the normal pressures of life do not affect him.’

Peter Roebuck once said 'Alas, the dismayed will continue to take their lives for it is all more fragile than it appears'. Years after that comment, it seemed to take his own and showed he may have been lot more fragile than he appeared to the world at large.

Finally, the normal pressures ( and pleasures) of life may have,after all, taken the toll on Peter Roebuck though I would like to sincerely hope not.

Abhinav Mukund- Focus on Cricket not life style media interviews

Abhinav Mukund seemed a little out of place in that Metro Plus interview in The Hindu earlier this month, though I am sure he would have had hundreds of 'FANS' praising him on his front page cover piece.

While we were earlier accustomed to Abhinav talking about his penchant for the Lara like cover drive or his cut and pull, we were out here reading his interest in cars and tech gadgets and how he has had to miss birthdays, begging the question if fame had already got the better of him and if he too was falling into the 'Glorious Trap' that many promising young Indian cricketers over the years had become prey to.

There is no doubt that Abhinav has worked hard every single week over the last 15years and his Test call earlier this year was a well deserved one for all the efforts he had put in and yes for all the birthday sacrifices he had made.

To accept The Hindu Metro Plus Life Style interview (however hard the journalist may have pushed him) was poor media management on Abhinav’s part.

In just his first year of International cricket ( and he has already failed to retain his place in the Indian squad having now been left out of the tour to Australia), Abhinav would do well to focus on his game rather than giving fashion and life style interviews to the media that showcases his non cricketing side and how that side of his life is charging his cricketing energy.

In the interview, Abhinav says, ‘Travelling for cricket, I have celebrated my birthday away from home many a time.’ I thought folks here in Madras went to the temple on their birthdays though it seems from this interview that not celebrating birthday with the family is a sacrifice for a cricketer whose aim it was to play for India and that he has now reconciled himself to not being able to celebrate birthdays with his family.

Unlike in the past, say two decades ago when players played cricket for passion (I made my league debut batting alongside a person who was 70years old at that time and where each cricketer brought lunch from home for the league matches!!!), cricketers these days have turned professional and are paid huge sums of money even before they have turned 25!!!

So to make a point about ‘Celebrating birthdays away from home’ and positioning it like a big sacrifice is a kind of comment that Abhinav would do well to avoid. When did celebration of a birthday with family become bigger than wanting to play for India? Why is Abhinav even getting into such topics in a media interview (His typical response would be that he was just answering a question from a journalist!!!)

There is also the point about ‘no memories of hanging out’.

We haven’t heard of stories of Dravids and Laxmans and Tendulkars hanging out during their college days. So Abhinav, what’s the big deal of not having memories of hanging out with college mates. Playing for India is much better than hanging out at Shanthi Vihar!!!

If this was not enough, there were more shocks to come in the interview. Abhinav goes on to talk about his Playstation 3, thriller-novels, addiction to films and his fascination for gadgets.

How nice it would have been for us to hear how he is sharpening his technique to not be inner edging or playing away from body and leaving bat pad gaps often enough as we saw him in England rather than knowing how frequently and at what speed he zips down ECR or what car does he have now.

Many years ago I heard him say watching Brian Lara on Video charged him and motivated him. Today driving alone on his Honda Jazz on the ECR charges him!!! What a change.

But what was the ultimate shocker was the way he signed off in the interview suggesting that he loves the attention that his cricketing achievements have given him.

If playing 6tests in a year and then being discarded can lead him to comments like ‘it will be a blatant lie if I said I didn’t like the attention’, how will he be when he scores his 25th test ton.

Abhinav, its time you got back to focusing on your cricket. It would be good if you stayed far away from Life Style interviews to media. Let the bat do the talking for you like it did when you scored that double hundred a couple of weeks back at Chepauk to get TN the crucial first innings lead against Amit Mishra's Haryana.

We want to know how hard you are working on your technique.

We are more interested in your appetite for runs rather than the cars and tech gadgets you own!!!



Monday, November 14, 2011

Peter Roebuck- My favourite Cricket Expert Commentator

My first meeting with Peter Roebuck was in the 3rd test between India and Australia at Chepauk in Madras in 2001 when I spent two sessions with him at the ABC Commentary box. That day, after having heard him over the Radio for a decade, I listened LIVE to Peter sitting right behind him at the commentary box. I told him that he was the best modern day ‘expert’ commentator on the Radio.

(Photo above was taken by me that day... Jim Maxwell, who brought him into Radio Australia is to his left. And Mike Coward, who has this morning rated Peter Roebuck as the best ever commentator of this generation, is to his right. Harsha Bhogle who was also part of that ABC team, Glenn Mitchell, Greg Mathews and our own scorer- Mani- are also seen in the photograph)

So modest was Peter(Roebuck) that morning that he almost shut me up in that ABC box and asked me to keep it to myself and not propagate these views!!!

The first time I had listened to Peter Roebuck was in 1987 when he summed Australia’s 1987 world cup victory.

This is how he began describing AB’s victory in 1987:

“Calcutta, the former Indian capital with 12million citizens including Mother Teresa and some of the worst poverty imaginable, darted up its Eden Garden Stadium for the cricket final. 90000 Indian cricket lovers packed the ground, despite the fact that the tournament’s co- hosts, India and Pakistan - were not present……….. When asked what he would do with the prize money, Allan Border said ‘We are going to have a good time.”

Since then, for well over a decade I rarely missed his stint on Radio Australia.

Two things stand out in my memory of listening to him on the radio:

One, his strategic description of the poor captaincy of Graham Gooch during the 1992 World Cup final when Gooch released the pressure the Pakistanis were under by pushing the field back right after the first drinks break.

The other was during the 1988 Perth test match against West Indies when Tim Lane, the Radio Australia commentator was LIVE after the fall of the 9th Australian wicket ‘Ambrose will not be able to beat his previous best test haul now (Ambrose’ previous best had been 6 for 72 or some such thing and he had in this particular innings just conceded 73runs at that time for his 6wickets)…

Peter Roebuck immediately retorted that stunned Tim Lane “Not necessarily Tim. Ambrose could claim the final wicket and still achieve his best Test figures (by claiming 7 wickets in that innings).”

That was how 'spot on' he was on the game.

I read, several times, the story of his experience with the UK police on the supposed assault on his students. He thankfully got out of that after an almost two year horror phase.

But this time, it all ended in a matter of minutes, though one wonders how some one who seemed quite strong willed would take such an immediate decision. And that, in the middle of an absorbing 'Test' battle that he so often over the last one year criticised for its short series ( He was aghast at ICC planning this as just a two test series and made his displeasure known, as always, in no uncertain terms)

His suddent demise is a great loss to the radio (and to cricket readers). Just on the night of his death ( Saturday night), I was reading his description of Michael Atherton's career and the final time Athers walked on to the field.

Thanks to the collection I have of many of Peter’s gems (stints) for Radio Australia, dating back to the early 1990s, I can hopefully continue to listen to those recorded commentaries of his, though his LIVE broadcasts on the ABC will be missed as will be his reports in The Hindu.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Mudhal Azhvaar Utsavam Thiru Kovilur

In celebration of the contribution of the first three Azhvaars to the creation of Divya Prabhandham verses at Thiru Kovilur, a five day Mudhal Azhvaar Utsavam took place here last week.

On the final morning of the Utsavam on the occasion of Pey Azhvaar’s birthday (Saturday November 5), the three Azhvaars were provided special - once in a year- honours by Ulagalandha Perumal. Each of them accepted the Lord’s garland and the Parivattam (sacred turban linen) of the Lord.

This was followed by the loud recital of the very first set of verses of the Divya Prabandham composed by the three Azhvaars.

After special Thirumanjana of the Mudhal Azhvaars at the Pandya Mandapa, a beautifully decorated Ulagalanda Perumal came out on a Sesha Vahana accompanied by the three Azhvaars to provide darshan to the devotees (With heavy rains in the evening, Ulagalanda Perumal and the three Azhvaars stayed within the temple complex and did not go around the four Mada Streets as was the plan).

Contribution of Mudhal Azhvaars

‘ThiruKanden Ponmeni Kanden’ is how an excited Pey Azhvaar described the moment of his happiness after darshan of Ulagalandha Perumal on one dark stormy night here in Aippasi at Mrugandu Rishi’s Ashram in Thiru Kovilur.

The story goes that the first three of the Azhvaars- Poigai Azhvaar, Bhoothath Azhvaar and Pey Azhvaar (referred to as Mudhal Azhvaars) - came to Thiru Kovilur on that rainy night. Poigai Azhvaar of Kanchipuram who reached first, sought refuge for the night at the ashram of Mrugandu Rishi who agreed to allow him in on the condition that there was place for just one person to sleep and that he was welcome to sleep there for the night.

Bhoothath Azhvaar, from Thiru Kadal Mallai (Mahabalipuram), followed shortly. He was welcomed with the message that there is place for one to sleep and two to sit and brought him inside.

PeyAzhvaar, from Thiru Mayilai (Mylapore), who was the last to reach the ashram, was told that there is place for one to sleep, two to sit and three to stand. The three of them stood there through the night sharing their experiences.

A little later, Mudhal Azhvaars felt the presence of a fourth person and with space only for three to stand, they felt uncomfortable. Through their special vision, they realised that this was Ulagalantha Perumal of Thiru Kovilur.

Delighted at seeing the Lord, Poigai Azhvaar sang 100verses (Mudhal Thiruvanthathi) beginning with ‘Vaiyan Thagaliya Vaarkadaley” referring to the Universe as the lamp and the Ocean as the oil, Bhoothath Azhvaar followed this with 100 verses beginning with ‘Anbey Thagaliye’ (Second Thiruvanthathi) while Pey Azhvaar showered another 100verses (Third Thiruvanthathi) of praise.

Thus, it was here at Thiru Kovilur that the first verses of Divya Prabhandham were composed and hence this place is credited as being the temple of origin of the sacred 4000verses.

The ashram where the three Azhvaars stayed that rainy night is where one today finds the sanctum.

For this special contribution, all the three Azhvaars find a place inside the sanctum next to the gigantic Lord Trivikrama who measures 24 ft in height and is seen in a grand standing posture with his right leg raised 90 degrees to his right.

Vamana Avatara displayed again
Pleased with the prayers of Mrugandu Rishi but wanting to test him more, Lord Vishnu visited his ashram disguised as an old hungry Brahmin. With no food at the ashram, the rishi’s wife sought help from the Lord. Happy with their commitment of not letting go a hungry Brahmin, the Lord filled the vessels with food, much to the surprise of the Rishi. When the happy couple came out to offer food to the Brahmin, they found Lord Vishnu standing there displaying his full form –with conch and chakra. Delighted at this sight, the Rishi requested the Lord to display his Vamana Avatara at this place and to stay put at Thiru Kovilur.

Pancha Krishnaranya Kshetram
Thiru Kovilur is one of the sacred Pancha Krishnaranya Kshetrams, the others being Thiru Kannangudi, Thiru Kannamangai, Thiru Kannapuram and Kapisthalam.

Quick Facts

Deity : Trivikrama (Ulagalandha Perumal) East facing standing posture
Goddess : Poongoval Nachiyar
Utsavar : Dehlisha (Idai Kazhi Aayanar) Perumal
Temple Time : 630am-12noon and 430pm-8pm
Contact : 98407 46422 / 90032 97798

How to reach Thiru Kovilur

Ulagalanda Perumal Divya Desam in Thiru Kovilur is located about 40kms West of Villipuram on the banks of Pennai River. Direct buses ply between Chennai Koyambedu bus terminus and Thiru Kovilur temple (will take 5hours). One can also take a train from Chennai Egmore to Villupuram, from where Thiru Kovilur is about 45minutes by bus.

While the broad gauge conversion from Villupuram to Thiru Vannamalai has been completed, the operation of the rail service has not resumed.

Once this happens, one will be able to go by train to Thiru Kovilur from Chennai

A Part of this story featured today in The Hindu

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Yoga Rama Temple Nedungunam

Rama is seen in a Chin Mudra Posture without his bow Biggest Vishnu temple in the North Arcot and Thiruvannamalai districts of Tamil Nadu 
 Located 24kms South of Vandavasi on the Kanchipuram – Chetput-Thiruvannamalai route at the foot of the Dheergajala Mountain is the over 500years old Yoga Rama temple in Nedungunam where Lord Rama is seen in a unique sitting ‘Chin Mudra’ posture without his bow listening to Hanuman’s Vedic recital. The temple has two big Gopurams at the Eastern entrance- the 105feet Raja Gopuram and the 65feet Kili Gopuram. Inscriptions can be traced to the Raya period and hence the temple can be said to be at least 500years old.Spaced in an almost 90000sq. ft area, this is the biggest Vishnu temple in the North Arcot and Thiruvannamalai districts and also possibly the biggest Rama temple in Tamil Nadu.  

 The story goes that answering the prayers of Rishi Shugar, Rama provided darshan to him and stayed here for a day on his way back to Ayodhya after defeating the Lanka King Ravana.    

Abhimana Perumal 
Rama is the Abhimana Perumal for people belonging to almost 25villages around Nedungunam.

A 16th Century AD inscription reveals that during the rule of Veera Achutha Deva Raya a nearby village was given as donation for the conduct of the festival at the Rama temple. An inscription near the Rajagopuram states there was a grant of land for the perpetual maintenance of the temple activities and poojas. It also has a word of caution. Anyone trying to hinder the conduct of the temple poojas/activities will incur a curse equivalent to killing a cow on the banks of the Ganges.
A 17th Century AD inscription talks about grant of land to provide for the maintenance of a doctor in Nedungunam. On the Southern end of the Kili Rajagopuram, there is a reference to Kuzhambalur Thandavarya Chidambaram ‘Daily Service’, an indication that someone was taking care of the expenses relating to the proper conduct of the daily pooja services at the temple. On a stone culvert on the Southern side of the temple, there is a mention of taxing any new resident to this place during the rule of Vijayanagara King, Venkatapathi Deva Raya.

Festivals 10day Brahmotsavam in Panguni/Chitrai starting on Rama Navami Garuda Sevai on Vaikasi Visakam Aadi Pavitrotsavam Chariot Festival on the 7th day of Brahmotsavam. On the Kaanum Pongal day in Thai, Lord Rama goes on a procession to around 20villages around Nedungunam. 

Quick Facts 
Moolavar : Yoga Rama East Facing Sitting Posture with Sita and Lakshmana by his side 
Thaayar : Shengamala Valli Thaayar
Temple Time: 7am-10am and 6pm-8pm 
Contact : Badri Narayana Bhattar @ 63809 47204 (old number: 94452 15776)

How to reach
Bus Numbers 148, 208 and 422 from Koyambedu bus stand go through Nedungunam By Car from Chennai, one can drive 90kms to Melmaruvathur and then take a right to drive 30kms to Vandavasi. The alternate route is to taka right at Padalam (15kms after Chengalpet on the GST Road) to reach Uthira Merur. From Uthira Merur, one has to drive 25kms south to reach Vandavasi.