Gully cricket

When you think of things that define India, it hardly comes to mind, but the truth is, gully cricket defines India just as much as Diwali, Bollywood and the summer heat. Gully cricket personifies the ‘chalta hai’ attitude, where the lack of a proper ground and gear is no excuse to not indulge in our country’s favorite pastime. Gully cricket is an inevitability for the children of India. Almost everyone would have played it, some time or the other.

Gully Cricket

All you need to play are a bat( or something that resembles it), a tennis ball, an open street/alley (cars zooming back and forth are no object) and a knowledge of the basic rules of cricket, along with many extra clauses, usually added on the spot, to make it feasible to play on the dusty road. There are, however, a few rules which are fairly common, wherever gully cricket is played. For example, a batsman can retire his innings at any time (usually to eat lunch) and come back later to continue on the same score. Another common rule is that a catch can be taken, albeit only with one hand, even after the ball pitches once. Many other rules are added, depending on the surroundings. Also, the guy who owns the bat is supreme, and window breaking is an eventuality.

To most Indian kids, gully cricket is synonymous with summer holidays, playing for hours under the hot sun and stopping only when the ball is no longer visible, with just enough time to eat, sleep and wake up to start the next day’s play. Days turn into weeks, with everyone blissfully unaware, trying to emulate their cricketing idols.

In fact, many Indian cricketing stars owe their success to some street or back alley. This is where every Indian’s love story with cricket begins.

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Old Medical Practices - How did they do it?

For people who have smugly believed that brain surgery, kidney treatments, curing cataract, rhinoplasty (nose job in simpler words), vaccines and other such treatments demonstrate our greatest advancements in medical science, it’s time to think back. Literally.

It has something to do with a 4000 years old skull that was found by archaeologists in Turkey. A human skull that had a one inch-by-two inch incision—and displayed signs of tissue re-growth. Dead human beings do NOT re-grow tissues. Not a bit. So not only did the ancient human being had his skull drilled and survived, had the hole not been drilled at all, he would have probably died 5-10 years earlier. (Not that it makes much of a difference from here and to us, but it obviously did to our ancient ancestor).

Sushruta Samhita

Now this procedure of drilling holes in the skull is called trepanning. And no, this isn’t some cavemen style skull cracking. Trepanning is creating a very precise hole in the skull mostly to release the pressure inside the skull due to building up of fluid inside during brain trauma. If this fluid is not released, the brain might get compressed resulting in death. This medical practice is followed even today. Just that the process is quicker and more precise; also, less painful. And has to be. Imagine trying to drill a hole through a wooden block with the help of an obsidian rock. Now imagine using the rock to drill hole through the skull. Yes, you need tremendous skill on the doctor’s part and tremendous patience and tolerance on the patient’s part. But what strikes one the most about trepanning is the sheer simplicity and brilliance of the idea, and the understanding of the co-relation of cause, effect and cure by the ancients.

Trepanning is but the tip of the ice-berg. Sushruta Samhita, a Sanskrit treatise on surgery attributed to Sushruta, a physician from 6th century B.C.E. Varanasi, and one of the three foundational texts of Ayurveda (Indian traditional medicine), was written in 3rd-4th century B.C.E. and describes medical procedures of pediatrics, geriatrics, diseases of the ear, nose, throat and eye, toxicology, aphrodisiacs and psychiatry among others. The text is divided into 8 parts namely—chhedya (excision), lekhya (scarification), Bhedya (puncturing), Esya (exploration), Ahrya (extraction), vsrya (evacuation), and sivya (suturing). One of the most notable descriptions in Sushruta samhita, also considered to be one of Sushruta’s greatest achievements was rhinoplasty where he tried to restore the mutilated noses of the patients through plastic surgery. There are evidences to suggest that not only was Sushruta successful in these operations, he was famous so much so that people from outside India travelled both to get the treatment as well as watch the treatment. The surgical practice is described in meticulous details and the same basic practices are amazingly followed today as well. It is a bit unnerving to find that the surgical procedures followed even today are at most a combination of the 8 divisions described in the ancient text, nothing more.

Not only does the treatise expound on the methods of surgery, it gives tips on practicing as well. For example, it is advised to practice “incisions and excision on vegetables and leather pouches filled with different densities of mud, scraping on hairy skin of animals, puncturing on the vein of dead animals and lotus stalks, probing on moth-eaten wood or bamboo, scarification on wooden planks smeared with beeswax”, and so on.

If Sushruta was the father of surgery—spanning simple (relatively) cataract surgeries to complex surgeries involving the ano-rectal regions—Charaka was the one who studied the effect of herbs extensively. Charaka-samhita forms the second part of Ayrveda. It is said the details with which Charaka has described the herbs and their effects of human health can be obtained only through intuitive knowledge. The variety of herbs that are described span the entire nation and it is humanly impossible to analyze all the plants as accurately as described. There is another school who believes that Charaka-samhita was not a work of a single person, but a collection of texts written by different people throughout three centuries.

Edward Jenner might be called the father of vaccination but the credit belongs to the physician Dhanwantari of India. In 1000 B.C.E., Dhanwantari devised a simple way of curing small pox—essentially what Dr. Jenner ‘discovered’ more than 2500 years later.

Root Canal surgery? We have enough archaeological evidence (a Jordanian soldier, to be more specific) to show that this was being performed as early as 200 B.C.E. And so were tracheotomies and incubations.

So much for advancements. At least the ancients didn’t have the human genome decoded. Or maybe they did, but we don’t have the evidence yet.

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R.I.P. Telegram : Memories from my Military Life

During the early years in my Air Force career, telegrams were our leave-line. It was a sure shot way to get leave sanctioned in the unlikeliest of the situations. It was an open secret that many of us used and misused.

First I am reminded of a not-so-funny incident. In one of the Units where I served, there were two guys with the same surname, Rath. In military, it is common practice to address people by surnames and nobody bothers to remember the first name. One Rath lost his father and when the telegram carrying the message arrived, it was inadvertently delivered to the other Rath. This second Rath was devastated, because his father was quite healthy. However there was no way to confirm the same, as there were no telephone lines to his remote village, where his parents stayed. The moment the news spread there was a steady pouring in of sympathizers. It was only when, someone, casually went through the telegram lying on a side table that he discovered the telegram was addressed to the other Rath, causing an immediate shifting of the mourning venue.

R.I.P. Telegram

One of my colleagues had difficulty in getting leave to even get married. Suddenly one day he receives a telegram “Father expired come soon”. Immediately he got the leave sanctioned and proceeded home. However, we were in for a shock when after coming back  he announced that he had got married during the leave period. Our immediate reaction was, “How can you… when your father…..”.  He explained, “The –FATHER- mentioned in the telegram was not MY father. It was the father of the person who sent the telegram”. Of course, this so called person happened to be one of his distant relatives.

Let me remind the reader that for greeting telegrams certain codes could be substituted. It was done to reduce telegram traffic and charge. The procedure, as  I understand, is as follows: suppose you want to send a telegram wishing Happy Birth Day. The greeting code is five. So  in the telegram form you write ‘FIVE’. At the receiving post office, the postal official clerk  comes to know what it means, writes the message-  Many Happy returns of the day - and sends it through the postman for delivery.  This incident is related to my friend – the first Rath of the earlier episode. I had also taken leave to attend to his marriage in his native village. One day while we were away in the nearby town for shopping, his father received a telegram. The telegram had only one message – seventeen. His father though it was some secret military message to recall us back. May be some war had broken out and our leave would be curtailed. The whole family was in panic. There was no way to clarify the same immediately. It was only when we returned in the evening that we saw the telegram and laughed. One of our friends had sent marriage greetings. The post man, being may be untrained and newly appointed did not know to decipher the code and delivered the message verbatim.

-Durga Prasad Dash

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The End of a Dream Comeback!

As Rafael Nadal nibbled across the court, like a broken soldier fighting for survival, the world saw what they thought was an end of a man who had the talent to make it to the highest deck of players, but lacked the physical sustenance to do so. It was a year back. In this very same tournament. His opponent then was the Czech Lukas Rosol and he took Nadal down in five sets.

“I shouldn’t have played that tournament” Nadal later regretted his decision of entering the biggest tournament in the world with a wriggle in his knee. But he didn’t want to miss the Wimbledon. It turned out to be the worst decision of his career. One hat made him stay out of the game for 7 months. Experts ruled Nadal out of tennis. There was a possibilty of comeback in their eyes, for Nadal was known to be the man who went down fighting. But the game would never stay. He just could not continue to put so much stress in his game. The effort had to reduce - drastically.

Rafael Nadal loses in the first round of Wimbledon 2013

The excitement built up 7 months later as Rafael Nadal, walked out to prove his counterparts wrong! And from then on, he did what champions are so fond of doing - creating history! The first credit has to go the selection of tournaments. He chose relatively easy tournaments first up - Chile, Brazil and Mexico. He won 14 out of 15 he played there. A very good start for all the speculation. And then he entered the main arena - The Masters! Indian Wells, Monte Carlo, Madrid and Rome - Nadal lost just one match in all of those tournaments, and that too against the World Best - Novak Djokovic in the final of Monte Carlo. Not only did this guy bring his game back from the well, he was strong enough - physically and mentally to conquer the entire tennis fraternity. Not to forget, he also won a tournament in Barcelona somewhere in the middle of this.

Then came another hurdle for Nadal to prove his critiques wrong - The French Open. If one week of rigorous tennis was not enough to prove his fitness, then how about two? Whatever, Rafael Nadal was up for it. He played two flawless weeks of tennis in Paris and took the Winner’s Shield in a one-sided final against David Ferrer. Rafael Nadal was back. And the men who wrote him off a year back were now forced into silence.

But even the Gods are jealous of too much contentment. Surely they couldn’t let Rafael Nadal win every tournament from then on. Wimbledon proved to be his outdoing - for the second time in two years. Nadal made a promise to himself before the tournament began. He said that what happened last year, will not happen again. He accepted it as a mistake. And he wanted to do things differently. He was stronger, faster and fitter - or that’s what he thought.

Belgium’s Steve Darcis was his first round opponent. He took Nadal down in straight sets in what was, and may be, the biggest upset in Wimbledon 2013. On the same day, his arch rival Roger Federer eased through his match in 69 minutes. After the match, Nadal claimed that his knees were fine. No injury. Then what was it then made a player of his status bow out of the first round? This is the answer that Nadal and co will be looking for over the three-week lead up to the hard court season. His critiques can now afford to flash a wide smile - but even they wouldn’t have answers. Was the Nadal comeback short-lived? Or was this just a one-shot-off-thing? Has his injury left his system? Or is it prone to return?

We will have to wait and watch. The hard court season will have answers to all these questions pertaining to the future of this Champion!

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A new status symbol

In June 2006, “Google” ,as a verb, was added to the Oxford English Dictionary. If the past few years are any indication, the word  “Facebook” cannot be far behind. I’m sure we’ll see it in dictionaries soon enough. After all, it has grown to become something that defines our generation. In fact, Facebook has a higher population than any country, barring India and China (Facebook is banned in China and there is no way it can beat China without the billion people FROM China. Well played China). One of the curious aspects of this astronomical growth is the emergence of the Facebook ‘like’ as a prominent status symbol.

Facebook Like

Social status symbols have evolved with us, right from body paint to hats, watches,pinapples (?) ,cars and so many more. Now, with the whole world going online, the number of  ‘likes’  one’s status or pictures get on Facebook has become indicative of their social status and  popularity. People take this very seriously, and put a lot of effort into extracting the maximum number of ‘likes’. Befriending photographers( i.e. guy with DSLR), taking photos with celebrities, and advertising (begging)  for likes on chats are among the numerous ways in which people try to get ‘likes’.

However, this desperation for ‘likes’ does not stop with individuals. Companies, not wanting to miss an opportunity for good marketing, have set up Facebook pages, where they advertise their products, services etc. and hunt for likes. This has also caught on with private colleges and schools. These organizations have taken it to another level. There are allegations that companies ‘buy’ likes from Facebook. Apparently, they pay some amount of money per like to Facebook, and Facebook promptly ‘makes’ random people like the page. The fact that Facebook has so much control over our accounts is indeed scary. Whether true or not, the fact that such allegations exist shows that the Facebook ‘like’ has become a marketing tool.

People believe what they want , but  the truth is, you’re bound to flash a smile when you see that you’re picture/status has got a number of likes (People even have targets now).

Please like this article.



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Say Cheeeeeezeee !!!

Staring into the morning sky, with the delicious sun making its entrance into the phase of earth, even though a lazy Sunday dawn, there I was standing with my martial arts stick, clad in my shorts and waiting for my teacher to make his entrance to the grounds. His far residence delayed him .Mesmerised by the sheer beauty of the silver lined clouds and the golden hue of the sky , a hand as if guided by a mentor automatically slips into my pocket picking up my mobile and takes a few amateur snaps of the eye grabbing scenery .  And after my master had arrived I pained my muscles out into practice of stick fighting . I do not know what intrigued me but I put up those picture , around a couple of snaps on facebook and behold! I received a lot of good comments !  I simple chuckled as my MotoRokr E8 phone my parents gifted me in my 10th grade was merely a 2 Mgpxl phone and it struck a wonder to my “fans”.

Say Cheeze!

An unconscious interest built up in me since then, I named my album as “on cloud nine” and begun an effortless capture and posted many more fluffy and puffy cloud picture I captured often and in places I travelled. I had people  rejoicing the angle, the subject of the pictures and also praised a few technical details I hit by luck and something that naturally came to me. It was amusing but at the same time motivating too.  What I hardly realised was photography was slowly becoming a hobby for me.
As a year progressed, my father bought a better camera, Sony cyber shot 16.1 digi camera and I could work wonders with it. I Used the panorama view to get a wider range and digital zooming and motion capture features to obtain a better quality image. After I purchased by DELL Inspiron laptop I begun using Picasa and Photoscape softwares , where basic photo adjustments were possible and not any illegal editing that completely shattered the pride of a photographer.  I begun realising how sapia , black and white and other modes sometimes made the photos more appealing. The simple tools like, brightness enhancement, sharpening, saturation levels, gradients, text insertion and auto fix had all come to my aid and taught me how technology can play a major role in helping you to correct your mistakes and provide a better platform to improve my photography. Well folks, even though I use software for my snaps that receive an acclaim, I still stick with my moto  “ photography isn’t  about the camera, Its about your skill, the capture, thats where true talent lies. “  With many of my college friends in the photography club with a DSLR , here I am, the only on inducted with my sony cyber shot for having impressed them with my skills and using my primitive software tools. From 2 to 16.1Mgpxl, facebook to college club, no software to editing tools, well thats how technology brought a photographer in me!

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Federer can Fly!

A month ago, Roger Federer did something that he usually refrains from - a public apology. Over the years, the Master of Tennis has seen a few lows in his career, but he never apologised to his fans, citing reasons that winning and losing was part of the game. Until he lost to Tsonga in the quarter-final of the Roland Garros. That day, Federer said he was disappointed. At some days the game doesn’t strike, especially when you are 32 years old!

But not today! Federer walked into the Centre Court of Wimbledon 2013 as the defending Champion and hence according to rules and tradition, his match was the tournament opener. On the other side of the court stood the tall Romanian Victor Hanescu. He would have hoped that Federer had another one of those bad days. He had no idea what was coming.

Roger Federer took just 18 minutes to win the thrid set against Victor Hanescu

67 minutes later, Victor Hanescu left the court with a tinge of relief. It had been a gruelling one hour and Federer had pounded him like never before. The first set took 24 minutes and the second took 27. At the end of the match, Federer claimed, it was a ‘perfect day’. He struck 32 winners and just 6 unforced errors and the third set took just 18 minutes. To be fair to Hanescu, he didn’t play badly. It is just that every shot of his was matched by a better shot from Federer’s blade. When Hanescu played and excellent lob over Federer, Federer responded with an even better lob in the next game, clearing the towering 6 foot 6 inch frame of the Romanian. Hanescu also produced 85 percent of his first serves correctly, but managed only 14 points on those. Clearly, he couldn’t do any more.

The Wimbledon has kicked off on a great note - the same way it has been for the past 10 years. Roger Federer, the defending Champion as he has been for 7 times now, graciously took the centre stage, and graciously took out his opponent. Today, 10 years after winning his first Wimbledon, Federer took it one step ahead and soared above everything, thus proving that he can fly!

On the same day that Federer breezed past his opponent, his arch rival Rafael Nadal has a tough coming as he crashed out in the first round of Wimbledon 2013 in what was the biggest Day 1 upset in the tournament, and the end of one of the greatest sporting comebacks in history.


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Q & A - 5 Steps to make it Big - Part 5

  1. Maybe hard work does matter after all.

There is a particular no. that is common to Bill Gates and the Beatles, which, along with the other factors mentioned above, fully explains the story of meteoric rise from near obscurity of the two. The no. is 10,000. Can you guess why?


And the Answer is….


10, 000 is the no. of hours of practice they have had when they emerged on the world scene—Bill Gates of coding and the Beatles of music. Using the time sharing system mentioned in the question before, Bill Gates ran up 1,575 hours of computer time in a seven month period, meaning 8 hours a day, every day of the week! Then at the University of Washington, through some connections of his, Gates found that the period between three and six in the morning, a similar time sharing system was free and every night, Gates would disappear to do coding returning home early morning when he would pretend to be asleep. Bill Gates found similar and bigger opportunities to learn and practice coding so that by the time Gates decided to drop out of Harvard after his sophomore year, he had been programming non-stop for seven consecutive years, way more than 10, 000 hours.


Similar was the case of Bill Joy who stumbled upon the time sharing system in college. Had these two Bill’s not found these time sharing system at early age (the where from previous question) they wouldn’t have had this kind of practice. Nor would the Jewish lawyers from the previous answer have had 10, 000 hours of their practice in litigation and take-overs had they not been tuned out by the old-line firms.


And finally, coming to the Beatles, before they landed up in the US, they played in Hamburg as a struggling high school rock band for eight hours a day, seven days a week—there’s that figure again. And by the time they made it big, they had easily put in 10, 000 hours of music. They had performed twelve hundred times, live. Most bands today don’t perform that no. even in their entire career.

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Q & A - 5 Steps to make it Big - Part 4

  1. Where you are born: Opportunity

Till the late 60’s in the United States, it was the “Ivy League Nordic Aryans” who made the big lawyers and big firms. But with the beginning of the 70’s the tables turned. It was the sons of Jewish immigrants who made it big in law.


Revisiting our software geniuses/billionaires from question 1, Bill Joy might have actually become a biologist had he not discovered a particular equipment as a freshman in his college, the same equipment which Bill Gates found at a place near his school in eighth grade. That particular equipment was a time-sharing system.


How is this sudden growth of immigrant Jewish lawyers related to the software whizs?


And the Answer is:


These sons of Jewish immigrants who made it big as lawyers were born in the 1930’s in what was called the “demographic trough” of the United States—meaning it was a small generations than others in response to the Great Depression in the US. Thus, the hospitals in which they were born and the schools which they went to were all made for the bigger generation that had come before them and were well staffed. Opportunities to make it to the high schools and work abounded with less competition from smaller generation giving the immigrants a good education which might have been denied to them had they been born in a different generation. In the 50’s and 60’s, when they were ready to join the law firms, however, the old line law firms rejected them preferring the “Nordic type blue eyed Aryans”. The Jewish lawyers started independent practices often handling cases of hostile corporate take-overs and litigation which the established firms would not handle. However, come the 70’s and the markets became international, investors more aggressive and there was a boom in the no. of take-overs. The Jewish lawyers who, unlike their old-line counterparts, had already been handling such cases were the first choice of law firm of these litigators, explaining their sudden success in the mid-70’s scenario—‘the amount of money involved in mergers and acquisitions every year on Wall Street increased 2,000 percent”!  Thus, the Jewish lawyers were presented when and where the opportunities presented themselves. But the success story is still not complete. And what about Bill Joy and Bill Gates? Read on and you will find the answers in the next answer to the next question.

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Q & A - 5 Steps to make it Big - Part 3

How much does one’s IQ (intelligence quotient) really matter:

The creator of the standard IQ test was a young professor of psychology at Stanford University when he met Henry Cowell—a boy raised in poverty but a master of music having an IQ of above 140: near genius level. Fascinated by his discovery, the professor went on to conduct a series of exhaustive intelligence tests to select 1,470 children whose IQ’s ranged over 140, some as high as 200. These young geniuses were called “Termites” and became the subjects of one of the most famous psychological studies in the history. The professor believed the “termites” to be the future Nobel laureates of their fields, the heroes of the nation. Yet, as he charted the course of their lives, there were only a few who ended up being National figures, majority of them had ordinary careers and a surprising number ended up with failed careers.


Who was this Professor and what was the result of this finding that led psychologist Barry Schwartz to propose that elite schools should give up their tests altogether and simply hold a lottery for students scoring more than certain marks?


And the Answer is…

Lewis Terman was the professor. It was found that IQ matters only up to a point. Just like a basketball game, as a British psychologist Liam Hudson had said, where you need to be more than six or six one to have a real shot at playing, but after that it does not matter much whether you are six eight or six nine. What matters more, once this threshold is reached, are your other skills in the field. Similarly, you need to be only clever enough to get into Harvard or to win a Nobel Prize. Once you have reached the threshold, it’s your other skills-more practice, people skills etc. and the opportunities you get along the way that matter more and create all the difference.

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