Monday, August 19, 2013

Arsenal lost and my heart broke

It's very hard to explain the relationship between a football club and its fans (although there have been some excellent blogs, articles and even books written on the subject), but unless you are a fan, you will not understand the pain, the sweat and tears that goes along with supporting a team with all your heart.

My relationship with football and Arsenal began a long time ago and with every year it gets strengthened even through the bad times. It's always the same, during the season, my weekends are ruled by football matches and Arsenal games, during mid-week it's usually champions league games and rest of the time goes towards talking about the team. That first game of the season is always one filled with excitement -your boys are back home where they belong...where you belong.

But it's also a cause for real heart break. People who are non-fans will never understand why someone will spend their weekend in total depression, pouting, angry and ready to snap at anyone unless and until they come to feel as passionately about something as football fans do about their teams. Arsenal lost on Saturday and it's Monday right now and my mood is no better. I refused to get out of my bed on Sunday (despite pleas from both friends and family) and spent the day eating unhealthy food non-stop and watching old matches on Youtube. I must have spent hours watching players score goal after goal on their heyday.

Monday happened much too soon and with very little sleep and nearly no inclination to work, I showed up at work but ready only to talk about Arsenal. What were we going to do? Our team has lost its core players to injury, we have a tough Champions League game coming on Wednesday and we got no one. Sure it does not matter that my educated (and sometimes logical) brain keeps telling me that my own personal victories and defeats have nothing to do with the team. It's just a game.... But unfortunately how I feel is utterly different. I am embarrassed for the way we played (even though I had nothing to do with the 11 players who showed up to put up a fight against Aston Villa). I am upset we didn't win. I am angry that we have not signed any new players. It's my own personal defeat even though I have have no say in how the season pans out.

So, today in the throes of depression, I keep thinking back to those early days years ago when I became a fan. To be honest sometimes (like today) I wish I could go back in time and change my own history by not getting emotionally invested in a game and the club. After all, I meet a ton of people every day (my own father included), who watch football matches and have fun simply catching the games. They have no affiliations or minor ones if that and don't really care who wins or loses at the end of the day. They laugh during matches, they answer phones calls and they even switch channels in between to watch something else. Healthy people, oh how I hate them all and wish I could be one of them. I don't remember the last time I genuinely just sat down and watched a game in the EPL dispassionately and enjoyed it for what it was. I am always worried about how it affects Arsenal. I am tense and anxious and definitely will not even move a muscle during the game, let alone do anything as stupid as answer a phone call from either friends or family.

But then it does not change anything. Logically I know the healthy route but when it comes to football, it's my heart that dictates the rules. My relationship with Arsenal is one of the longest ones I have had with anyone or anything. Even though I am well aware that Arsenal is just a team, for me, it's like my best friend and my family. Arsenal is part of my life for better or for worse. It's part of who I am. I am Aishwarya. I am daughter, aunt and sister. I am a runner. I am a reporter. I am also a Gooner. It's my identity.

So, I am going to sit here and mope all day today and be decidedly upset. I am going to whine about how we have no chances of even finishing top four in the league unless Wenger signs some quality players. I am going to bite my nails incessantly as we approach the September 2nd deadline after which we have no chances of signing anyone. This has been me for years and this will be me in the future too. When I say - Arsenal till I die - it's my reality for today. Until that day arrives when I simply no longer care about what happens at the Emirates stadium and I am just a casual bystander to a sport I once loved, this is going to be me. I am Aishwarya. I am a Gooner and if it breaks my heart, so be it. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Breaking up with Mr Khan

I blame myself for going to the movie. It's not like one expects quality film making from Rohit Shetty. So, I have no right to have gone to the movie with no expectations (I saw the trailer) and then sit here and bitch about one of the thinnest plots Bollywood cinema has ever seen. That's okay. I deserve this movie and by being part of the brigade that helped the movie cross the Rs 100 crore mark, I have also unwittingly become a catalyst for more such movies to be made. I have made Shah Rukh Khan richer and the country a little dumber. I don't get to whine. But then as I watched the climax of the movie, I wanted to kick every single male character in the movie swiftly in the nuts over and over and over again.

Why you ask? Well, let me take a minute and paint the climax if you will let me (*and yes, spoiler alert...yawn*). The hero (who constantly and annoyingly keeps harping on and on about the power of the 'common man'), has to fight the burly villain, while the heroine watches haplessly as her father holds her hand stopping her from going to the rescue of her one true love (a man she met days ago). Yup. In the last minutes of the movie, the girl is no more than a mute spectator, the damsel in distress and a total Kajol from the last scenes of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (instead of calling him babuji, the heroine calls her dad, appa and begs him to let her go but never really puts up a fight). But the hero, played by Mr Khan gets to fight and beat up big burly men in a bid to prove his own manhood. Can you please kill me now?

One might wonder how in a movie filled with cliched tropes and failings, why I chose to be angry at the one stereotype that is unlikely to ever go out of fashion in Bollywood. It's because I was absolutely turned off by how helpless and victimised the girl looked in that scene and even if it preceded the so-called happy ending (come on you knew it was going to be a happy ending!), I was uncomfortable by how tied down the woman's hands were. Then as if she was a commodity, once the hero wins his battle, her father literally hands over the girl to the new alpha dog in the community. What's worse? The girl complies with it all these proceedings only too happily. In fact, Deepika Padukone exists in the film only to wear fabulous sarees that my mom and I salivated over and screw up BOTH Tamil and Hindi at the same time. For someone who is supposed to be a "village belle", her Tamil is so atrocious that any Tamilian would wonder what language she was truly speaking in. And she exists to set feminism back to the dark ages (or as I call it - 80s Bollywood cinema). In other words, the woman is total baukwas.

When I went to Chennai Express with my parents, I knew I was going to come out of a movie once again let down by Shah Rukh Khan but I came out livid and disappointed. Khan must have perpetually gotten a - 'can do better' - remark from his teachers back in school because that's exactly what he has been told since then with his career. When you watch Swades or Chak De or even Baazigar, you immediately forgive him for Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna and every other bad film he has made along the same vein. But at some point you have say enough is enough and beg him to stop making films that exist only to help you drop more IQ points. Sure, Salman Khan makes bad movies too (and yes they are truly bad movies) but you don't expect anything else from him but when you watch Darr, you are reminded of someone who once used to be fearless with his roles. And now with Ra.One and Chennai Express, he has become an unfortunate but strangely willing punchline.Yes, he has always overacted but he has also displayed flashes of brilliance (Paheli was quite good). You were convinced that maybe just maybe he can do better. But now I can officially say that he has failed in his career. He may be laughing all the way to the bank but he no longer can boast of any kind of credibility to ever call himself an actor. He may not be a terrorist (although he does terrorise us with his bad movies) but he is definitely not a thespian.

So, here I am, a long term Shah Rukh Khan fan, (who at one point had his poster up on her bedroom wall), writing a Dear John break up letter to the very man she loved a long time ago. I can't take it anymore. I am tired of making excuses for him ("come on guys, he was so endearing in Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa!") and have also officially fallen out of love with Mr Raj from DDLJ (I was 8 when I watched that movie and hence deserve to be cut some slack for falling one hundred per cent in love with that film). In a way Chennai Express is a blessing in disguise seeing as it has finally freed me. You see despite everything, I still continued to root for him even after watching him mix curd and spaghetti in Ra. One (because let's face it, every tambrahm mixes curd and Italian delicacies and then eats that concoction with their bare hands because we are that dumb). All it took for me for me to severe all ties from this "superstar" was to watch him in a lungi and gyrate alongside Padukone in a misguided tribute to the fabulous Rajnikanth. No, I am no longer his fan. Yes, I think he is a total sellout. And most importantly it has be iterated over and over again that he is no feminist as he purports himself to be (everyone by now knows about the Tata Tea advertisement). You see if he really thought men and women were created equal, he would not have had "his girl" passed around from man to man as though she was property. If he really believed in the power of his common man, his films would not show the common woman act stupidly (Jab Tak Hain Jaan!) or powerlessly. Screw you Shah Rukh. Goodbye. And just so you's not me, this is all you babe.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

What I know to be true

When I was a child, I knew what I wanted. I knew I loved love horror movies. I knew I wanted to become a writer even though I had no idea what I would write about. I knew I wanted to be Enid Blyton and be a part of someone's life the way she was part of mine. I knew I wanted to turn into a bookworm and drink in as many books as possible. I wanted to marry Prince William.

As I grew up I held onto what I knew about myself and I held to be true. I decided that I didn't like the outdoors and any world I needed to explore was right there in a wonderful book written by RK Narayan or Tolkien. Well, I wasn't wrong. I lived in more worlds than anyone could imagine and thought myself to be very happy. But then 2012 happened to me.

A person I thought was my friend tore me down, shredded me and walked away and I will forever be grateful to her because it was the best thing that ever happened to me in my life. Because instead of judging people for their life choices (as she often encouraged me to do and I happily complied), I now had the opportunity to make my own stupid decisions without the fear of being called stupid.  I found new people in my life and I lost people in my life. Prince William got married and announced to the world that he was having a kid. Many things I thought were absolute truths disproved themselves and showed me their backs and walked away.

Suddenly it was the day the world was supposed to end and it didn't. The world did not end. No hammer from the sky emerged to dissolve us all into oblivion. And I realised that I had somehow turned 25; something I swore as a child I would never let happen, but then as a kid I also did not know that one generally does not win the race against time.

So, I decided to throw everything out of the window and just be. I took up trekking and slept under the stars alongside a bunch of strangers and yet I had never felt more safe knowing that I was truly a part of the universe, even if it was the most insignificant part of it. I began to run and realised that my body can do more than just hold a book and that it can literally take me places and allow me to explore the world from a whole new perspective. I went on a vacation for the first time in years. I wore a dress.

Suddenly I was living even though I had no clue how to do it in the "right way" anymore. Books became more meaningful somehow in ways I can't yet comprehend, perhaps because I had my own experiences to compare. And I have decided I will figure out who I am as I go along. One day I can be a philosopher and one day a teacher. I can quit everything and travel for months on end or get married and have 10 children. I like the confusion and the lack of direction because that means I am discovering new paths. And I have also decided that I never had any right (even by proxy) to judge anyone in life. People make mistakes but that only proves they are human. I make mistakes.

I know we live in a world where people bomb one another, kill one another and hurt one another. Where they pave paradise and put up parking lots. But that does not mean I will lose hope. I know with every day I become older but not quite wiser but I also know that at any given moment adorable puppies are being born and you can never be cynical in a world that has puppies. I also have made new truths along the way. And here are few that I think are true, at least for now -

  • I have no idea what's going to happen tomorrow so I refuse to worry about it today. Nothing is ever as good or bad you might think it is going to be, so there is only disappointment waiting for those with expectations. 
  • Music makes life better. 
  • Any MP3 player can be as good as an Ipod but most are not as expensive and hence can be a practical choices for someone who is very close to being broke and desperately wants music in her life. 
  • Losing an ATM card is really the best thing to happen to someone as you inadvertently learn to live on a budget. 
  • Having a lot of money does not necessarily make you happy. 
  • Horror movies are better watched with friends.
  • Mom may not always know the best but she shows up when it's important.
  • You can learn everything you need to learn about life by watching your two year old niece kick a football for the first time in her life because in those moments you see a brand new human being learn how to fall and get up and try again. It's inspiring. 
  • Youtube can lead to insomnia.
  • A good run may not solve all your problems but you will feel better at the end of it.
  • Never hold onto relationships that make you feel bad about yourself.
  • Being cynical may be "cool" but being open and raw means you are courageous. 
  • Walking through life with your heart in your hands is naive and stupid but infinitely better than walking around refusing to let anyone in. 
  • Friends are worth getting your heart broken over.
  • Curd rice is refreshing and healthy. 
  • A good book can change your world.
  • Unicorns exist.