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Book Review | IMPERFECT – SANJAY MANJREKAR

Overwhelmed and bogged down by a relentless barrage of opinions, reports, suggestions and claims flooding my social media time line – involving two unscrupulous and insensible Australian cricketers one of whom was plainly caught trying to produce some shocks out of his jocks – I decided to divert my attention to less tumultuous stuff and in pursuance of this endeavor, honed in on “Imperfect”, the autobiography of Sanjay Manjrekar. To be very honest, I did not nurse lofty expectations before commencing my read. But I was pleasantly as well as genuinely surprised. Prior to setting out my review of the book, a confession is in order. Sanjay Vijay Manjrekar was one of my favourite batsmen (much to the chagrin and amusement of my friends). His dour demeanour combined with an attitude of grit and gumption appealed to me. This preference of mine was, completely going against the grain when compared to the idols of my friends, who were stirred into action and excitement by say, the rampages of a Kapil Dev or the surreal exploits of a tender, albeit talented Tendulkar.

Manjrekar brings the same grit and gumption to bear in his autobiography as well. This a book that reverberates with candor and reeks of transparency. Whether it be a professional indiscretion or a personal misjudgment, Manjrekar neither spares punches nor preserves reputations. For a batsman whose defensive technique was one of the soundest and most prudent, his autobiography is akin to the racy fervor that is usually the preserve of the slog overs in a T20 setting! “Imperfect” (“the book”) begins with a no holds barred revelation of the relationship which Sanjay Manrekar had with his father, the late Vijay Manjrekar. Hailed by many (including Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi) as one of the finest batsmen to have wielded the willow for India, this formidable cricketer seems to have inculcated only fear, anguish and trauma in his son. The relationship between the Manjrekars seems to have been fraught by temper, tarnished by tantrums and marred by aloofness. To quote Sanjay, “I had no relationship with my father to speak of. The overpowering emotion that I felt towards him was fear. It is easy for me to say it now as a fifty-year old father of two, but as a child, an adolescent and a young adult I was terrified of my father. I have made peace with it for a long time now…. A disturbed, frustrated and angry man is what his three children had as a father.” Bold, powerful and distressing words to say the least. This passage epitomizes the thread that Sanjay weaves through the fabric of his memoir. The hallmark of this book lies in its honesty.

While Manjrekar does not dwell at length about his on field performances, even preferring not to gloat over a couple or more of his spectacular performances, he brooks no inhibitions while acknowledging his fallibilities. The two most riveting chapters in the book are the ones titled “Calypso” and “Pakistan”. While “Calypso” deals with the West Indian attitude to cricket both on and off the field, “Pakistan” sets out Manjrekar’s experience of playing his arch rivals and the attendant emotions. Extremely and extraordinarily lavish in his praise of the legendary Imran Khan, whom Sanjay considers his all-time great hero, Manjrekar describes how one of the greatest all-rounders to have graced the game, transformed a ragged bunch of inflated egos, rambling internecine rivalries and raging incompatibilities into a cohesive, world beating unit that won the World Cup in 1992. Manjrekar also bemoans the lack of a similarly capable and able leader who could have guided India to greater heights. In his characteristic manner, Manjrekar also recounts a hilarious incident involving Abdul Quadir and a spectator. During a practice session before a game in Pakistan, both the Indian and Pakistani teams were shell shocked and amused to see Abdul Quadir run full throttle behind a sprinting spectator. After a long winded chase, and timely assistance from the security guards, the fleeing spectator was brought to ground. Later on Sanjay Manjrekar learns that the unfortunate soul earned Quadir’s ire by pinching the latter’s bottom during the practice session! The incredulous incident involving the scuffle between then India Captain Krishnamachari Srikkanth and a demented spectator is also recounted in vivid detail.

Manjrekar courts controversy by recounting meaningless team meetings that lasted all of five minutes. A severely strained atmosphere in the Indian dressing room, a North-West divide which ensured cold war amongst players swearing allegiance to royalties and an attitude of condescension among the so-called seniors in their behavior with the junior staff ensured toxicity in the dressing room. “Everybody lived in their own bubble, looking after their own interests. I played for India at a time when the dressing-room atmosphere was not enjoyable at all. What I disliked most was the excessive respect that the seniors expected. The seniors from the north were all addressed as ‘paaji’. They didn’t prefer anything else and they liked it too –that people got up every time they walked in. This didn’t help team building at all…. Meetings were generally scratching the surface on tactics and strategy. The approach was never thorough. Often they would end in five minutes”.

Or consider this hilarious description of Azharuddin at meetings when he was captain of the team. “I found Mohammad Azharuddin’s team talks as captain quite funny. They were mumbling monologues. They sounded exactly like the old short-wave radio transistors. Like the sound waves on the radio, the volume of his voice would also go up and down. Those of us sitting away from him would try to catch and make sense of whatever we could hear.”

Manjrekar, to his great credit, also lays bare his fragilities as a cricketer and a person. On a high subsequent to a string of highly acclaimed performances against the West Indies and Pakistan, Manjrekar concedes that he developed an attitude that was cocksure, arrogant and bristling with overconfidence. His behavior towards peers, juniors and seniors alike left much to be desired and he cultivated a devil-may-care attitude. While this might not have directly led to his hubris, it sure contributed to accelerate his downfall from a batsman of great merit to an India Test discard. It is a monumental tribute to Sanjay Manjrekar that not only does he acknowledge his foibles but cheerfully goes on to dissect its consequences as well.

Sanjay Manjrekar might have fallen way short of fulfilling the grand expectations which a nation hoped for from one of its most solid batsmen, but when it comes to honesty and integrity he proves that he has left no stone unturned and he distinguishes himself admirably well. A bunch of Australian cricketers hanging their heads in shame right now after bringing shame and disrepute to the entire cricketing world would do well to pick up copies of “Imperfect” from the nearest bookshop. Not that it would help much….

Venkataraman Ganesan has a penchant for books, more books, still more books and lot more books (when not watching cricket that is!). He loves his Scotch and scribbles for fun. He does Transfer Pricing for a living. His rants and rambles may be accessed (at your own peril) at: www.the-venkyloquist.com

Note: The above is an un-edited review. The thoughts depicted are that of the reviewer and we are not responsible for the same.  

Note: The book title and cover are Amazon Affiliate links. If you buy the book using the link we get a small commission without any extra cost to you. Thank you. 

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“A prosetry on home” by Anamika Purohit

Metaphysical conceits have always intrigued me. Imagine the complexity of love being explained through something as commonplace as a pair of geometric compasses. Or, the nuances of sexual attraction being explored though a flea! What other literary technique offers the fascination derived from incongruous comparisons, reversal of scales, and shock-provoking arguments?

If metaphysical poets had taken it upon themselves to explain abstract, esoteric phenomenon such as death, love, loss, spirituality etc. by the use of logical arguments, then conceit was their most reliable tool. For example, John Donne in A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning (published in the early 17th Century) lucidly compares love, and companionship to a pair of compasses where the beloved is taken to be the fixed end and he, the lover/speaker, is the movable end. The speaker attempts to convince the beloved of his fidelity by explaining how both their souls emanate from the same source, almost like a pair of geometric compasses, which are joined at the top. Moreover, if one end is able to move, it is only because the other end keeps it stable. Hence, even though the speaker has to go away from his beloved, she will always be his starting point, his vantage point, which he shall eventually come back to.

Modern-day use of metaphysical conceits can be far more quirky, and interesting. If love and geometric compass were incongruous, then imagine love being compared to an onion in Carol Ann Duffy’s Valentine, a poem published in the second half of the 20th century.

When the idea of this post for the TSBC Blog came to my mind, I was in a process of shortlisting abstract concepts that one grapples with on a day-to-day basis. Love topped the list, but loss came a close second. And, it is the latter that I decided to explore through this post by using a technique that I have always admired as a reader.

Form: prose, or prosetry, as a friend rightly remarked about my creative vents

Conceit: a house, or home, if you will…

The End

I unlock the door to my home, and enter a house that’s not my own.

Ivory warmth, oh, my walls smelled of a glass of warm honey-milk. These walls reek of dull hospital bed-sheets, and gape blankly at me. I enter the kitchen to taste your loud, unselfconscious laughter even as you’d laugh over a silly joke shared by an aunt on the phone, and my tongue tastes the bittersweet tears rolling down my cheeks instead.

The untouched, yet dirty dishes in the sink remind me of hunger, of digestion, assimilation, life, and the world that must go on without the horribly milky, and utterly sweet tea that you’d clumsily make every evening. I will finally go back to my black tea with a dash of lemon, and the tea stained copper-bottom bowls won’t haunt me anymore. I enter the kitchen to look for all the tea-stained copper-bottom bowls, for I have to dispose of all of them. Funnily enough, I don’t find a single one, and the kitchen ceases to be.

The bedroom door is locked. I don’t look for a key. I knock at the door repeatedly. I know you’re in there, at the workstation, as always, and your lack of response fills me with hope. I push the door hard, and it opens into a void. A cloudy, moist void of floating ties, trousers, stoles, bags, and shoes, as if our bedroom is shedding its skin to renew itself. As if it will forget your smile, my nudge, the tip of your fingers on the laptop, the tip of my wet toes on the rug, the traces of your footsteps even as you walked out, the traces of my fingers buried deep into my pillow… Perhaps, it has forgotten, forgotten to lock itself firmly, as you’d have liked.

There is a workstation inside, but a neater one. I find the book on Management Marketing that you’d been telling me about only a week ago. You seem to have left it in the traces of my memory, for I can see the book floating. The rug is still here; partly wet, and I rush to pick it up only in order to smell in it your loud, irritated, shrill voice that you used each time I stepped on it with wet feet. The rug is perpetually wet here, in this house, in my memory.

I step outside the bedroom to look for our coffee table, where we’d enjoy endless rounds of horribly milky tea. I sit on one of the chairs with a mug of strong black tea, and the lemony tang reminds me of the last time we had fought, and the first time I realized that you could abuse too. Was it the last week? I had been pleasantly surprised, for you seemed all the more human all of a sudden. I loved them literary abuses that you used, but I can’t seem to remember any. This must have been a year ago, then. Or, a decade, perhaps? I gape at the sharp corners of the coffee table, but wasn’t our table a round one? And, the chairs? Why don’t they assume a colour? Why are they transparent? Why can’t I remember the colour precisely? Brown, timber, mahogany, or rosewood?  Why can’t I remember? Did we have a coffee table at all? I get up from the chair with a start, and feel the need to get out of this house, which is perhaps not even mine.

I lock the door, and surprisingly the key fits in once again. I close my eyes and walk away from the house into a void, afraid that the next time I might not even find my way back to my house. I am forgetting, and will forget. I will forget you, and move on to another house, another kitchen, another bedroom, and perhaps a square shaped coffee table. I wish I could hold on to you in the deep recesses of my memory, to our house, to us, forever, but I suppose this is what loss is all about. Unlocking a door in your mind, and entering a house that’s no longer home.


Anamika Purohit tweets from @OnlyAnamika has this to say:

It started with reading, and a certain fascination with words. The power of words to soil, to heal. This was my home, then, and my refuge, now. Other than such random musings, I find myself pursuing research, watching films, teaching undergrad students, listening to music, and simply wallowing in engaging thoughts & conversations…