Tag Archives: Sports

Mountaineering With a Poetic Interlude

Poetry as Sanctuary – A column where we explore poetry as a means of expression for voices of the South Asian Diaspora.

(Featured Image: Lalit Kumar skydiving)

I am fascinated with adventure sports and I happen to like poetry. While adventure sports push us out of our comfort zone to experience the euphoria that lies beyond fear, poetry helps us to explore the world in a more vivid way.

Adventure sports provide personal growth and renewal through physical energy.

Poetry is a mental work-out, rejuvenating the soul to provide an enhanced capacity to experience all the beauty in this world.    

The famous mountaineer, Edmund Hillary said, “It’s not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.”

This rings true. When exerting oneself for any endurance sports like mountaineering or long-distance running, the first battle one fights is in his or her own mind. Despite the pain or fatigue, if one decides to press on, the physical challenges of distances or mountains are not impossible to be conquered. I feel that mental courage and fortitude can be easily cultivated by reading and writing positive/affirmative poetry that gives wings to your dreams, power to your vision, and courage to your mission. 

Reading and writing poetry has provided me with numerous hours of pure joy and the right ambience for self-contemplation. A poem can capture the most complex emotions and distill them down to few words that are pleasing to the auditory senses, apart from being appealing to the ‘thinking’ brain. I have been scribbling verses in English from my high school days. After spending more than a decade in the Bay Area and outside India, I find myself equally drawn to the inexorable charm of my mother tongue, Hindi.

During this ‘lockdown’ period, I found myself gorging upon the books and the writings of Hindi stalwarts. In the process, stumbled upon the beauty of Urdu ghazals and sensibilities (‘janib’). I was drawn towards the natural imagery and auditory pleasure of Urdu words, especially when reading or hearing ghazal and shayari. It seems that the Urdu language is meant for writing and reciting poetry. As an Indian / South Asian immigrant, perhaps I have found my sanctuary in reading, writing, and hearing Hindi/Urdu poetry after losing touch for almost a decade. English comes naturally to me, but I realized that poetry in other Indian languages leaves an equally profound impression on my mind. And this feeling snowballed into a love…

In a moment of creative burst, I find myself unwittingly scribbling in Hindi, like:

आरज़ू थी, ज़िंदगानी रहे 

जीएं तो शौक से। 

ज़िंदादिली मिली , हम बदले

अब जीएं तो बेखौफ्फ़ से। 

       – ललित

(Translated in English)

I used to wish, to live a life of luxury

I met my passion and I changed, 

Now I wish to live a life of fearlessness.

Perhaps, it has a tinge of my new-found passion for adventure sports, who can tell!

This love for both poetry and adventure found its outlet in a creative verse that I penned a couple of months back, called, ‘The Second Mountain.’ We all want to be successful and happen to get into the career rat race with the hope of reaching some mythic destination and we start climbing that mountain – probably for most of us, our first mountain. But when we get there, we don’t find happiness and fulfillment to the extent that we dreamed about. So we look for the second mountain, which is symbolic of climbing the mountain of a ‘Cause’ that is larger than the self, the irony is that until we get to the top of the first mountain, we usually don’t realize that.

Metaphorically speaking, while climbing the mountain was a calling for my ‘adventure seeking’ soul, penning down this idea in relation to finding my ‘Cause’ was a calling for my ‘poetry loving’ soul.

Image taken by Lalit Kumar

The Second Mountain

Driven, ambitious and passionate

He had ascended the mountain peak

Striving relentlessly, with a singular obsession

To climb, to strive and to reach to the top.

 

The panorama was striking from his vantage point

He felt like the conqueror who defeated all

The wave of happiness swept like the breeze,

Invincible he felt, superior he thought in his mind.

 

As the breeze calmed down, he felt an eerie silence

Loneliness gnawed at his heart, the emptiness echoed in his viscera.

What was the point of it all? He thought to himself

His singular achievement meant so little to others.

 

Contemplating to himself, he narrowed his gaze

And saw the second mountain across the valley.

And lo and behold, it was teeming with people all around

He hurriedly climbed down and trekked across the valley.

 

As he approached nearer, he saw people helping each other ascend the mountain

Together they climbed and took the tumble together, negotiating the sharp bents on the way

He soon realized, it’s not what you achieve individually

But joy is in how you give away your energy in the pursuit of affecting a positive change.

 

Joy is in helping, in giving, in supporting

The Cause that deeply moves you

And making it larger than

Just your individual self.

 

So climb the first mountain, if you must

To check your fitness on the way …

But remember, it’s the second mountain

Where your impact will pave the others’ way.

The language of poetry can touch one’s soul and spark a sense of creativity. I advocate for everyone to read and write poetry. You are invited to join the group called Poetry of Diaspora in Silicon Valley, which hosts a weekly poetry reading.


Lalit Kumar works in the Technology sector but retains an artist’s heart. He likes to read and write poetry, apart from indulging in adventure sports from time to time. Recently, he started curating famous works of poetry (and occasionally his own).

Cupertino: Field of Dreams For Young Cricketers

Cricket is a sport that hundreds and millions of people around the world play every single day. Several individuals and organizations have shaped cricket to bring it to where it is today. These organizations not only improve the cricketing conditions for current players, but they also play a paramount role in inspiring the youth.

The California Cricket Academy (CCA) has emerged as a unique organization in the Bay Area that promotes the dreams of young cricketers. CCA is also the first cricket academy and youth league for children from 6 to 17 years in the United States.

Recently the California Cricket Academy developed the first turf cricket field in the Bay Area. This is a huge milestone not only for CCA but also for cricket in America. The cricketing youth in America will now have a world-class facility to play the sport they love. 

As Leslie Mains of the Cupertino School District put it, This is a sport that is loved by many members of our community and such facilities allow youth (and others) an opportunity to learn about the game, receive coaching on fields designated for this purpose, and provide resources to the growing number of players in our community.” 

Every CCA player is over the moon and really optimistic to play on this newly developed cricket pitch. A right-handed fast bowler and right-handed batsman named Aarav Bhat said, “This new field is the road to accomplish my dreams.” 

New cricket field in Cupertino.

The new facility also delighted the coaches, who put all their time into helping youth improve their skills and teaching them the fundamentals behind the sport. Coach Tushar Arothe of CCA proclaimed, Our turf pitch has come up very good, never expected this sort of bounce on the pitch. If you ask me from a cricketer point of view – it’s true pitch, which means it’s good for batting and bowling.”

Additionally, a parent, Nosheen Taskeen had to say, “This pitch will carve the way for first-class cricketers in the future.” 

One specific person has worked extremely hard for the production of the new cricket field and that person is the President of CCA, Kinjal Buch. She said, We are extremely excited as we now have a proper cricket facility to host international youth teams from all over the world. We always had world-class coaches and now this facility fills the quality infrastructure gap.”

The Luther cricket field will remain a sign of strength for cricket in the United States and will motivate other cities to spread the positivity that is present in this beautiful game.

To contact CCA, email them at calcricket_academy@yahoo.com and visit facebook.com/calcricket for watching more action videos on the new field.


Waleed Siddiqui is a CCA Player and Lynbrook High Student.

Game Of The Gods: A Billion Dreams

What makes people take their life over a mere sport? Like the Kolkata man did over Dhoni’s run out, widely regarded as the pivotal moment in India’s dashed hopes of making it to the World Cup final. This sport has made grown men and women break down in ways completely unimaginable. The World Cup final proved that nice guys do not finish last. While England won, based on some archaic rule, underdogs New Zealand, won the hearts of anyone obsessed with this sport, which is often called the gentleman’s game. And in this final, it appeared the nicest boys in the game lost to the inventors and often the ones most vilified by Indians worldwide, thanks to our colonial past.
Sports, religion, culture and life. There seems to be no semblance of a difference, given the behavior of cricket teams on the pitch; like the laidback party vibes of the West Indies, a modern South Africa, emerging from the shadows of apartheid, not to speak of Pakistan and Bangladesh forever trying to assert their stamp over their proverbial father, India.
Meanwhile, India struggles with the worst hangover ever. A sport that is tailor made to the age old Indian values of guru-shishya, discipline, mindfulness, rigor, slogging without reward, and a deep defiance to the colonial sword of the British.
For every Indian kid taking up the willow, it is akin to brandishing a sword at their colonial former masters’ throats. Like a rebel call, any cricketer drawn from the subcontinent, male or female, looks at the game as a way to express themselves so they may each serve as a role model of taking down the bastion of British imperialism.
This is why the Indian diaspora, from US TO UK to India to Australia and New Zealand, descended in droves for the UK-hosted World Cup. We believed that we would be valiant. The finals, won by the hosts in a contentious contest and after dubious decision making, reminded us of our own nebulous and dysfunctional relationships with our families and loved ones. Pakistan and India – when it comes to cricket it is the closest we come to war. The many moments of cross border valor on the field have been highlighted amply on YouTube. It’s made legends of ordinary cricketers like Venkatesh Prasad and Gods of mortals like Yuvraj Singh and Sachin Tendulkar.
Sachin is God. Not because of his array of shots for every ball, but his grit, disciple, single minded devotion for the sport and his record against Pakistan. Sachin against any nation could have been equally heroic, but against Pakistan, he proved his mettle time and again. And that’s what the legends will retell. A 16 year old boy, bloodied by the fearsome twosome of Pakistan; Wasim and Waqar. How this little boy defied them, and took the feared Pakistani and subsequently other opposition players to the sword, has led to generations naming their young infants, Sachin.
Why do Indians relate to cricket at such a deep level? It is pretty obvious that we are a one sport nation. It’s because through cricket we have found a way to throw off the colonial shackles. To beat the inventors of the game that rampantly abused our emotions for three centuries. Every far flung six, or blow at 90 mph at their heads, is a reaffirmation of our masculinity. That’s why this puzzling game which depends on weather, statistics, skills, fitness and an assortment of colorful men endures. We don’t need more teams, we need more competitive teams. The game that led to nations wanting to destroy the inventors of the game on the field, has taken unprecedented proportions.
For every time a Mahendra Dhoni lifts  the cup, a  young boy (and now lass) realizes that the best revenge is to keep beating the English. In this most baffling, romantic, frustrating and tearful of sports, cricket for Indians isn’t just passion, it’s an obsession. The next time, India will host the World cup. And after the hoopla over the current champions, England dies down, Indians will be collectively bleeding blue. And screaming for the Cup that brought the entire British empire down, in a glorious heated Indian summer sunset.
Currently, Virat Kohli, the much tattooed and omnipotently talented batsman is leading millenial India’s charge into the dawn. His rebellious, foul mouthed, gladitorial beard and impeccable physique have not only inspired a generation of cricket fans, but inspired a clone army. The Give Blood or Bleed Blue army. A fitness icon, he has inspired a new India to go fearlessly after what is s yours, and sometimes even after what is not.  He is the direct descendent of Sourav Ganguly, the blue blooded Royal who made Gods of gifted but unsure youngsters. Under his tutelage, India witnessed the renaissance of cricket. Coinciding with the liberalization of India, a whole generation learnt to dream big. No dream was out of reach. And you could scream open lunged at the wide heavens while you brandished your shirt, naked torsoed and aggressive to the core, like a victory flag at Lord’s, like Sourav did. This openly victorious walk of Godly stature, and defiance, and the proof that yes, we could be the Gods on Earth, in something led to an open revolution.
From the cricket obsessed Google CEO Sunder Pichai to every actor who dreams of starring in the next cricket legends’s biopic, to the school boy and girl who know that their dream is just a stroke away. For this is the a game of Gods, played by and for romantics. For every heartbreaking win and every exhilarating shot out of the ground, a new generation is captivated by the imagination of the game. To know that you don’t have to be the fittest, the strongest, the most powerful. What you need is a stroke of luck, reasonable talent and timing, a vibrant personality and a screen presence. For when the lights go down, we need Gods to merge into our consciousness. They glance at the sun superstitiously, adjust their pads, tweak their helmets, but never lose sight of the fact that they’re still chasing down the glory of the British empire on behalf of each and every one of us!
Swinging Second to None

Swinging Second to None

SACHIN–A Billion Dreams.  Director: James Erskine.  Music: A. R. Rahman.  Marathi, Hindi and English with Eng sub-titles.  Theatrical release (200 NotOut Productions)
No matter how one approaches an entry like Sachin: A Billion Dreams, either as docu-biopic or nostalgia trip down sporting glory memories, one thing become abundantly clear. India can get as crazy about cricket as, say, Argentina or Brazil get about soccer, Americans about football, Canadians about ice hockey and Cubans about baseball. That is to say the entire nation goes completely gaga around major cricket events in the year. The other takeaway is that the story of Indian cricket, indeed the story of all cricket, cannot be complete without a chapter or two on Sachin Tendulkar, the Indian cricket king who, as outlined pretty well in Sachin: A Billion Dreams, elevated the sport and the nation along with him to new heights.Sachin: A Billion Dreams

Etched out as an origin story in the early going, Tendulkar’s middle-class Bombay upbringing is nicely reinforced with the story of his father Ramesh Tendulkar, a professor of Marathi, and his homemaker mother Rajni. Taken under the wing by older brother Ajit from Sachin’s early teens, the spark of raw talent showed promising potential. From a prodigy selected to play in a test match against Pakistan at a record-setting and astonishingly young age of sixteen to his courtship and eventual marriage to his wife Anjali, that part of the meteoric arc flows with ease. A portrait begins to coalesce; that of unassuming, modest by any measure, and surprisingly grounded personality more interested in keeping in touch with his close-knit family then with any scoring statistic.

As appealing as it is, Sachin: A Billion Dreams, in part because Erskine’s movie has Tendulkar’s early childhood events staged with actors to maintain narrative cohesion, goes lacking as a true documentary. The overall feel is that of Tendulkar sitting down to narrate his life-story and then news footage or play-acting getting inserted for dramatic flair. Sachin: A Billion Dreams falls somewhere between fictitiously made biopics of real-life sport starts (Mary Kom, Baag Milkha Baag, Paan Singh Tomar, Azhar, M. S. Dhoni: The Untold Story or even Dangal) and outside observers connecting lost footage or home movies, formal or scratchy-mike informal interview and press clippings. In Hollywood, Steve James’ Hoop Dreams (basketball) and Stacey Peralta’s Dogtown and Z Boys (skateboarding) sway in that direction.

Where Sachin: A Billion Dreams misses out takes away absolutely nothing from Tendulkar as a phenomenal cricketeer, second perhaps only to the legendary Australian batsman Don Bradman as the all-time greatest, who broke and still holds so many records in test matches.  The feeding frenzy Tendulkar inspired in Indian cricket —making him by the far the greatest sports figure in India’s history—resulted in a mass following where the entire country practically shut down when this great player was doing his magic on international cricket pitches in televised games.  The closest popular figure to compare to such mass adulation would arguably be the following that movie star Amitabh Bachchan—a megastar of a different kind —generated in his prime.

Tendulkar’s arrival on the big cricket stage more or less paralleled the unveiling of “New India” under Rajiv Gandhi as Prime Minister. For international satellite channels first pitching globally-linked broadcasting tents in India, Tendulkar’s ascent pretty much summed up the story of India.  A talented/outward looking, young/youthful, man/nation,   breaking out onto the world stage, to batting invincibility/as a budding regional superpower.  The sports star symbolized the nation as much as the nation idolized this star.

Sachin: A Billion Dreams is more than nostalgia dressing and more than the true story of a sporting figure’s achievements as a first-among-equals modern gladiator with kill ratios that count on non-lethal charts. Sachin: A Billion Dreams may be appealing to something deeper. This simple surefire legend of a grounded mortal, whose followers may readily believe that his feet don’t necessarily touch the ground, resonates today when there is a subliminal hunger for truth, when many news stories are suspect, the ground rules are being re-written and perhaps even the playing field is shifting.  Let Sachin: A Billion Dreams resonate.

EQ: A