Been busier than usual on other fronts, so reading and writing have been on a downward curve. Most of the professional writing I’ve done in the last few days has been patchwork-ish - hurriedly put together lists, little reportage pieces here and there - not the kind of stuff I put up here. Plus I’m feeling very lazy and it occurs to me that for once it might be interesting to spend a week or so just doing things without writing about them immediately afterwards. Hence decline in blogging.
Cinefan reminder: it started today, though for some reason the “opening film” is tomorrow evening. The schedule is up on the official site now, also downloadable in PDF format.
R.I.P. Syd Barrett. The man is at the centre of one of rock music’s greatest “what ifs”: what sort of a band would Pink Floyd have become if he had retained his sanity for even a few years more? It’s so pointless asking these questions, but it’s also such fun. Here's a fine profile from the Observer.
Also, a tip to anyone who’s ever been fanatical about cricket (or about any other sport. Or, I’m tempted to add, about anything): pick up Soumya Bhattacharya’s You Must Like Cricket? Memoirs of an Indian Cricket Fan. Very enjoyable book about three decades in the life of a cricket obsessive. (The sub-title is misleading: Bhattacharya isn’t just any “cricket fan”. He’s the sort who, when asked when his daughter was born, answers, “Um, well...the year India beat Australia after following on. Laxman’s double, you know.” Later, he interrupts the handycam filming of her first attempts at walking because of a rerun of a rerun of a minor landmark in a Tendulkar innings. He knows he’s too far gone, he’s aware that he’s been disappointed by the Indian team more often than not, but he can’t help it, and he doesn’t want to help it. This is obsession at its purest.)
What I most enjoyed about You Must Like Cricket? is how the writing style approximates the enthusiasm of a frenzied fan who can’t wait to share his opinions and experiences - Bhattacharya moves from one memory or anecdote to another, breaks the flow of a passage by putting in a lengthy observation in parentheses; and it works. The effect is that of the author sitting in front of you, relating stories, opinionating, gesticulating wildly, all without pausing for breath. This is very unselfconsciousness writing: whether he’s explaining how he simulated the sound of clapping and roaring inside a stadium when he was role-playing as a child, or recounting how he and his friends quietened a group of rowdy north Indians on a train by producing a radio while a match was on: “[it was like] those films in which explorers win over tribes by showing them colourful trinkets”. Or telling a woman at a party that he is more interested in the Indian team’s progress in South Africa than in the Gujarat riots.
Despite the freeflowing style, there is a cursory attempt at structure. Bhattacharya starts with his initiation into the game as a five-year-old living in England, watching Wadekar’s team humiliated in the summer of 1974 and bemused by his parents’ reactions to the Indian loss; then moves on to his growing years in the small town of Bankura, where radio commentary was the only avenue of entertainment; his first genuine hero G R Viswanath, who stirs in him the partisan protectiveness that most sports fans know only too well (he admits to being pleased by Gavaskar’s failures in the 1983 World Cup because everyone in his family preferred Gavaskar to Viswanath). And this is only the beginning of a long (and continuing) odyssey. “Cricket gives me a sense of time,” he writes, “I tend to think of every major event in my life in terms of something that happened on a cricket pitch...the truth is, it is the only way in which I can remember anything at all.”