Cutting the Chai has moved to a new domain: cuttingthechai.com.
You can get in touch with Soumyadip at www.soumyadip.com.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

What Hails Indian Cricket

Muslims in Indian CricketDoes the Sachar Committee report on the socio-economic status of Muslims in India look into the film industry and the Indian Cricket team? In both Bombay ruled for long, but like the city of Bombay both have astonishing tales to tell. Gulu Ezekiel (just learnt that his full name is Gul-Fraaz Mohan Ezekiel), in Hindustan Times, looks at the Muslim representation in the Indian Cricket team over the years and suggests, "Our politicians could well take a leaf out of Indian cricket’s history books rather than periodically condemning it."

"The newspaper’s headline the day after the Durban ODI: ‘Hindustan one-day team mein pehlee baar chaar Musalmaan ek saath.’ Yes, there is much wrong with Indian cricket. But while I have not done the necessary research in other sports, there is no doubt that cricket treats our minorities fairly."

[Click on the image for a full sized newspaper view]

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Monday, November 27, 2006

A Movie and a Martyr

Satyendra DubeyJust finished watching a documentary on (broadcast on NDTV 24X7) the man whose death familiarised the term 'whistleblower' to the Indian public. Today is the third anniversary of Satyendra Kumar Dubey's death.

The documentary - Satyendra Jayate - was very Doordarshanish and reminded me of diploma/degree films which half-baked students at media schools usually put together. Clich├ęd and uninspiring, the credits mention some Little Doc Productions. They might have been short of funding, but that's not an excuse. Creative innovation is possible on less than half a shoestring. Satyendra deserved better. The unrecognised Satyendras deserve better.

Watch the trailer (It's a little better than the complete documentary).

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Birds of the Same Feather

There might not be many left at Trafalgar Square (readers from London will know better). But Delhi still has a lot of them, my white T-shirts drying in the sun bear evidences of their existence and properly functioning digestive systems. Here are a few from Connaught Place.

Pigeons at Connaught Place, New Delhi

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Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Real Rubber Man

At Rs 80 a week, TIME magazine's prohibitively expensive. Considering I spend over five per cent of my take-home earning every month on printed matter, adding another Rs. 320 to the account seems unreasonable, given the fact that I end up reading less than a quarter of all that I buy. Therefore as a cost cutting exercise I make it a point to get only the special issues, usually from the Sunday market at Old Delhi's Daryaganj at a fraction of the price, or on busy weekends from the magazine stores, paying in full.

TIME Asia's 60th anniversary issue was a special one. Nehru and Gandhi on the cover would've attracted many like me (TIME often comes out with different covers for different readerships) and this one had four.

TIME Anniversary Special - 60 Years of Asian HeroesTIME Anniversary Special - 60 Years of Asian Heroes
TIME Anniversary Special - 60 Years of Asian HeroesTIME Anniversary Special - 60 Years of Asian Heroes

There were a total of 11 Indians in there if you expand the definition of Indianess to include The Dalai Lama and Freddie Mercury (Farrokh Bulsara). On second thoughts, make it a dozen, since Mohammed Ali Jinnah was an Indian citizen for almost all his life. Many of the Asian heroes were whom I knew well. Quite a few were discoveries. Some I had only heard of, but never read about.

In the first (and till date the only) bloggers' meet that I attended, Dhiraj addressed me as the 'Rubber Man' in recognition of the most read and linked (and by far the lengthiest) post on Cutting the Chai. But the real Rubber Man is (no, not Prabhu Deva) Mechai Viravaidya, also known as Thailand's 'Condom King.'

"Never afraid to challenge the status quo, he's a refreshing change in arenas too often concerned about consensus and not rocking the boat. Mechai, a longtime Senator and cabinet minister, has little patience for committee meetings - he's more at home leading a rural Thai community in a condom-blowing contest, handing out kitsch souvenirs promoting safe sex, or greeting guests at his Bangkok-based chain of restaurants, Cabbages and Condoms, where free condoms take the place of after-dinner mints. His brash, quirky style makes people laugh about sex - and has forced the topic of sexuality into the open."

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Das' Capital

[For so long I was under the impression that story tips (inclusive of background material) were meant for the mainstream media people. Today, post lunch, when I found an email in my inbox, I thought that it would the usual ones that I get in the course of my day job. But the sender's email read cnn.com. "Why would CNN send an email to me?" Then I figured that it was actually addressed to this blog and they wanted me to post about something on their website. This little blog of mine is getting noticed. Sort of a feel good feeling. The language of such mails do act as a good ego booster.

Anyway, I'm not posting this as an ego tonic. But because I stay in the Delhi, can't exactly say how much I can relate to it and because Nandita Das is one of the actresses that I like. I even had (still have) a poster of her's adorning one of the walls in my room back home.
]

Every city had a tale to tell; just the storyteller has to be good enough. Bigger cities like Delhi, Bombay and Calcutta have had more than their share. More not because all the stories that needed to be told have been told, but there are many cities and towns eagerly waiting for their chance. It is more likely for a resident of a larger city to know about the history of his/her city than an inhabitant of an 'insignificant' one.

Nandita Das at Delhi's Craft MuseumCNN's The Scene calls itself "The Insider's Guide to the World's Coolest Cities." At the last count there were 33 in all, including two of India's Bombay (Mumbai) and now Delhi. Filmmaker Yash Chopra did the honours for India's commercial and cinema capital and Nandita Das is now taking us on a Dilli Darshan. There's also a video, but that didn't play very well on my PC and ended abruptly.

Nandita Das' Delhi is "a city that sees all seasons." Well, except one. Rainy. The last four years that I've been in Delhi, I'm yet to see monsoon as it is described in the books. Maybe coming from rain infested Meghalaya makes the 'heavy showers' look like a trickle.

And there's the inevitable question. "How does Delhi compare to Mumbai?"

The answer is:

"It has a pace that’s not too frenetic, unlike Bombay. It’s not too crowded, it’s much more spacious and green because it can expand horizontally instead of just vertically. People are a little more laid back, and I think so am I. It kind of works with my pace of life. Of course in any city there are different worlds that exist, and the world that I belong to – primarily artists and people doing social work in the voluntary sector – there is a lot of space for that. It’s less commercial; it’s the DC of India."

Delhi, less commercial. I wouldn't say that.

Helpful and interesting is the insider's tips section. Even you can share your suggestions. Here are a few samples and I wouldn't contest these:
"Some cities are plagued with pigeons; Delhi's influx of sandwich-snatching rhesus monkeys rampage around the government areas of the city (and occasionally destroy top-secret documents in the process). Look out for the langurs (larger black apes) brought in to scare off their simian cousins."

"If you do go in winter, make the most of 'Dilli ki Sardi' - the famous cold of Delhi. Muffle up in warm clothes, imbibe some hot tea and enjoy the spicy Indian food, which tastes wonderful in the cold. If you go in summer and the heat gets too much, do as the locals do and escape underground to the air-conditioned metro."

"If the weather gets sticky, quench your thirst with jal jeera, a cumin-spiced Indian lemonade or, if you fancy a bit more of a kick, try a rum and Thums Up (Indian cola)."

Photo courtesy: CNN

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Isspecial Cutting Chai - November 2006

I have been staying away from home for the last five-and-a-half years (long time, and it passed by so fast). Of the many things that this experience has taught me, the most evident is my skills in the kitchen. I still remember the helpless expressions of my father and brother on seeing the concoction atop the dining table every time Ma was away from home and I took over the kitchen. You didn't need to know the recipe of what I had attempted to cook. Everything in their original form could be seen floating around in oily water. But I did always make good tea, or so people say (have to live up to the title of my blog). Nowadays when I go home, I get invited to cook.

All the cooking that I learnt was through trial and error; the errors to begin with, were many. I sympathise with my friends at the university and can now understand why they would ask me to wash the dishes instead. But I never used a recipe; I cooked the way I though was best, and still do. That rigidness in methodology might have my food a uniqueness, but that has also limited my repertoire. My taste buds are also getting tired of the same taste. Therefore thought of learning something new.

First thought that I would ask Ma for help, but then that would take away the surprise factor on my next visit home. Then I found another Bong Mom and her cookbook. Will take printouts of all her posts, do the necessary shopping and will give blogging a break for some serious cooking.

The eighth Isspecial Cutting Chai (November 2006) is offered to Sandeepa of Bong Mom's Cookbook for the simple reason that she herself put in the very first post, "I learnt one thing, Bengalis love to eat, feed others and cook..."

Bong Mom's Cookbook
Hope Sandeepa comes up with some recipes of Isspecial Chais. I'll take care of the cutting part.

Previous sipper: National Highway (October 2006)

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

A Page from the Past

The Hindustan Times November 18, 1978

The Hindustan Times November 18, 1978

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Friday, November 17, 2006

The Great Indian Ad Archive - II

Every time old friends form the old workplace gather together on a Saturday evening for a drink, I am always asked this question, "Have you changed your ringtone?" The answer, as usual is "No, it's my signature tune." It's been about two-and-a-half years since I got my present handset and the tune it sings to me to let me know that someone wants to speak to me hasn't yet changed. And I think it'll change only with a new handset, which I do not see happening anytime in the near future. Today's post on The Great Indian Ad Archive is on mobile ads. Not the phones (they'll come later), only the service providers.

[Click on images to view/download individual selected ads]

Idea logo1. Company/brand: Idea Cellular
Sector: Telecom (GSM mobile)
TVCs
* Link
Print ads
* Link
Comments: 9891..hmm..hm..hm.. How many times did you find yourself humming this tune? They promise that an Idea can change your life. I'm waiting.
Good collection of television and print campaigns. The print collection quite exhaustive but there are only nine TVCs and none of the latest (downloadable MPEGs).

Print

Idea Cellular print adIdea Cellular print ad
Idea Cellular print adIdea Cellular print ad

TVCs

Idea dialertone babyIdea ecotalk
Idea lifetimeIdea dialertone star


Airtel logo2. Company/brand: Airtel
Sector: Telecom (GSM mobile)
TVCs
* Link
Comments: The ads are directly downloadable (zipped avi files). The video quality is relatively high, therefore the file sizes are larger ranging from 6.5 to 10 MB. But there are only five ads. Airtel does have many more. There's the Shah Rukh as Jiju, offering chatoholic sis-in-law (why not saali?) easy recharge tips and AR Rehman composing the Airtel tune (they prefer to call it sound)

Airtel Shah Rukh Khan Jiju adAirtel AR Rehman


3. For Reliance Communication click here.

Hutch logo4. Company/brand: Hutch (Hutchison Essar)
Sector: Telecom (GSM mobile)
TVCs
* Link
Comments: Hutch undoubtedly has the best ads in the mobile business. Though Idea too has a few good ones and Tata Indicom is at the bottom, let's not even mention BSNL (where do they dump all that money? Send some this way, will give better returns). The Hutch dog also has jokes to his name. Someone told me what he was called, I forgot. Wonderful ads, must view and download (zipped good quality mpeg files). After all it's "You and I in this beautiful world."



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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Archived Title Image No. 9

This archived title image is of a couple driving in their vintage Fiat (Premier Padmini) at Connaught Place, New Delhi. Photographed October 1, 2006.

Durga Puja
The description of the present title image will be made available on its retirement.

<< Previous Title Image

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Cute Kali

Kali is the ferocious form of the mother goddess.

Kali is represented with perhaps the fiercest features amongst all the world's deities. She has four arms, with a sword in one hand and the head of a demon in another. The other two hands bless her worshippers, and say, "fear not"! She has two dead heads for her earrings, a string of skulls as necklace, and a girdle made of human hands as her clothing. Her tongue protrudes from her mouth, her eyes are red, and her face and breasts are sullied with blood. She stands with one foot on the thigh, and another on the chest of her husband, Shiva.

Sanjay Patel, an animator with Pixar has kept most of the elements intact in his Little Book of Hindu Deities, but at the same time came up with an image of the goddess which can only be expressed in one word - cute. A friend says she is Amul Butter Girl cute.

There are other 'cute' gods and goddesses in the book (I haven't seen the book, this impression is from what's there on the website), but the transformation of Kali beats them all. Have a look:

Cute Kali

There are two wallpapers available on the site for your desktop. One is Kali, the other is of Ganesha - the most artist friendly of the 330 million Hindu gods and goddesses (noticed that the media uses the unisex term, actor for both males and females in the acting profession. Does it apply for the deities too?). And thanks to Aquarianalien for pointing out the site.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Obstructive Newsgathering

Aaj Tak logoIt might be an aftereffect of what the television news media had been feeding me for so long, usually against my wishes. I normally avoid getting angry or more precisely, expressing my ire. But when obstructive stupidity gets out of hand I can barely contain myself. The same happened yesterday.

After a long day at work I boarded a bus, which the internet had told me a few hours ago was the maiden run of the Uttar Pradesh Transport Corporation operated Nodia-Delhi city bus service. Since not many were aware of that, the bus was relatively empty and I easily got a seat (though not a coveted window seat). "Good," I thought, "I'll reach Connaught Place early and comfortably to catch a connecting bus to a friend's place." Thanks to our dear obstructive media it was not to be.

The bus came to a halt near the Akshardham Temple (a perfect example of how much money some Indians can spare in the name of religion). Minutes ticked by and I couldn't make out anything as there was a crowd near the front door and I didn't want to stand up and have a look, lest I lose my seat (the bus was quite crowded by that time). More minutes went by and I asked someone at the front what was happening. I heard the words "Aaj Tak." I waited. The longest hand in my wrist watch took a few more rounds. I began to lose my patience and then the perpetrators came into the picture, for a few more bites from passengers inside the bus. A frail looking journalist wielding a microphone with Aaj Tak and sister-channel logos, accompanied by a somewhat lost looking cameraperson with a compact video camera (they might have the features, but size does matter for that professional look).

Now I could see the driver. I asked him to start the bus, as people were getting late. He responded in a warning tone, "TV waale hain (these are TV people)" "To kya? (So what)," I asked. "Yahan logon ko late ho raha hain (People are getting late here)." I could hear some voices in my support from the rear. She tried to dissuade without success the aggravated voices saying that it was a historic journey that we were undertaking and the people needed to know about this. "Don't stop the bus for that," I retorted. The reporter got offended and asked me not to interfere as she was doing her duty. At which the long-asleep idealistic trained journalist within me awoke and asserted the fact that I too knew what journalism was and what are the duties and more importantly the rights of journalists.

Journalists are immune to public anger, I know that. The two, visibly shaken, were still reluctant to disembark or let the bus ply. The driver was too dazzled by the media interest in his bus. Then I used the old trick that usually works in a city (and country) that runs on connections. A call to another journo pal making some threatening noises put the bus back in gear. The newsgatherers disappeared and I reached my destination. Late.

So long we only had VIP movements delaying citizens. Now we also have media activity. This reminds me of an old post

...there was a minor fire in a building opposite my office; OB vans with logos of news channels proudly emblazoned on the sides eat up the road space (otherwise a no parking zone), the first right over which belong to the fire tenders responding to the emergency. As I narrate this irresponsibility to my flatmate, he quips, "All new constructions will not only have to be disabled friendly, but also OB van friendly."


And on an entirely different note, Shillong, my hometown, added another laurel to her cap. This time it's a world record. Though I'm blogging about this late (and in fact I published this post last night even without completing it. Continuing from where I left), I would like to share the news. Here's The Shillong Times story:
Finally, Meghalaya drummed to the Guinness Book of World Records by assembling 7,951 drummers to break the previous record of largest drum ensemble.

Drummers from all over the North East assembled at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium at Polo Grounds here on Saturday afternoon with the initiative of Meghalaya Tourism Development Forum and broke the world record drumbeat earlier held by Po Leung Kuk from Hong Kong.

As per Guinness Book of World Records guidelines, the minimum duration for the drumbeat is five minutes with a rhythm. However, the drumbeat at Polo Grounds lasted for at least 20 minutes. Local musician Rudy Wahlang conducted the drumbeat with a tune.

The previous record holder is Po Leung who assembled 7,724 drummers in February 20, 2005 breaking the earlier record of 4374 drummers held by Grammy Award winner Mickey Hart in California in 2004. Indian tabla maestro Zakir Hussain had also performed together with Mickey Hart in the past.

The crowd gathered at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Saturday afternoon rejoiced after the adjudicator Michael Sean Whitty from Guinness Book of World Records announced that Meghalaya entered into the Book.

The largest drum ensemble has made Meghalaya, North East and the entire country proud, the organisers said.

The minor disappointment with the public was that they could not cross the 8,000 mark as was targetted originally.

The drumbeat was part of the one-week Autumn Festival organized by the MTDF, an organisation promoting tourism in Meghalaya.

Mr Whitty from Guinnes Book of World Records said that this was a great moment of joy for the people of India.

Michael said the drummers here fulfilled the criteria with a rhythm that lasted for more than five minutes with the participation of 7,951 people.

The expectations of the people were fulfilled and a world record is created. "This is a proud moment for all," said Michael.

It was after the hard work of at least three months that Meghalaya could make it to the Guinness Book of World Records.

The efforts of MTDF to create the world record were not free from criticism. Some critics had earlier pointed out that traditional drums should have been used for the drumbeat.

There was also vilification campaign by vested interests by way of distributing pamphlets, which said that the drumbeat was the act of devil.

However, the public has proved on Saturday that there are few takers of this mischievous campaign. Young and old including students participated in the heart warming show.

Though this is first time that Meghalaya as a whole is entering the world record in drumbeat, Meghalaya's James Syiemiong had entered into world record in two categories-by making world's highest heeled shoes and maximum number of cracks with joints of body parts.

The aim of MTDF in arranging the largest gathering of drummers was to make Shillong and North East a happening place, said Chairman of MTDF RG Lyngdoh who is also state Tourism Minister.

He urged the people to have positive mindset and tolerance so that there will be tourist flow to the state.



The BBC has a nice photo feature on the event (do read the accompanying text).

And there's an interesting shoemaker from Shillong who also holds a few records.

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Push-Ups Go Down Under

Czech model Eva Herzigova said "Hello boys," in that famous Wonderbra ad, a dozen years ago, and we all responded in a full throated "Hi!"

Wonderbra Ad - Eva Herzigova

The times they have changed. And the guys Downunder are focussing on, what else, the stuff down under.

Patriot undies

The briefs (Wonderjock) are named 'Patriot' and the product description on the website says:

Your country has never been prouder and neither have you! The new 'wondercup' technology in these attention-grabbing, all-cotton Patriot briefs will have you seriously looking bigger and feeling amazing.

Since the elastic band reads "Property of Australia," it cannot expect much of Indian orders, especially after the Pawar shove.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

A Little Hack

Many have been cursing Blogger Beta and many more are enjoying the experience. I fall in the latter category. Switching over to Beta had made the blogging experience more worthwhile, thanks to Ramani and his pals, who have consistently come up with improvements for Blogger Beta. I incorporated many to my template, though I did remove a few features on second thoughts.

Last night I was googling for a small hack, to replace the 'Email this post' icon - - with more communicative text. I knew about the hack for Classic Blogger templates, but couldn't find any for the Beta version. So thought of giving it a try myself. I do tweak my template HTML around, but nothing that is worth mentioning. Though this one would seem childish to the coders, I thought of sharing my find with other interested Beta bloggers. Here's the hack (don't know if it qualifies as one).

Changing the Email This Post icon on Blogger Beta

1. Go to 'Layout' on the Dashboard
2. Click on the 'Edit HTML' link
3. Look for this piece of code:

<!-- email post links -->
<b:if cond='data:post.emailPostUrl'>
<span class='item-action'>
<a expr:href='data:post.emailPostUrl' title='Email Post'>
<span class='email-post-icon'>&#160;</span>
</a>


4. Replace the fifth line (in red) with this:

<a expr:href='data:post.emailPostUrl' title='Email Post'>
&#160;Email this post


5. Retain &#160; preceding the inserted text for proper spacing. You can customise the text following that.

Save the template and you are done.

Remember to keep a backup of your older template, just in case things don't work out right.

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'For Activist Judges, Try India'

The Great Indian Middle Class having lost all hopes on the political fraternity and the bureaucracy is left with only a solitary succour – the judiciary and more particularly the Supreme Court. The courts can stick to their stand, which most often are for the better of the nation and they have been able to do it with consistency because they aren't directly accountable to the forces of populism.

This is often interpreted as activism, and the legislature is expectedly uncomfortable with the way the things are going and hence a bill proposing a National Judicial Council, which in turn will frame a 'ethics code' for the judges, is waiting for the Cabinet nod.

Things become more interesting if looked through a foreigner's eye, who doesn't have a direct stake or is impacted by what is happening. Time has this story by Simon Robinson (the title of this post is from the story)

If you think the US has a problem with activist judges, take a look at India - this country's judiciary is among the most opinionated and interventionist in the world. The Indian Supreme Court regularly wades into national debates; nudges lawmakers by making its opinions and, therefore, its possible future rulings, known; and criticizes government policies. The judges' contribution certainly adds a wonderful air of rowdiness to the public discourse of the world's biggest democracy, but it can sometimes seem that the Supreme Court, as much as the government, runs the country...

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Pictures on the Wall

I don't remember exactly where I got these from, but when Picasa discovered them for me on my hard disk last night I was pleasantly surprised. Maybe some of you have seen the photographs before (if you recollect where - a book, magazine, website - please pass on the info here). The initial photographs are a lot of fun. So let me play a little game.

Can you identify who this cuddly little six-month-old baby is?

[Click on the images for a bigger view]



Here are some more





And more











Not yet? Let me bring in some colour.



Okay, a cricket bat (If that helps).



This one should remove all doubts (The title of the post is also a big clue).



Here's he with his mother



And with his father



Those who are still lost, let me add to the confusion. Here's he (sixth from the left standing) with his hockey teammates.



I think that's enough. Rahul Sharad Dravid has grown up a lot, and has always been the quiet type (as the photos reveal) since his childhood. Always strived to reach for the heights (see third photo from the top). And he did. He might be at the helm of an underperforming team at the moment, but that doesn't take any credit away from his ability as a cricketer. He's been one of my favourites, even though he remains an unexpressive gentleman in the towers of triumph or the depths of defeat.

Many years ago, a cousin of mine came visiting. He was just over a year old and armed with a bladder that went off precisely at the time when there wasn't any diaper to guard the cushions against his wet assault. He was just beginning to talk, and I never heard him say 'Maa' or 'Baba,' as kids usually do. His tongue had a distinct liking for the name, "Daa-bid" and he jumped with excitement every time Rahul Dravid was visible on the television screen. Haven't met him ever since. Putting this post together reminded me of him and his infantile Dravid attraction. To you, perhaps the youngest ever Dravid fan.

Rahul Dravid photo

More bricks from the wall:

Rahul Dravid photo
With classmates

Rahul Dravid photo

Rahul Dravid photo
Athletic ability: School sports day

Rahul Dravid photo

Rahul Dravid photo

Rahul Dravid photo
With brother Vijay

Rahul Dravid photo
During his and his brother's thread ceremony

Rahul Dravid photo
Jammy with Sunny: With Sunil Gavaskar

Rahul Dravid photo
With fellow House Captains at St. Joseph's Boys High School, Bangalore

Rahul Dravid photo
South Zone Under 15 Cricket team (December 1986, Cuttack)

Rahul Dravid photo

Rahul Dravid photo

Rahul Dravid photo
Trophies galore

Rahul Dravid photo
On the field

Rahul Dravid photo
And off it (with the gear intact)

Rahul Dravid photo
With family

Rahul Dravid photo

Rahul Dravid photo

Rahul Dravid photo
With friends


With a python (it looks like one)


And as a Chinese

There were more photographs in that forgotten folder. But that's what you usually see in the papers whenever India is donning the blues to play in the greens.

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