Best way to spend the first weekend of the month – Part 1


I had an exciting first weekend of August ahead for me, which involved a trip to Manthralayam; primarily for the train journey, secondarily for the Tungabhadra river; and lastly for darshan at the famous Swami Raghavendra Temple :D. I was to take my favourite train 12163 Dadar Chennai Super express :), from Dadar to Raichur ; on Friday 4th. As to why I chose Raichur as the destination instead of MALM, well; as per the information I had gleaned from Wikipedia, frequent KSRTC buses were available from Raichur. Moreover, my hotel in Manthralayam was right opposite the RTC bus stand ;). My office being located in Lower Parel made it very convenient for me to board 12163. As my office ended at 6 pm, I could attend a full day and still have more than enough time to board the train; which would depart at 20 30.

I took an EMU to Dadar, where I had an early dinner at a restaurant nearby. I had close to 1.5 hours to kill as I headed to the Terminus, where 12163 was berthed on Platform 7 as usual.

12163 S2 outside12163 Dadar

My coach S2 was 2014 made, so would be having biotoilets and mobile charging sockets in every bay.

12163 S2 inside

It was 10th from the loco, which was a BSL WAP4 22899. It was 19 45 when S2 was finally opened, and I settled on my seat; which was a side upper berth. At 19 50, I observed 11030 KOP CSTM Koyna express arriving with KYN WDM3D 11456. Half an hour later, I observed KYN ALCO pair – WDG3A 14727 and WDM3D 11470 heading towards CSTM. 14727 had a melodious LT horn similar to that of GTL ALCOs, while the HT horn was a high-pitched toot not too different from that of a WAP5/7!o_O:eek: At 20 30, 12289 CSTM-NGP Duronto overtook us from PF 4 with Ajni WAP7 30301.

On PF 5, 12111 CSTM-AMI superfast was standing. A minute later, we departed. Then 12111 also started; so for a while we had parallel action! 12111 was headed by a KYN WCAM3, and had 7 AC coaches. We stopped after 3 mins and it overtook us. In the cool breeze of the night, the engine sounds were intoxicating – an EMD honking and humming and also a WDS6 burbling in the distance!:) A KYN WCAM3 then passed towards CSTM with a virtually empty train – any idea which train could this be? We finally started moving again at 20 38. I could hear mild flat wheel sounds. We soon picked up speed after the usual crawl through the points, and the melodious P4 twin tones were a treat to the ears. Interestingly, this loco had two HT horns – the 2nd one sounding more like P5/7!:eek:

There was a huge glass building in Sion West which housed the pharma giant Abbott. My e-ticket was checked and ticked before Vikhroli. We had a really fast run from Bhandup to Thane, with the P4 in full flow; honking all the way. The station was skipped in style, before we slowed down to crawl through the famous Parsik tunnel. It seems trains have started crawling through this tunnel again since the monsoon season – earlier it used to be skipped at around 70-80 kmph. No wonder. There was water dripping from the side everywhere. At Thakurli, there was an extra platform under construction – a double discharge platform like the one at Kanjurmarg. Reached KYN at 21 27, 22 mins late; on PF 5. 12111 was still waiting on our left on PF 4!:eek: Here a lot of people got in, and the coach was predictably full. I clambered onto my SUB, ready to call it a day.

I had a really good sleep overall, though I woke up quite a few times in between. Of course we had a long halt at Pune, where the WAP4 was replaced by a diesel. I woke up a few times after the break of dawn, but took one look down at the side lower berth (which was occupied by a lady in deep sleep) and decided to go back to sleep!:DThe blanket I had brought from home turned out to be quite useful, as the weather was a bit chilly. When I finally climbed down from the SUB, it was around 07 30. I answered the call of nature, sprinkled water on my face 7-8 times; and brushed my teeth. Then I squeezed into a legs-folded position on the SLB; as it was already occupied by two people – the one on my right probably didn’t have reservation and was using the train as a means of commute; no wonder 12163/64 is famously known as a ‘town bus’ :p.

The shrill horn of our diesel loco was a treat to the ears, as we passed through green fields irrigated well, cows grazing; and a road kept us company parallely for a while; also there were mountains in the distant left background. A church in the distant left, a few settlements and a few pigs in a slush signalled the arrival of Yadgir at 07 44, 16 mins late. During the 3 min halt here, a lot of people got down; only for almost as many people to get in as well!:D I had some tea. We then had a quick run till the next halt Saidapur, accompanied by ALCO chugging sounds which were as usual music to the ears; and a mild transition jerk. We passed through green and brown fields, bushes, shrubs, a few palm trees and meadows. There were also eucalyptus trees and an abandoned cabin at Lingiri, which was skipped at MPS. Then there were trees here and there, stagnant ponds and black soil. A few settlements, a graveyard in ruins and a deserted church signalled the arrival of Saidapur at 08 06, 18 mins late.

Here a few people got in. After a 2 min halt, we started; only to stop again – before starting finally with a short honk a minute later. There were more meadows and trees here and there, and metalled roads that seemed to start from nowhere; and a Telangana State board at Chegunta. Then there was a TSR of 30 kmph and a curve to the left; where I could see our orange and cream GTL ALCO. A road and a substation signalled the arrival of Krishna at 08 26, and we had a long halt of 15 mins for watering. I had some coffee. There was a PSR of 50 kmph over the Krishna river, which was (as expected) 60% filled.

Krishna river 1Krishna river 2Krishna river 3

We transitioned over the river (again mildly:D). There was a line to the Raichur Thermal Power Station (RTPS) after Yadalapur, which bypassed Raichur. Then came the iconic RTPS, with its 8 cooling towers – a sight that has never ever failed to impress me even in uncountable number of trips along this route!:)

RTPS

After Yermaras, there was an non-electrified line from our left to RTPS. A few mosques, temples, a lot of buildings, an auditorium and the sight of a few pigs signalled the arrival of Raichur at 09 10, 37 mins late – on PF 1. I got down and had 3 dal vadas from a stall nearby. 12163 left after a halt of 4 mins. 16594 SBC NED express came on PF 2 at 09 18, half an hour late; headed by GTL WDM3D 11552 in the shed’s orange and cream livery. A lot of people (mainly vendors) got down and crossed the tracks to the other side.The train left after a halt of only 2 mins. I then took a share auto to the Bus Stand; where I had to wait for 15-20 mins before I could get a bus to Manthralayam; which turned out to be a nearly 1.5 hours ride.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this long report!;)

Technical Abbreviations

EMU – Electrical Multiple Unit (Local train)

ALCO – American Locomotive Company (and a class of diesel engines of the 1960s)

EMD – Electromotive Diesel (and a modern class of diesel engines)

HT – High Tone

LT – Low Tone

MPS – Maximum Permissible Speed

TSR – Temporary Speed Restriction

PSR – Permanent Speed Restriction

Station Codes
MALM- Manthralayam Road
BSL – Bhusawal
KOP – Kolhapur
CSTM – Mumbai CST
KYN- Kalyan
GTL – Guntakal
NGP – Nagpur
AMI – Amravati

SBC – Bangalore City

NED – Nanded

My experiences as an Aspie: Part Seven


Again, to refresh you all; here are the first 6 parts:  https://ashwinkumar1989net.wordpress.com/2017/05/09/my-experiences-as-an-aspie-part-one/ ,  https://ashwinkumar1989net.wordpress.com/2017/05/10/my-experiences-as-an-aspie-part-two/ ,  https://ashwinkumar1989net.wordpress.com/2017/05/12/my-experiences-as-an-aspie-part-three/ , https://ashwinkumar1989net.wordpress.com/2017/05/25/my-experiences-as-an-aspie-part-four/ , https://ashwinkumar1989net.wordpress.com/2017/05/30/my-experiences-as-an-aspie-part-five/ and https://ashwinkumar1989net.wordpress.com/2017/07/30/my-experiences-as-an-aspie-part-six/

One of the things that I have not discussed so far is the therapy itself. As mentioned earlier, the counsellor in Mumbai has been far more effective than the one in Chennai; as she made a concerted effort to understand me fully – including linking my past to my present. I felt free to share my feelings and experiences with her in every session. Even outside the session, whenever I was angry, frustrated or sad etc., I would message her; and we would discuss the matter in the upcoming session. In our sessions, we discovered that there were multiple personalities in me; which reacted in different ways to each situation. Being a Harry Potter fanatic 😛 , and also to make it easier for myself to understand; I classified these parts as Ron Weasley, Severus Snape, Moaning Myrtle and ‘The Rational Me’.

The Ron part was the part in me that felt less confident, insecure and lacked self-belief. In most situations(that brought out negative emotions), the Ron part would react with a heightened inferiority complex; with thoughts like “I am not good enough”, “I am not competent”, “I was stupid” etc. The Severus part was the one that felt angry, frustrated and wounded. It would react angrily in most situations, and blame other people or the society. The Myrtle part was the part that felt desperate to do something, to prove itself. It would have an urge to do something extra in most situations, many times resulting in me trying too hard. The ‘Rational Me’ was the one that was most logical, and many times critical of the other three parts. In many situations it would react like “Stop this nonsense” or “You are thinking too much” etc.

Coming back to my life (after being fired from my previous job), the trip to Chennai did wonders to my self-worth and mental state.  It was followed by the annual religious function trip to Kodaganallur (near Tirunelveli) with family, and my first visit to Shirdi alone(and by train 😀 ); in November. My morale was further boosted by a first-time visit to Vizag with family in December, including a train ride to the hill station of Araku Valley 😉 . Not to mention a pure railfanning trip to Manjari Budruk (near Pune) at the end of the year 🙂 . In between all these trips, I attended quite a few interviews; and finally my patience paid off at the year-end – I got selected for another recruitment role (but also involving research and a bit of business development) in an executive search firm in Lower Parel.

There was an unfortunate little incident the day I went to the office to collect my offer letter (at the beginning of this year). I went by scooter to Kanjurmarg, from where I would take two trains: from Kanjurmarg to Dadar (Central Railway), and Dadar to Lower Parel (Western Railway). Just near Kanjurmarg station, a car came in my way. The owner made a rude hand gesture and blamed me for coming in his way. I in turn blamed him; he got out of his car and started shouting at me in Marathi/Hindi, to which I shouted back in English – this enraged him even further, and he turned it into a fist-fight. Whenever someone hits me, I usually don’t let him get away; so I hit back. He had support from one or two persons, and ended up breaking my helmet; and causing some minor bruises on my face – before ending the fight.

As you can see, here the Severus part in me showed its anger by getting provoked by the rude behaviour of the uncouth car owner; instead of ignoring him and going my way – which might have sent a message to the owner, that I don’t care two hoots about what he does; and he would probably have backed off. The Severus part also felt that this guy’s behaviour is typical of a Maharashtrian man. The Ron part felt that I was incapable of controlling my anger, or behaviour in social trigger situations; and always react  in an immature manner. The Rational Me decided that it was best not to mention this incident to my family (at the moment) and move on to office as though nothing had happened. The Myrtle part decided that it was best to call a friend instead of family, and so i called my family friend (mentioned in the earlier parts).

She was of course very concerned, and advised me that anger towards a stranger in public is different from anger towards family or friends; and needs to be controlled – as it can land me in trouble; that is, if the person decided to complain to the police (irrespective of whose fault it was in the first place). She also advised me not to mention the fight at the office, as it would not look good; particularly given the importance of the situation – collecting my offer letter. My friend additionally told me to wash my face wherever possible before going to office, so that the bruises would not be obvious; and also, if asked at the office as to the reason for my bruises – just tell them that I had a minor accident with the scooter; that way, no one would get to know the truth.

The Rational Me took this advice well, and I washed my face well with a water bottle that I purchased at Lower Parel station. Fortunately for me, at the office no one noticed my bruises; and I duly got my offer letter. My bruises soon healed completely in a few days. By the way, another thing is that I started my blog at the suggestion of the counsellor – she (like many others in my life) noticed that I have a talent for writing (I am not boasting 😛 ); and advised me to write a blog so that I could put myself in a better position to get documentation/content writing jobs (more as a back-up career choice)- that time I was struggling to clear interviews for HR/Recruitment. I somewhat reluctantly took her advice, and initially wrote posts about my train trips or some movie reviews.

However, as time flew; I started writing about social issues as well; and at one stage decided to blog about my experiences as an Aspie – which brings us to where we are today 😉 . Now, blogging is a passion for me just like railfanning 🙂 . Thus, I bring an end to my blog about my experiences with Asperger’s Syndrome – hope you have enjoyed it 🙂 .

Some days are really bad


Some days are really bad

Nothing goes right

You have no might

At the end, you are glad

You try your best

Nothing clicks for you

It’s a real character test

More so, when autist is you

Why only results matter?

Why not your efforts?

Your morale will shatter

Breached, is your fort

Once work gets over

Returning home still a task

Is it too much to ask?

Can it get any slower?

Even a Bandra local packed

Dadar stinks like a carcass

You need a compass

The crowd is so fucked

Need to miss a few trains

I even lose my brain

Thanks to Ghatkopar madness

Train boarders have no kindness

Deboarders expected to jump

I am under the pump

I jump, and push violently

The people are shocked

I am satisfied silently

They got what they deserved

I am tired of being good

More so when the day is bad

But the worst is over

Though the day is not over

Save Oviya, Save Bigg Boss


Kamal Hasan may host Bigg Boss

But participants give it life

Sometimes creating strife

Eviction is a big loss

Nice people are rare

But lend the show character

For others they truly care

Oviya is such a character

Whom we should save

She personifies humanity

By the path she paves

Speaks with the best clarity

Stands out amidst acrimony

Juliana, a model of treachery

Betraying a friend for popularity

Gayathri, puffed up with vanity

Relying on reputation as dancemaster

Expletives reveal her arrogance

In bullying the weak, a master

Raiza, obsessed with vengeance

Choosing petty gossip over class

Shakthi, exposing his male ego

No way less crass

Trust, forgotten long ago

Save Oviya, Save Bigg Boss

You don’t vote; it’s our loss

My experiences as an Aspie: Part Six


Well, well. It has been a while indeed. 2 months! If you have forgotten the earlier parts (I wouldn’t blame you at all if you had 😉 ) here are the links:

 https://ashwinkumar1989net.wordpress.com/2017/05/09/my-experiences-as-an-aspie-part-one/ ,  https://ashwinkumar1989net.wordpress.com/2017/05/10/my-experiences-as-an-aspie-part-two/ ,  https://ashwinkumar1989net.wordpress.com/2017/05/12/my-experiences-as-an-aspie-part-three/ , https://ashwinkumar1989net.wordpress.com/2017/05/25/my-experiences-as-an-aspie-part-four/ and https://ashwinkumar1989net.wordpress.com/2017/05/30/my-experiences-as-an-aspie-part-five/

To keep you up-to-date, I started working at a recruitment consultancy in Malad West since April 2016; involving a tiring commute – either taking an infrequent direct bus, or taking two buses, or metro train-cum-train-cum-share auto -as it was a distance of about 15-16 km from my home in Powai. The timings were 10 am to 7 30 pm on weekdays, and 10 am to 4 30 pm on Saturdays.  This meant that on most weekdays I would barely have time to have dinner and then sleep, after coming home from office. For the first 2-3 months, I liked the office atmosphere despite the taxing travel; as it was my first experience in end-to-end recruitment (not counting my freelance recruitment experience 😛 ), and it was a proper office with ACs, coffee machines and a corporate culture – unlike in my first job in Chennai which had a house converted to office, and lacked many facilities essential for an office setup; also the work was not very engaging.

One more plus of this company was that, during the interview with the Director; I had already revealed my Asperger’s Syndrome condition; and it was accepted without much ado. However, there was a grey area – the attrition rate in the company was quite high. There were two teams – Domain (for IT/Lifesciences recruitment, I was in this team) and BPO (for BPO recruitment). The attrition was particularly high in the Domain team. It should have been a warning sign for me early on – especially when the MD (wife of the Director who had interviewed me, and an enigmatic lady prone to losing her temper) gave us a “piece of her own mind” in a meeting; reducing one of the girls in my team to tears. This was as early as May, and something that unnerved me greatly – but I thought this would soon pass. How wrong I was to be.

Workplace stress and travel can be a deadly combination. Timings of 10 am to 7 30 pm on weekdays and 10 am to 4 30 pm were only on paper – the reality was, on many weekdays we were made to stay till 8 pm (most Mondays we had to come at 9 am) and on Saturdays till 5 30 – 6 pm (quite a few Saturdays we had to come at 8 30 – 9 am for recruitment drives). The MD was nice when she was in a good mood, but get on her wrong side and she would make Dolores Umbridge proud (if you get my Harry Potter reference :P) ! Adding fuel to the fire was the gossip culture (especially prevalent within the BPO team). As in my first job at Chennai, I had again developed a close friendship with a young girl with a challenging background – in this case involving financial difficulties as well as having to balance studies, work and taking care of the family; all incredibly at the age of just 19! :O

We all had a trip to Khandala (towards the end of July) for a management workshop. During the trip, my friend developed a shoe bite; which intensified such that she was unable to walk without experiencing close to unbearable pain. I (along with some other colleagues) helped her walk; and I was with her for most of the time; to provide moral support. I was furious with the management for being so insensitive to such a young employee’s hardships – they were adamant that she should take part in the workshop, no matter how much pain she was in. Having experienced bullying at a very young age, and otherwise various hardships in society due to being an Aspie; the very idea of injustice affects me strongly – it affected me in this situation as well; seeing it happen to a colleague who was a friend as well as a sister.

After our return from the Khandala trip, the management (particularly the MD) seemed to have decided they were being too lenient all along; and toughened their stance on various things. If we came late and didn’t inform the management in advance; we would be made to sit outside for a few hours. This worked well for perpetual late-comers; but it severely impacted people who had to travel a lot – also, in the case of my friend; on a few occasions she was late by just 6-7 mins – she was handicapped by her shoe bite, and yet was forced to sit outside. The best part was that the MD herself came later than her! Moreover, we were to have morning meetings involving the entire setup; an opportunity for the management to humiliate us in front of everyone whenever we were short of our targets!

Meanwhile, gossip was spreading around (the doing of a few people in the BPO team) that my friend and I were involved in a relationship that was not merely friendship. Way to go people! You don’t do your work properly while we slog it out, and then try to deflect attention from your poor performance by spreading rumours and trying to ruin friendships! As a result, my friend and I were forced not to talk in front of others; all because of a few immature idiots who talked behind our backs! However, this was just the tip of the iceberg. The work atmosphere soon became very stressful – we were burning the midnight oil for numbers which were not fully in our control; while management pulled us up for not achieving closures – they rarely gave feedback on many candidates whom we had sourced with much difficulty.

I got a scooter and started driving to office from September; but by then the office was already like a prison. Once, during  a meeting with the MD; she told me that I was going from disappointing to bad. I was indignant, as the previous day I had shared 3 resumes with the client – which is usually a good number. So, I retorted “For your information, I sent 3 profiles yesterday.” I could tell that my reaction shocked a few of my colleagues, but gone were the days when I would take nonsense from anyone, even if is/he were the founder of a company.

Towards the end of the month, the MD went ballistic and fired a girl in front of everyone; while shouting at her as though she was a criminal! To be fair, the girl wasn’t completely innocent – she had taken a few unauthorized leaves; but there is a way to terminate an employee – and that is definitely NOT shouting at her in front of everyone to get out. However, the MD wasn’t done – she then proceeded to shout at all of us, including my friend. She seemed really deranged; and threatened to fire anyone who didn’t agree with her. I had earlier asked for permission to leave early on a few days for my counsellor appointment – the permission was denied . The MD, not satisfied with denying permission; shouted at me for asking permission in the first place!

Once the MD was through with her tirade, I almost exploded with anger. I threw my planner on my desk. The director asked me what happened, and I lied that I dropped it by mistake. At that instant, I was beyond caring; and wanted to leave the company immediately! I vented my feelings by sending messages to my family, relatives and friends – conveying my desire to quit. Later, I managed to cool down and carry on with my work as usual. In fact, a few days later; a new employee joined – and the MD inexplicably started behaving nicely towards us again – I then understood that it was just a show to make the new joinee feel comfortable and at home! Gosh, are there some limits to theatrics? 😛

At the beginning of October, the MD came up with a “hire-and-fire policy”; by which people could be terminated at will for not meeting their targets – we had to send 18 resumes to the client in a week ; all 18 had to be shortlisted by the client HR. It was a difficult task particularly for me, as I was involved in Lifescience hiring; where the numbers were limited and there were a lot of duplications. It was a stressful month as a result and many days I had to stay till 8 pm; as I wasn’t able to meet the daily target of 3 profiles. I worked really hard, but eventually; in the middle of the month, I was called at the end of the day for a meeting by the Director and the Head of Recruitment – they told me that they had no choice but to let me go, as per the hire-and-fire policy.

Initially I was stunned, and; outside the office compound, I vented my feelings by throwing my bag to the ground and speaking angrily with my mother. However, at home I cooled down; and decided that the best thing to be done at the moment was to make a visit to Chennai – that time I needed a break from the atmosphere, and from Mumbai. In hindsight, after speaking to my dear cousin in USA; I felt relieved to be fired – it was like being released from jail! In Chennai, I had the pleasure of meeting my cousins, relatives and friends – including my dear family friend, who used to be my colleague at the company I worked for in Chennai (it was the last time I would meet her before her eventual marriage the following year). I also visited my ex-neighbour, who gave me a fitting advice – “f*** that company and its policy.”

Phew, what a rollercoaster of six months it had been at this company, ending with my first experience of being terminated! Look at what an Aspie has to go through in life! Will be coming up with Part 7 in a while, hopefully it wil be the final part! Stay tuned 😉

Patriarchy should never again see the light


Patriarchy is not just a form of society

It says an entire gender is less

Don’t we want equality?

India is a humungous mess

You can’t complain about potholes

Government are arseholes

Harassing a woman with defamation

For just rapping about an abomination

RJ Malishka, take a bow!

For seeds you sow

Gurmehar Kaur called out for peace

In return got a rape tease

Iron Sharmila stood up for NE women rights

Caged by the great Indian government

In jail, denied voting rights

But was the bedrock of a peace movement

Mansi was stalked and spied upon

For Gujarat  Govt, a girl was less than its own

Rape goes on and on

Police laughs off masturbation complaints

Online sexual harassment is not such a taint

But a meme on the PM gets you defamation

It is time for women rights reclamation

Time for women and men to fight

Patriarchy should never again see the light

More men should be feminists

Its not good enough to be an equalist

Equity is more important than equality

Let’s have more reservation for women

Illegal should be marital rape

Change should come in mindset of men

Please capture all this on tape!

 

 

 

Why are Indian men so powerful?


Why are Indian men so powerful?

Are they gifts of God ?

Their insults are so colourful

Is a Lady less than a Lord?

Women can’t roam the night

Because men show their might

It is wrong to wear loose clothing

But it ain’t wrong to rape

Legal..is marital rape

Double standards are mind-boggling

When women raise their issues

Men cry victim card

Men can sometimes be retards

Who need a box of tissues

My best friend is a woman

Man should be more human

Right wing talks minority appeasement

Reality is male appeasement

We need equality for men and women

So feminism should get more men

Women should be more powerful

Then India will be wonderful

 

 

 

Why is Hindi so important?


India is a diverse country with many cultures

Encompassing 23 languages

Hindi may be the most spoken language

But let there be no misconception, for a better future

That Hindi is the national language

Or that all South Indians are ‘Madrassis’

The Constitution of India has no national language

However, ignorance is bliss

As seen with even some senior Ministers

Conveniently serving as a tool to impose Hindi

Including replacement of English on signboards with Hindi

It’s extension to a music concert was at best very bitter

Particularly in London, with a maestro like A.R.Rahman

A title like “Netru Indru Naalai” should have been  clear

But jingoism swallows common sense in every man and woman

Even 16 Hindi songs out of 28 hard to satisfy Hindians

Walking halfway out of the concert and insulting the legend

Will Hindi chauvinism ever end?

Music has no language, but sadly not for Hindians

Hindi is just like any other language

What is required is a love language

 

 

The dream of free speech and equal standards in India


Defamation case filed against All India Bakchod

For a snapchat dog filter meme on the Prime Minister

Something insulting but not sinister

Being a habit of the present PM to goad

The ex-PM when he was in power

The same ex-PM was also mocked by AIB and many others

Never was an FIR booked, ex-PM being a peace lover

All Indians are our sisters and brothers

The ruling party is not amongst them

Nor is the hypocritical Mumbai Police

Fostering an atmosphere of tyranny and malice

Rooted in apathy and male chauvinism

Laughing off masturbation in trains

Ineffective against online sexual harassment

Turning a blind eye to feminine pains

Reinforcing patriarchy’s hold on the establishment

Rape on a never-ending rise

Free speech still a distant dream

In a drain, equality for both sexes lies

In new India, only those in power can scream

The pain of being a liberal autist


Ever wonder how I came to be thus?

Dig deep into my childhood

Answers you may find thus

Being bullied is never good

More so, if it is because you are different

Being chased with sticks around a park and occasionally beaten

Just because playing cricket with yourself was not a fad then

On my psyche it left a huge dent

Before the bullying was the episode of Swami Vivekananda School

Where I was happy to last a mere week

Mocked for being a South Indian, different and meek

To Bambino Pre-school children as well, I was not ‘cool’

The last straw was being called ‘spastic’ in 8th standard

In an ICSE school with an eminently high standards

From then, I was always for the oppressed

Their voices being silenced left me depressed

Parents should never encourage bullying

Bullies as individuals, become mobs as a crowd

Bullying gets transformed into lynching

Another low blow for a patriarchal society ever loud

A sexist society that thrives on sensation

A martyr’s daughter calls out for peace

Receives rape threats from so-called protectors of the nation

Will hatred-fuelled nationalism ever cease?

A country ruled by a party that doesn’t respect minorities

A party whose spokesperson blames liberals for a terror attack

We liberals, standing up for those suffering in all calamities

Yet being questioned and mocked, upfront and behind our backs

Distant relatives with very different views add to the burden

As having to deal with Asperger’s Syndrome

You have to be a Roman in Rome

Even if Rome is not fair to all men and women

 

The myth of the great Aamchi Mumbai


“Aamchi Mumbai” inspires awe and brings forth opportunities

The Gateway , CST and Bandra-Worli Sea Link stand out as epic icons

More remarkable is the resurgence of  public in the face of calamities

In dark times, the clockwork precision of  Mumbai locals serving as a beacon

However, there lies a black hole in the Sun

In the underbelly of the locals lies chaos

Into animals turn men on the run

There goes sanity for a toss

The crowd from Ghatkopar to north running amok

Shoving their testosterone in your face

Thus is my intelligence questioned by a bloke

Abuses follow at a rapid pace

From my side comes a light barb in return

Provoking a strike from the beast facing me

A hit from anyone and I burn

Thus do I give it back like a buzzing honeybee

As in first class thrives the fight mentality

So in second class exists a right to steal

A year back Andheri station showed its stark reality

Swallowing my mobile phone for its meal

With megablock rush a safe Sunday is history

Death finally greeted my wallet with cash, cards and license

The thief in the Thane local remaining a mystery

In my mind, the Mumbai myth shredded into nonsense

 

 

 

 

The enigma of the Half-Blood Prince: Part 4


This post concludes my blog on Severus Snape. To refresh yourselves, read the first 3 parts: https://ashwinkumar1989net.wordpress.com/2017/06/28/the-enigma-of-the-half-blood-prince-part-1/https://ashwinkumar1989net.wordpress.com/2017/07/01/the-enigma-of-the-half-blood-prince-part-2/ and https://ashwinkumar1989net.wordpress.com/2017/07/02/the-enigma-of-the-half-blood-prince-part-3/. Something that I had not covered in the earlier parts was Snape’s complicated relationship with Dumbledore. To start with, it was Dumbledore who gave Snape a second chance; after he became a Death Eater and then had a change of heart. When Snape wanted to die after his beloved Lily’s death, Dumbledore gave him a way out and brought direction in his life(albeit a dangerous one) – as a spy for the Order of the Phoenix, protecting the son of the woman he loved and lost; and as a Potions professor (his core area of expertise) at Hogwarts. Dumbledore also vouched for Snape in the Wizengamot (wizarding court) and ensured that he was not sent to Azkaban for being a Death Eater.

However, there are a certain grey areas as far as Dumbledore is concerned. Towards the end of Book 1, Harry asked Dumbledore why Snape saved his life if he hated him; and Dumbledore replied that Snape and Harry’s father were not unlike Harry and Draco Malfoy – and then James Potter did something that Snape could never forgive – saving his life! Dumbledore went on to say that Snape hated being in the debt of James; so he saved Harry’s life – then he could go back to hating his father’s memory in peace! On re-reading the book, I felt it was not the right thing for Dumbledore to say to 11-year old Harry; especially when he was lying in the hospital wing after a life-threatening encounter with Voldemort (even after having been reduced to a mere shadow of his former self) at such a young age. I understand Dumbledore could not reveal the truth about Snape’s feelings towards Harry’s mother; but he could just have said that Snape was a professor of the school and would not bring his personal issues in the way of protecting a student!

What Dumbledore said only increased the hatred that young Harry already had towards Snape, thus increasing the animosity between the two people and giving Snape an excuse to torment Harry further during his classes. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. In the chapter ‘Prince’s Tale’ of Book 7, Dumbledore made the ‘big reveal’ to Snape – Harry has to die; only then Voldemort can be killed. Snape was rightly shocked – all these years he was supposed to keep Lily Potter’s son safe, and now the boy has to die! Dumbledore coolly replied “Don’t be shocked, Severus. How many women and children have you watched die?” He was probably referring to Snape’s early days as a Death Eater. Snape’s reply touched my heart “Lately, only those I could not save”. A remarkable change from Snape – from a Death Eater to one concerned about other saving lives.

Snape’s next statement shocked me, but it was probably what many of us wanted to say “You’ve been raising him as a pig for slaughter”. Truly that was what Dumbledore had being doing, even if he was doing it “for the greater good”! No wonder the famous look of triumph in his eyes (towards the end of Book 4) when Harry told him that Voldemort had taken his blood and then could touch him without hurting himself. By then Dumbledore would have surely known that Harry was a Horcrux (unless he had known it much earlier, which is very much possible!), and Voldemort having Harry’s mother’s protection in his veins(by taking Harry’s blood) meant that both of them would live unless Harry sacrificed himself. Moreover, as Dumbledore told Harry towards the end of Book 5; he knew that he was condemning Harry to ten dark and difficult years when he laid him on the Dursleys’ doorstep. He knew exactly how bad the Dursleys would be, and in spite of it placed baby Harry in their care; as he wanted to prepare him for the challenges ahead – including fighting Voldemort!

Coming back to the conversation with Snape, Dumbledore then said “But this is touching, Severus. Are you really telling me that you’ve  grown to care for the boy?” Then Snape famously revealed the Doe Patronus of his – proof of his ever lasting love for a woman long gone, moving Dumbledore (and many of us readers!) to tears.Then the famous two sentences – revered by us Harry Potter fans all over the globe – Dumbledore: “After all this time? ” Snape: “Always.” Love or hate Snape, you can’t help but admire such everlasting unrequited love in a person. And such a cruel end this person had to meet in the end, at the hands of Voldemort’s snake! Clearly Snape was not expecting this to happen – he was white with shock when Voldemort made his shocking intentions(to kill him for the sake of the Elder Wand) known. This chapter came before the ‘Prince’s Tale’- so I had not started liking Snape yet; yet his reaction made my spine chill to the core.

Even Harry, who hated Snape; could feel nothing but shock for the reason why Voldemort killed Snape, and the way in which he did it. What was worse was the fact that Dumbledore never revealed this to Snape – that Voldemort would come after him for the Elder Wand. Moreover, Snape was supposed to tell Harry that he was supposed to die; but it was due to sheer luck that he managed to give Harry his memories before dying – Harry, seeing Voldemort through his mind; came to the Shrieking Shack where Voldemort and Snape were present. Had Harry not come to that place, Snape might have died without giving Harry that crucial information! Snape pleading Voldemort (without revealing his true intentions) to go and bring Harry Potter to him, tugged at my heart strings; when I re-read the book. More than Voldemort’s  maniacal cruelty, it was Dumbledore’s not telling Snape how to give this information to Harry; that bothered me the most. Snape earlier even asked McGonagall if he could see Harry, prompting her to duel him!

In effect, Dumbledore had used Snape as a pawn in the larger game; as much as he had used Harry. I am not saying Dumbledore was bad, but he was certainly manipulative – he wanted to win the war against Voldemort by losing as less lives as possible; but it meant playing with the minds and hearts of certain individuals. Coming back to Snape, as I have said before; he was a brilliant character – the most interesting character in the whole series. He certainly did many bad things, but redeemed himself through his unflinching love for a woman he was never going to get – and putting himself in danger as a spy to protect her son; ultimately sacrificing himself in the war against the most evil wizard ever. However, he bullied Harry, Hermione and Neville in class – which may not seem a big deal in the bigger picture but were certainly inexcusable. Thus, he was a complex character – love or hate him, you can’t help but respect him.

I think it would be too much to say that Snape would have been a better lover of Lily than James, or a better father of Harry (as seen in many fanfictions). Snape’s love was obsessive and one-sided; as though he loved Lily enough to protect her son – his love was a bit selfish; as seen in his treatment of Harry. At the same time, I wouldn’t go to the other extreme and say that Snape’s love was creepy – after all (as I have mentioned earlier), he was a person who probably didn’t know about the rights and wrongs of love, having been raised by parents (including an abusive father) who were too busy fighting each other to really care for him. I am really happy that Harry finally saw the good in Snape, and gave him the best tribute possible – naming his youngest son after him. With this, I think it’s time to end my musings on the Half-Blood Prince 😉 .

The enigma of the Half-Blood Prince: Part 3


This is the third part of my monologue on Severus Snape, continuing from https://ashwinkumar1989net.wordpress.com/2017/07/01/the-enigma-of-the-half-blood-prince-part-2/, and starting from https://ashwinkumar1989net.wordpress.com/2017/06/28/the-enigma-of-the-half-blood-prince-part-1/. Snape was an expert Potions Master, and excellent in Defence against the Dark Arts as well. However, he was not an ideal teacher. He was very openly biased towards his own house (Slytherin) and generally gave the Gryffindors a hard time – in particular Harry, Hermione and Neville. Of course, it could be argued that Snape had to show bias towards Slytherin; being a double agent – so as to protect his cover as a spy within the Death Eaters. However, there was more to it than that – particularly when it came to Harry, Hermione and Neville.

It was no secret that Snape hated Harry, because he looked so much like his father – James Potter, Snape’s tormentor back in the old days. However, as Dumbledore said (towards the end of Book 7); Harry’s character was more like that of his mother Lily; whom Snape loved more than anything in the world. As many of us fans have deduced, since Harry had his mother’s eyes; having to look at Harry everyday reminded Snape of his long lost love – and probably brought a sense of shame, guilt and regret. Thus, Snape probably convinced himself that he was looking at a replica of the hated James Potter; when he was actually looking at a replica of his dear Lily. Hermione Granger, being a Muggle-born and a brilliant student; again probably reminded Snape of Lily. The prophecy which Voldemort so catastrophically interpreted; could have been about either Harry or Neville – Voldemort chose a half-blood like himself; instead of the pureblood Neville. Had Voldemort chosen Neville instead, Lily might have survived. Thus, Snape had yet another reminder of how different things could have been.

However, while it may all seem understandable; none of this can sufficiently excuse the way Snape treated each of these three students. Snape bullied Neville with such regularity that his Boggart became Snape in Book 3. Dear old Remus Lupin, I love him for this – he was able to bring courage out of the till-then timid Neville and in such an adorably funny way – with Neville eventually transforming the Boggart to Snape wearing his grandmother’s vulture-stuffed dress and handbag! Sadly and predictably, after this reached Snape’s ears; he bullied Neville worse than ever. In Book 4, when Draco Malfoy provoked Harry into a duel in the corridor outside Snape’s dungeons; both their spells richocheted off each other, with Harry’s spell hitting Goyle and Malfoy’s hitting Hermione. When Snape arrived on the scene, Goyle’s face was covered in fungi; so Snape rightly asked him to go to the hospital wing.

However, the same treatment was not shown to Hermione; whose teeth had been enlarged so grotesquely that they had grown past her collar! Snape simply said “I see no difference”; prompting Hermione to burst in tears and storm towards the hospital wing. Making a student cry through your double standards is one of the cruellest things you can do as a teacher. In Book 5, Snape’s Occlumency lessons with Harry were indeed a fiasco; as described by Dumbledore at the start of Book 6. Here, my grouse with Snape is not the result of the lessons – it was always going to be difficult for a person like Harry to master Occlumency, given that he always wore his heart on his sleeve and was very open in sharing his feelings and emotions; and Occlumency requires you to be secretive about these things. However, Snape relished in needling Harry about some of his most humiliating memories – like Marge’s dog Ripper chasing him up a tree.  Worst of all, though Harry  had no right to sneak into Snape’s memories; Snape’s reaction – physically throwing Harry out of his class and trying to pelt him with a jar of cockroaches – was violent in the extreme.

In Book 6, Harry was undoubtedly wrong in using the Sectumsempra curse against Draco Malfoy (even in self-defense) without knowing what it did, as well as lying about where he got the curse from – but it is not the detentions that Snape gave him (causing him to miss the final and all-important Quidditch match of the season, that too being a captain) which bother me – McGonagall agreed with Snape on the severity of his punishment; so might have done the same had she got the opportunity. Snape, being a powerful Legilimens; would have undoubtedly known that Harry was dating Ginny – these detentions cut into the time he would have been spending with Ginny instead. Again, it is not the detentions themselves that I have an issue with – the issue is that Snape subtly ridiculed Harry during these detentions, commenting on “the weather and the varied opportunities it offered”. This makes it look like Snape was purposely detaining Harry, to deny him time with his girlfriend.

Again, something that many of us fans have extrapolated – Ginny, being a redhead and feisty in nature; reminded Snape of Lily. Harry and Ginny being together was like James and Lily all over again. Thus, we can deduce that Snape yet again found a way to release his frustration over his broken relationship with his long-lost love. This is terribly immature and selfish; and doesn’t reflect well on a senior professor and member of an organization fighting the Dark forces. Also, none of this has anything to do with Snape’s cover as a spy within the Death Eaters. With Harry having a direct connection to Voldemort’s mind because of his being a Horcrux (which Snape, though was not aware of), it could be argued that Snape being kind to Harry might have risked Voldemort suspecting his true loyalties. However, the same cannot be said about Snape’s treatment of Neville and Hermione; which was more or less out of spite.

Between all this, I have missed out Snape’s madness towards the end of Book 3. He was utterly deranged, and wanted to drag both Sirius Black and Lupin to suffer the Dementor’s Kiss – which is worse than death, as your soul is sucked out from your body! Thank Merlin that Harry, Ron and Hermione ended up knocking him out ! At that time, apart from Lupin; noone knew that Sirius was innocent – that it was Wormtail who actually betrayed Harry’s parents to Voldemort and sent them to their death. So, it could be argued that Snape’s lunacy and vengeant frame of mind was due to the urge to punish the betrayer of his beloved Lily (which almost everyone believed to be Sirius). Even then, why did he want Lupin as well to suffer such a horrific fate; even in the heat of the moment? Agreed, Snape was simply not in the right state of mind at that time; but this vindictive insanity reflects a moral compass spinning wildly out of control!

Let me make it clear that I do not hate, or even dislike Snape. I find him a fascinating character and a character that manages to redeem himself in the end for every wrong he has done. But he is such a complex character – that I am forced to discuss many of his wrongs, along with his rights. The final (and this time, I really mean final ! 😉 ) part will include the relationship between Snape and Dumbledore; as well as a summary of his character on the whole. Hope you are enjoying it so far! Comments are most welcome!

The enigma of the Half-Blood Prince: Part 2


Please read Part 1 here https://ashwinkumar1989net.wordpress.com/2017/06/28/the-enigma-of-the-half-blood-prince-part-1/, to get a better understanding of my monologue about Severus Snape. So, Snape was a thoroughly complicated character; in my opinion the best character in the series – not according to the moral compass, but in the way he was structured and built up right till the grand surprise at the end. JK Rowling did an amazing job in providing clues here and there (like the Foe Glass reflecting Snape towards the end of Book 4, the Pensieve scene in Book 5 where Lily defends Snape from Potter and Black); at the same time threw a red herring – the conversation between Snape and Bellatrix at the start of Book 6; to try and make us believe that Snape may not be a good guy. Towards the end of Book 6, we got a clue about why Snape had a change of heart after becoming a Death Eater – the way in which the Prophecy was interpreted by Voldemort. By having Dumbledore killed by Snape, Rowling again turned the tables; by making many of us believe that Snape may be a villain. Kudos to her writing(which in my opinion deserves a Nobel Prize) that kept us at the edge of our seats right to the end!

Snape was ultimately on the ‘right’ side in the end, though that doesn’t absolve him from blame for the wrong things he has done. IMHO Petunia was not a likeable character even as a young girl, but I feel Snape was cruel in making that branch fall on her;just because she mocked him. True, he didn’t have good parents(including an abusive father); but I wouldn’t want to physically hurt the sister of a girl whom I like. At Hogwarts, Snape was sorted in Slytherin and gradually fell into bad company of people like Lucius Malfoy, Mulciber, Avery etc. who ultimately turned out to be Death Eaters. However, Lily was the only true friend he had – she eventually made it clear to him that she was not happy with his hanging out with people like Avery,Mulciber etc.; because of their performing acts of Dark Magic. However, Snape countered that by pointing out Potter and Black’s gang’s trouble-making acts; truth be told – which were really bad(they were bullies) but they never indulged in Dark Magic.

However, there was one act of the gang which went too far – Sirius Black leading Snape into a trap in the Shrieking Shack by telling him how to get past the Whomping Willow. Had James Potter not had the sense and courage to himself go in and pull Snape out, he would either have been killed or turned into another werewolf by Remus Lupin in his werewolf form. Of course, it was also true that James was in a way saving his own skin; because- had he not saved Snape, he and his gang would have been expelled from Hogwarts for sure. Nevertheless, credit needs to be given to James for risking his own life in order to save his enemy. Coming to the scene in the Pensieve in Book 5, Lily defended Snape; when he was being bullied and humiliated in the worst  way possible by the Marauders – only to be insulted in the worst way possible: “Mudblood”.

Lily didn’t cut Snape off as a friend only because of his calling her Mudblood, she did it because it was the last straw as far as Snape’s hanging out with to-be-Death Eaters like Mulciber and Avery was concerned. She already had to defend Snape to her friends, who couldn’t understand why she even talked with him. We need to understand that Lily as a Muggle-born was in a vulnerable position – being friends with a Slytherin who associated himself with Dark Magic loving and Muggle-hating people. As some fans have pointed out, it is like a black girl being friends with a white guy who is part of a gang of black-hating white supremacists. Also, Snape calling Lily a Mudblood was like a white guy calling his black friend a “nigger”. It is the worst sort of insult imaginable, especially if it is done in public.

So, merely for Snape to apologize profusely to Lily was not enough to obtain her forgiveness. He should have stopped hanging out with his Death Eater buddies – but it was too much to ask of him, as he had an unfortunate infatuation with the Dark Arts right from the beginning. It could also be that, with the combination of being bullied by the Gryffindors and having an abusive Muggle father; he was pushed into the Dark Arts, with Slytherin at that time having a bad reputation for it. Even then, you will rarely get a friend like Lily – a Gryffindor (and that too a Muggle-born Gryffindor) being friends with a Slytherin was even more unthinkable in those days. Snape was in love with Lily – was changing sides too difficult for a girl he loved? He certainly could have taken her advice and stopped being close with the Death Eater gang.

By the time he recognized his mistake(as a Death Eater), it was almost too late. Of course, had James and Lily not changed the Secret-Keeper at the last minute (from Sirius to Wormtail); they still could have been safe. Dumbledore even offered himself as a Secret-Keeper. It is also revealing, by the way; that Snape asked Voldemort to spare Lily; but not James or her son Harry. So Dumbledore was rightly disgusted, though it could also have been that Snape did not want to risk Voldemort’s anger (or suspicion of his loyalty changing) by asking him to spare James and Harry as well. Nevertheless, it was gut-wrenching that Snape wanted to die after Lily’s death, and equally touching that he asked Dumbledore never to reveal his love for Lily; after he agreed to become a spy and protect Harry.

So, Snape’s love for Lily was powerful enough for it not to die along with her death. Was it obsessive? Yes, certainly. Was it creepy (as quite a few fans have said?) I would say no – I feel they are saying it based on what they have seen in the movie “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2” showing Snape holding a dead Lily. There is no evidence of such a scene in any of the books. Moreover, I felt Snape was raised in such a manner that he did not truly understand love – so he certainly would never have understood the rights and wrongs involved in love. Given all that, it was great that he risked his life so often as a spy, just for love. However, his treatment of Harry in school was certainy wrong – I will be coming to that (as well as Dumbledore’s  complicated relationship with Snape) in Part 3 – sorry to stretch it further for you, but I feel it will be less boring that way ;).

The enigma of the Half-Blood Prince: Part 1


Firstly, let us take a moment to celebrate 20 years since the first copy of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” was released in the UK. To call it just a “series of fantasy books” would be a collossal understatement. Joanne Rowling took us to a new world; full of love and hatred, good and evil, happiness and sorrow, greed and moderation, pride and humility – all in equal measure. It was not just magic in the sense of wands, potions and broomsticks – it was really a magical journey through a world as real as ours – the way good ultimately triumphs over evil after a long, dangerous and energy-sapping struggle, and there are many prejudices and stereotypes – some of which remain, but others challenged in a manner that is heart-rending. Secondly [DISCLAIMER] I am making it clear that I own none of the characters(whom I am going to discuss about) or their story lines – everything belongs to the Goddess JK Rowling. Lastly [SPOILER ALERT] if you have not read all the seven books, please read them before coming to this blog.

As those of you who have read the books would know, the character in question is Professor Severus Snape – probably the most controversial character in the franchise. One of the most mourned deaths in the series, he seems to have an almost equal percentage of fangirls dying for his love and haters exaggerating his misdeeds to make him look evil. There are rational minds who acknowledge his good acts but feel he was a complete git on the whole; and others who consider him as a role model. To be frank, till I read “Deathly Hallows”; my view of Snape was one-dimensional – I considered him a villain, and believed he was telling the truth (rather than expertly playing the spy) to Bellatrix Lestrange in “The Half-Blood Prince” when she questions his loyalty to Voldemort – when he ‘killed’ Dumbledore, my combined sorrow and fury meant that I wanted him finished in the final book.

It’s funny isn’t it, that when you read a book through the perspective of one character; you feel what he feels, laugh, cry and rage and storm along with him; and assume things (whether rightly or wrongly) just as he does. In this case, reading the books through Harry’s perspective; it is easy to hate Snape – right from the first Potions lesson where he docks two points from Harry’s house for almost no reason, to the ‘ultimate betrayal’ when  he ‘murders’ the beloved Hogwarts Headmaster; who had put his trust in him. I overruled the valid arguments put forth by the rational me – he had saved Harry’s life from Quirrell’s curse in the first book, his face was reflected in the “Foe Glass” (which showed enemies – including Dumbledore and McGonagall) when Barty Crouch Jr. in the guise of Mad-Eye Moody was trying to kill Harry in the fourth book, and he again saved Harry’s (and others’) life from Death Eaters by alerting the Order of the Phoenix – when Harry and his friends went to the Ministry of Magic – in the fifth book.

For the irrational me, everything was overshadowed by the ‘killing’ of Dumbledore – it argued that all the good things done earlier were only to prove his loyalty to Dumbledore, being a double-agent. And how wrong I was! This quote by Horace Slughorn in Book 6 explains it all “When you’ve seen as much life as I have, you will not underestimate the obsessive power of love.” The chapter “The Prince’s Tale” in the final book shook the core of my beliefs and assumptions about Snape – the sight of a kid Snape wearing a black coat too large for him, and watching Lily Evans exhibit magic in such a graceful manner; then trying to show his appreciation for her ability as a witch – and getting misunderstood by the girl he fancied. The fragility and vulnerability of Snape in that situation was the very opposite of the Snape I have always known.

In book 5, we got a glimpse of teenage Snape in a scene where he is bullied by Harry’s father James Potter and Harry’s godfather Sirius Black in an atrocious manner – being suspended upside down and his private parts being revealed to all. We also got a glimpse of Snape’s troubled childhood – with his father shouting at his mother (cowering in fear). The final book was like bringing all the clues together and solving the jigsaw puzzle. Snape has a lonely childhood with parents fighting each other, sees a girl in his Muggle neighbourhood showing magical prowess, falls for her, they become friends, at school he gets sorted into Slytherin and is bullied by the most popular guys(Potter and Black) – so she is the only true friend he ever has. Then Snape is humiliated by the bullies, and when Lily comes to his rescue; his ego takes control and he insults her with the unforgivable abuse “Mudblood”, losing her as a friend forever.

Snape then joins the Death Eaters as he is already in bad company amongst the Slytherins, but also wants to take revenge against the bullying Gryffindors; he overhears the prophecy about Voldemort and reports it to his master – not realizing that the prophecy is about his beloved Lily’s baby;horrified, he has a change of heart and seeks Dumbledore’s protection – which proves futile as Lily and her family are betrayed by their Secret Keeper Wormtail. After Lily’s death, a distraught Snape wants to kill himself , but then Dumbledore cleverly uses Snape’s love for Lily to make him protect her son; as a spy for the Order of the Phoenix. Snape puts himself at considerable danger as a double agent just for his beloved woman’s son, though at school he gives Harry a torrid time just because Harry looks like his old tormentor James.

Dumbledore then gets cursed while putting on one of Voldemort’s Horcruxes that he mistakes to be a harmless ring, and so has to die within a year; arranges his death with Snape – who then becomes public enemy no.1 by killing Dumbledore. Snape then ingeniously helps Harry and his friends by placing the Gryffindor sword(used to destroy Horcruxes) under a lake in the forest and casting his doe Patronus(a reminder of his yet-unabated love for late Lily) to help Harry find the sword.  Snape, as Headmaster of Hogwarts(taken over by the Death Eaters); also keeps the Death Eaters in check at the school, ensuring that they don’t torture the students too much. However, Voldemort in his craze for the Elder Wand, murders Snape in cold-blood- his snake goring into Snape in a gruesome manner. Snape, before dying, imparts his memories to Harry (including the crucial one where Dumbledore informs Snape that Harry must die as he has a part of Voldemort’s soul in him); and sees Lily for one last time(in Harry who has his mother’s eyes).

Many years later, Harry recognizes Snape’s sacrifices for him and names his youngest son after him(Albus Severus Potter). Also, according to an interview by J K Rowling; Harry ensures that Snape has a portrait in the Headmasters’ office at Hogwarts(Snape originally didn’t have one as he abandoned his post during the Battle of Hogwarts).http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/harry-potter/11496100/harry-potter-revelations.html 

So, was Severus Snape a hero or villain? Was he a great lover or just a desperate man obsessed with love? Was he a good or bad person? Will provide my thoughts in Part 2.

Striving for more peace and less hate


Since the last few years the world has turned around

“Nationalism” and “right wing” are buzz words that sound

Far and wide; left, right and centre; in and out

Such that nobody is left in any doubt

Outside the circle of family and friends, there lies a complete chaos

Cries for peace are drowned out by a sickening applause

Driven by hatred, jingoism, power and servitude towards authority

For those wronged there is no pity

 

Whether in India, in USA or in UK; it is all the same

No one in the government is willing to take the blame

For various atrocities that happen in the name of nationalism

Love for the country has transformed into hatriotism

As George Bush said , “You’re either with us or against us”

If you question the society or authority, you will become “Hush Hush”!

The powers in question are greatly helped by a patriarchal society

For which only success, money and power matter; not humanity

 

In India, you have Anti-Romeo Squads, mob lynchings and countless rapes

In USA, you have a President who is misogynist, racist, homophobic, fascist and xenophobic on tape

While in action, ruining the lives and careers of countless immigrants

In UK, you have a narcissistic PM who considers lives of people affected by fire tragedies as unimportant

As an idealist I strive for more peace and less hate

A liberal mind questioning the society and authority will be my mate

Love, trust and unity will stand tall through thick and thin

Share your issue with those who matter, consign the others to the bin!

 

 

 

Pakistan snatch incredible victory from jaws of defeat


England, Bangladesh and India had booked their respective places in the semifinals of the ICC Champions Trophy 2017. The last league game between Sri Lanka and Pakistan yesterday at Cardiff (Wales) was to decide who would play England in the first semifinal tomorrow (again at Cardiff). It was a virtual quarterfinal, as the winners would advance to the semifinals and the losers would head home. And truly did it live up to the expectations of a quarterfinal!

I didn’t see the first half of the match as I came home from office only by around 7 pm. Pakistan won a good toss and inserted the Lankans in, hoping to make good use of the early swing and seam movement on offer. It was a cat-and-mouse game throughout, as whenever Sri Lanka got a good partnership going; Pakistan pegged them back with quick wickets. At one stage, SL skipper Angelo Mathews (39 off 54 balls) and opener-cum-wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella (73 off 86 balls) seemed to have put their team on course for a 270-280 total – at 161/3 in 31.1 overs. Here Pakistan effected a rapid collapse (4 wickets for 6 runs) through their strike fast bowlers Mohammad Amir (10-0-53-2) and Junaid Khan(10-3-40-3); and it looked like SL would be bowled out for less than 200. However, their lower order added valuable runs; largely through a partnership of 46 for the 8th wicket, before SL were finally bowled out for 236 in 49.2 overs.

A chase of 237 should not have troubled many teams on that wicket, but – knowing Pakistan, it ain’t over till the Fat Lady sings! Left-handed opener Fakhar Zaman started like a train, smashing boundaries at will to race to a half-century in only 34 balls. It was wonderful to watch, as his stroke-making propelled even the otherwise dour Azhar Ali to come down the track and smack a straight six; sending the ball out of the ground – it had to be replaced with a new one. The best part about Zaman’s innings was three cracking drives through the off-side in an over bowled by the dangerous Lasith Malinga (reportedly playing his last ICC tournament). SL were clearly rattled by this audacious innings, and it reflected in their fielding – quite a few misfields and an overthrow by wicketkeeper Dickwella costing two runs.

However, Pakistan’s delight was ephemeral – Zaman’s weakness against the short ball resulted in a catch on the boundary line, off the bowling of Nuwan Pradeep. It was 74/1 off 11.2 overs, and Pakistan had got the perfect start in pursuit of a middling total – a run-rate of over six. The new batsman Babar Azam soon got into his stride, but got carried away flicking the ball straight into the hands of Dhananjaya de Silva (again off the bowling of Pradeep); to leave Pakistan at 92/2 in 15.4 overs. Mohammad Hafeez then had a brain-fade, flicking the ball too early and getting a leading edge high in the air right into the waiting hands of Pradeep; off the bowling of Thisara Perera. It was 95/3 in 16.5 overs, and SL had brought themselves back into the game; just when things seemed to be slipping away.

Azhar Ali had looked solid till then(34 off 50 balls), but then he too perished to a superb rising delivery from Suranga Lakmal that had him fending to first slip. It was 110/4 in 19.2 overs, and Pakistan were choking (move over, SA! 😛 ). What they needed at this stage was consolidation, and a substantial partnership. The captain Sarfraz Ahmed strode out to join the under-achieving veteran Shoaib Malik, and the pair set about taking singles and ensuring that Pakistan did not go into a shell. However, disaster struck again as Malik gloved another catch to the keeper Dickwella; Malinga proving why he is such a feared bowler yet again. The wheels were starting to come off for Pakistan, at 131/5 in 24.5 overs. In strode Welsh-born Imad Wasim into the pressure cooker atmosphere of a tense run-chase in a knockout game.

He started off fluently with a boundary, but then edged Pradeep to Dickwella to leave the innings in tatters at 137/6 in 25.4 overs. Amidst all this madness, SL had taken the game by the scruff of the neck; once again through the ability of their bowlers to choke the opposition by applying relentless pressure. Over the course of the last one hour or so, I truly understood why people say it is so frustrating to be a supporter of Pakistan. A team that appears to be cruising to victory, suddenly gifts wickets on a platter to the opposition ; and that too after such a disciplined bowling performance earlier in the day! Enter debutant Fahim Ashraf, into a situation increasingly becoming bleak. He started well, going at more than a run-a-ball; with the support of his skipper at the other end. One six even started to stir hopes of a revival.

However, Fate dealt a cruel blow as Sarfraz played a drive that was deflected by bowler Perera on to stumps at the the non-striker’s end; and Ashraf’s bat was in the air for a few seconds as the bails were dislodged. 162/7 in 29.5 overs; and the end looked near. In came Mohammad Amir who had earlier starred with the ball. The required run-rate was well below 4 runs an over, but with just 3 wickets in hand; Sarfraz was running out of partners. I had lost all hope, and just wanted Pakistan to fight this through; no matter whether they won or lost. Thankfully, Amir proved an extremely sensible partner to his captain; as the two of them set about gathering the runs through singles – avoiding airy shots.

The crucial moment (rather, defining moment) then came at 184/7, when Malinga produced a well-disguised slower delivery that Sarfraz failed to read; and spooned a sitter to Thisara Perera – who, horror of horrors; dropped it! :O The commentators were shocked, wondering if he had dropped the match (of course he had! 😛 ). To make matters worse for the poor bowler, later Sarfraz pulled a short delivery again into the hands of Perera; who managed the palm the ball out of his hands once more! In all due respect, this was a more difficult chance; as Perera had to run for it and then dive – but nevertheless one that should have been taken at the international level! The SL fielding had fallen apart completely, as there was then a misfield which was more like a schoolboy error; allowing an easy single.

From here, there was no looking back for Pakistan. Sarfraz seemed to have gathered fresh resolve following the dropped catches, and Amir continued to support him brilliantly; even occasionally scoring boundaries in a manner that would have shamed the batsmen playing above him. The two of them milked the bowling even as SL gave up all hope and leaked runs like a dripping tap. When Sarfraz steered an upper cut off Malinga towards the boundary to score the winning runs, I jumped with joy. Pakistan had snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, in a manner only Pakistan can. What a fantastic rearguard captain’s knock by Sarfraz (61* off 79 balls), not to mention the fine and flawless support from Amir (28* off 43 balls) – to go with his disciplined spell earlier in the day.

Notwithstanding the dropped catches, it was one of the finest comebacks I have seen in an ICC ODI tournament. Malinga must be absolutely gutted, though. In (probably) his last ICC event, he has bowled his heart out and nearly sealed victory for his team in a knock-out game; only for the fielding to let him down so badly. SL will go home, their inexperience and inability to hold their nerve during a tight finish costing them dearly; but will take some positives from the superb run-chase against India. Pakistan, on the other hand; after such a nerve-wracking performance, will need to lift their game several notches in the semifinal – against an England side that is looking almost unstoppable at the moment. However, after the crushing loss to India; to have come so far (especially after almost blowing this match away) speaks volumes about their self-belief and strength of character – and that makes for highly compelling cricket, any day!

In stunning turnaround, Bangladesh knock New Zealand out


The ICC Champions Trophy 2017 (a mini World Cup), surprisingly held in England (given that the previous such tournament was also held there); had almost threatened to turn into a damp squib – with two matches being washed out due to rain, and terror attacks in London amidst poor security for the players. Then, two surprising results in Group B had brought the tournament back to life. On Wednesday, Pakistan; after restricting South Africa to 219/8, had reached 119/3 in 27 overs before rain ensured that further play would not be possible – they won by 19 runs as per the DLS method. On Thursday, Sri Lanka pulled off an astoundingly comfortable win over title holders India; chasing 322 (a Champions Trophy record) with 7 wickets and a few overs to spare. Yesterday, in Group A at Cardiff(Wales); Bangladesh made it a hat-trick of victories for the underdog, knocking New Zealand out of the tournament. And what a match it was!

I did not see the first part of the match as I came home from office by 19 25. New Zealand, on winning the toss and batting first; had reached a comfortable position of 201/3 in the 39th over – all set for a total of 300 or whereabouts. Then offspinner Mosaddek Hossain struck with 3 wickets, and NZ lost 5 wickets for 51 runs(including a spell of 4 wickets for 28 runs) and along with it the momentum – they finished on an imminently gettable total of 265/8. Once again, NZ’s over-dependence on their skipper Kane Williamson was exposed. Here he got 52 and before he got out the score was 152/2 in the 30th over. Apart from him only Ross Taylor made a substantial contribution(63); most of the rest got starts and failed to convert them. In the match against England, when Williamson got out for 87, NZ (chasing 312) collapsed from 158/2 to 223 all out. In the match against Australia, when Williamson got out for 100; NZ(batting first) collapsed from 254/3 to 291 all out in 45 overs – wasting an over(the match being reduced to 46 overs due to rain).

Anyway, coming back to this match; the way NZ started their defence of 265 – it looked like it would be more than enough. When I switched on the TV, Bangladesh were 12/3 in the 5th over! :O Bangladesh’s key player Tamim Iqbal had fallen for a duck; and right-arm pacer Tim Southee was on a roll, having taken all the 3 wickets to fall. This tournament had produced 2 successful 300+ run chases on batting belters(SL’s chase against India; and England’s chase in the very first match against Bangladesh). However, this match seemed to show the rewards of bowling with an upright seam position and making the ball swing both ways; as Southee and left-arm pacer Trent Boult were doing.  They were making the ball talk, and every delivery seemed like it could produce a wicket!

One of the best all-rounders in the game, southpaw Shakib-Al-Hasan was nervy at this juncture; hesitant to back-up at the non-striker’s end. Thus, singles could not be converted into twos; and the run-rate was climbing. Wicket – keeper Mushfiqur Rahman was holding fort, determined to weather this storm generated by the Kiwi pacemen. However, after striking a delightful boundary; he was castled by right-arm pacer Adam Milne – and Bangladesh were in tatters at 33/4 in the 12th over. At this point, it would have taken a very brave person to bet against NZ winning; as right-hand batsman Mahmudullah strode out to bat – a match-winner for Bangladesh but with a huge weight on his shoulders now. A target of 266 was looking like 320 now, with the Kiwi pacers on fire; supported by brilliant fielding (as expected of them) to ensure that the ball rarely crossed the infield.

However, the way Mahmudullah batted gave confidence to his partner. He rotated the strike well, making full use of the occasional loose deliveries to unleash a range of shots – especially on the onside and the leg-side. One shot that stood out was a powerful heave on the leg-side (off right-arm medium pacer Jimmy Neesham) for six. At that point, Bangladesh were 80-odd for 4; and the shot was a sign of a stirring fightback – the Bangladesh team members in the dressing room could feel it, the crowd(a disappointingly small one, but with a handful of Bangladeshis) could feel it; and the NZ team on the field could feel it as well. It sent out a message that the Tigers were prepared to fight from any situation, in order to win.

It was good old-fashioned attritional cricket by the left-and-right combination – rotating the strike, running the ones and twos hard; and scoring boundaries occasionally. As the partnership progressed, Shakib came onto his own – unfurling a range of boundaries; particularly crashing fours on the offside. You couldn’t really fault the NZ bowlers – they were disciplined for most part of the game, till the partnership crept past 150 – that was the time when errors started creeping in, with quite a few wides (including some that went past the boundary line) and short-pitched deliveries which the batsmen(Mahmudullah in particular) made full use of; to crash boundaries. The Kiwi fielding was superb as usual – there was not a single dropped catch that I could observe, though there were a few missed run-outs.

I was full of admiration for the determination and resilience shown by Shakib and Mahmudullah – they knew that there were not too many batsmen to follow after them; and so were determined to ensure that they would see it out to the finish. Kiwi captain Williamson brought the field in as Mahmudullah reached 98, in order to tempt the batsman into going for a big shot (and thus throwing his wicket away) to get his century. However, it was Shakib who pipped his partner to the post; getting his ton with an edged pull behind him that just cleared the ropes. Eventually though Shakib perished to a tired stroke, getting clean bowled as he tried to go for a slog (off Trent Boult) and missed the ball completely.

It was a superb innings – 114 of 115 balls with 11 fours and 1 six – one that rightfully got a standing ovation. The crowd and the Bangladesh team in the dressing room stood up to applaud the fine knock under pressure. What was even more heartening to see was the Kiwi players cheering him as he walked off the field. NZ are one of the top teams when it comes to sportsmanship, and it was no different yesterday. This partnership of 224 was a record – Bangladesh’s highest partnership in ODIs for any wicket – and what fitting circumstances for it to have come in!  The bowling hero for Bangladesh earlier, Mosaddek Hossain strode out to support Mahmudullah; as he marched towards yet another famous match-winning century – 102 off 107 balls, with 8 fours and 2 sixes.

Eventually, Bangladesh won with as many as 16 balls to spare; as Mosaddek nudged a  boundary square on the offside – to start the celebrations. It was wonderful to watch, as Mosaddek and Mahmudullah hugged each other; and the Bangladesh dressing room was delirious in delight. The presenter at the post-match ceremony said that both Mahmudullah and Shakib played superbly, “but unfortunately only one of you can get the Player of the Match award” 😉 – it was Shakib. I felt sorry for NZ – being knocked out in the first round of a major ICC event is not something that usually happens to them; but to be frank, as mentioned earlier – they have been too dependent on their skipper Williamson to get runs. Moreover, for me it was clear that yesterday Bangladesh was the team that wanted to win that much more. That’s what matters ultimately in cricket! 😉