Friday, December 11, 2009

To pull an absolute rabbit out of the hat...

After an exciting season for Liverpool, in which they won the champions league in Istanbul, they found themselves against a weak West Ham team in the FA cup finals the very next year.

Being in UK, I watched all the game in the pub the previous year. My first game was a blinder in which Steven Gerrard scored a screamer in the last minute that enabled Liverpool to qualify for the knock out phase. From there on, I watched every game Liverpool played, in the pub, and was quite thrilled to watch this particular game with all the fellow crazy Liverpool fans.

Everyone thought that Liverpool would run through West Ham quite easily. As usual, I ordered my Fosters’ and sat in the front of the giant screen. One had to enter the pub thirty minutes before the kick off to ensure a good seat. It worked fine for me as thirty minutes in the pub gets translated into two more pints of Fosters’.

The mood in the pub was electric as everyone with a pint of lager in their hands was cheering loudly. A few minutes after the kickoff, a goal came from the unlikeliest of sources; and under unlikeliest of the circumstances. Even though Liverpool center half Jamie Carragher scored a goal, the entire crowd in the stadium and in the pub were cursing him.

He scored in his own net, beating the keeper Reina quite skillfully!

“What a sucker!” on fan claimed after waiving his hand furiously.

Within the next ten minutes, Dean Ashton made a tremendous run down the left flank and unleashed a shot towards Reina. The shot, as harmless as anything could be, slipped past Reina’s hand, and went between his legs into the net. A very embarrassing moment for Reina on a cup final. The pub greeted the goal with stunning silence for a moment. No one could believe what they just witnessed. What everyone thought to be a piece-of-cake-final was turning out to be an absolute embarrassment.

“Should I leave or should I stay?” I was talking to myself. Angry fans were the most difficult to handle. They hug you when the team did well and when the team was not doing well, it could be danger.

But, Liverpool being Liverpool, everyone knew that they were capable of launching any kind of a comeback. I decided to stay on till the half time as everyone believed that the ghosts of champions league finals in Istanbul would come and haunt the hammers anytime. That ‘anytime’ occurred four minutes after the hammers’ second goal. Gerrard being Gerrard, a wonderful player of this era, made a pin point forty yard pass from the right flank to Cisse who was just on the edge of the penalty box. Cisse was brilliant enough to thread the ball before it even pitched, straight into the net. A truly magnificent goal. Wonderful presence of mind from Gerrard and a wonderful piece of execution from Cisse.

The crowd erupted. Everyone saw light at the end of the tunnel. The pub owner’s eyes lit up too as happy fans buy more lager!

As many more pints of lagers were drained into the tummies built with almost unlimited capacity, I decided to take the seat closest to the main exit of the pub. Just to play safe!

Liverpool went into the tunnel during the half time with a lot of hope. The fans were just riding on the hope as well. Every minute spent in the pub, every penny spent on the lager would give returns in the form of satisfaction-through-accomplishment only if Liverpool managed to pull out an out-of-the world performance in the second half.

“It could be another Istanbul” claimed one fan while draining this fourth lager in an hour. The fans were always as loyal and hopeful as this one. But, I was not sure whether they could pull this one off as the players were really struggling to play in the heat.

Ten minutes into the second half, as I was about to leave the pub, Steven Gerrard, the god of all saviors, scored a goal from the short range. It was a magnificent goal and suddenly, from nowhere, Liverpool was back in the game. I could barely hear what the commentators were saying as the crowd in the pub went crazy with joy – fueled by Gerrard and Fosters’.

“Another Istanbul. This should be a one way affair from now on” I thought. But, what do I know? Ten minutes later, Paul Konchesky tried to cross the ball from the left flank in a hope to find some hammer heads. Instead, he found the Liverpool net. What a day for hammers. They scored three against Liverpool, out of which one was own goal, the second was a crazy goalkeeper error and the third one was mere luck.

“Damn!” screamed one fan unable to witness what he was seeing

“These guys are fuckin’ lucky” screamed another.

"What is the point in screaming? Goals are goals. They were scored" I thought

“This should be another Istanbul” claimed the guy next to me as he drained his fifth pint.

“This guy must be crazy” I thought. Being a Liverpool fan myself, I knew they could come back, but I wasn’t sure whether the five pints he drained was taking there. If five pints were talking, then it was danger as five pints could kick my ass if Liverpool lost; as five pints never have sixth sense.

I ordered my third pint just to feel secured against the five pint guys. When I ordered my third pint, the five-pint guy ordered two more. Now I knew that I was totally out of the game. The only way out was to ensure swift escape route if in case!

At the end of ninety minutes, it was still 3-2 on West Ham’s favor. The players were almost dead of cramps due to sweltering heat. Gerrard started limping. It was a very bad sign. I stared to move near the door as I heard the stadium announcer announcing four added minutes.

The next thing I knew was Andy Gray shouting “GERRRRARRRRRDDDDDDDDD!!!!!!!!!!!

From 35 yards, Gerrard hit the ball which travelled like a tracer bullet giving no chance to the hammers’ goal keeper as the ball pierced into the bottom left corner of the net.

The roof of the pub was in serious danger of being blown away. The energy held within by all fans dissipated in perfect resonance. I could sense the vibrations from the floor but I was not sure whether the vibrations were caused by happy fans or by the three pints of lager. After ninety minutes of frustration, there was one moment to savor. The game was not won yet though, but Liverpool was level in the most emphatic fashion. Two great goals from Gerrard ensured extra time and then penalties.

During penalties, I was as close as possible to the exit as the game could swing either way. Gerrard scored his penalty kick and Reina was as brilliant as ever in saving penalties. Liverpool won the FA cup. In the process, they had developed a way to win titles. Half of the heart patients would have died across the globe before the end of this game. An absolute cliffhanger till the very last minute!

While I was heading back home, I was thinking about the captain of Liverpool football club. Whenever the team needed someone to stand up and be counted to pull an absolute rabbit out of the hat, he was always there!

What a player!

Click here to see the Gerrard screamer!

A catalyst to sleep...

“What do you need a room for?” asked the warden of my hostel. “All you are supposed to do is to study whenever you can and then sleep” he added.

In a way, he was right. The infrastructure of the room had everything required to study and to sleep. Precisely. And nothing else.

Three of us were placed in a room. The room had three study desks, three chairs, three wardrobes and three beds with cots. And that’s it. The room did not even have room for a leg of an additional chair. A small pathway was left to navigate towards the third bed and only through that we came to know the colour of the floor. The distance between my study desk and my bed was as small as four centimeters that I could jump out of my sleep to study. But the vice-versa worked tremendously well all the time!

Even though the size of the room was less than eight feet by eight feet, we had the luxury of a one and a half ton air conditioner unit and two ceiling fans. Three sides of the walls had no windows. Not even a small opening for an insect to come in. The fourth side was full of windows. When we tried to open the window, a swarm of flies would attack us. So, we always kept the windows closed with blinds firmly on.

With absolute darkness hitting the room, and with the comfort of one air conditioner and two ceiling fans giving a hill-station-like feeling, the smoothness of the comforter on the bed would always be inviting. So inviting that it was too good to resist all the time.

For anyone who had slept for twelve hours straight would feel compelled to sleep again in our room. No wonder I slept like a baby for most parts of my stay there. I had no idea what was happening to me during the initial days but I always felt like I was absolutely drunk when I resisted the cozy bed. My mind wouldn’t listen to anything I said except when I said “Now, can we go for sleep?” Eventually I’d succumb and go to sleep for hours together.

As I am one and a half times taller than the average Singaporean, the bed in my hostel was not made for people like me. My leg would always hang out of the bed. When I tried to pull it in, the head would butt out on the other side. Also, the comforter was never made for a six foot three person. Again, either my head or feet miss out. I tried various techniques such as sleeping diagonally or with a crossed leg. I even tied placing my chair at one end of my bed so that I could place my extending feet on it. Again, in the middle of the night, I’d unknowingly kick it away and would go back to normal. Also, I developed the habit of sleeping like a ‘S’ in such a way that my head would almost touch my thigh.

Everything I tried finally had a tremendous amount of pressure on my back. Whenever I woke up in the morning, I woke up with severe back pain.

The room had always been a tricky place. It could make even the most active person in the world sleep for twenty hours a day. It was a heaven for natural sleepers like me. But, the more I slept, the more troublesome it was for my back.

Finally, I decided to throw my bed a million miles away (from planet earth) and decided to sleep on the floor. Sleeping on the floor might seem ridiculous for many but hey!, my floor is more than six foot three inches long. Just enough for me to stretch my whole body. And that meant a lot to me. Especially when I hadn’t done that for three months straight.

I just couldn’t wait to sleep like the way everyone in the world sleeps. The first time I slept on the floor, I slept for fourteen hours straight. When I woke up, I was feeling strange; I was feeling strange because I was feeling very light on my back. For a change, I felt no pain.

“Is that how everyone wakes up every morning?” I wondered. Wouldn’t that be wonderful if I could experience this feeling day after day for days to come?

Now, I had the best bed in the entire hostel; no springs ; no length restrictions and when combined with the best environment that aids sleeping, no place in the world could beat this one. It just felt like heaven.

But the only feeling of guilt was due to the fact that I paid seventeen lakhs to stay in this lodge for one year!

Every drop of blood

At SP Jain, life is always on the fast track. You could find us on the wash room brushing our teeth rigorously ten minutes before the start of the first session at 9 O’clock in the morning, or you could find us running in the lobby thirty seconds before the start of the class. At the end of the session, we would take a quick lunch and get ready in time for the next two sessions of the day.

At the end of seemingly endless lectures, it was time to prepare for the next day. On any given day, or night, you could find all of us hanging out together, in the library, to complete the assignments, or prepare for the ‘surprise quiz’ or complete the pre-reading exercise. This would go on and on until sunrays hit the peak of the small hill on the Kent ridge park, near our campus. So, in short, SP Jain never sleeps!

Even though, our lives are always on the fast track day after day after day, today was special. We were still brushing in a hurry and were still running on the lobby in a hurry. But, this time, it was not to attend the classes on time. But, this time, we were up early for a noble cause. Donating blood.

Red Cross in Singapore and SP Jain jointly arranged for a blood donation camp in the campus today. Students registered with great pride and joy to donate blood. Assignments, projects, exams, surprise quizzes, and pre-reads took the back seat today as students flocked the leadership hall since early in the morning.
Overall 56 of us donated one unit of blood each by the end of the day. Every student was carrying the feeling of pride within them, when they walked out of the blood donation camp.

We are a team of students from different countries, speak different languages, follow different religions and cultures, but today all of us came forward to prove that even though we are from different culture, our blood is still the same; to prove that human life is precious than anything else.

Leadership club, which is one of many active clubs in SP Jain, played an active role throughout the day. More than ten volunteers from the club helped in screening students, recording body temperature and so on. Their work made the process swift, easy and comfortable.

At SP Jain, we always appreciate healthy life and we always believe that everyone in the world has a right to live. By donating blood, we are only helping people to exercise their own rights. We truly applaud all the students for taking their time off today and making this event a successful one.

Anyone who donated blood today didn’t know when it would be used; or who would use it; or how many lives it would save. All we know was, whatever we had done would save someone’s life sometime somewhere. When it happens, our pride and joy would be sky bound as every drop of our blood counts!