Sport is actually about being idealistic. … You have to have a very long vision. You can’t think about four year cycles. – Subash Jayaraman
When December turned to the Bottle Month I wanted to blog about the Bottle Month. But no. Instead I stayed up nights watching New Zealand and Sri Lanka play ODI’s and test cricket and went to bed at dawn when the paper arrived at my door. Cricket. The whole works. Lost count of how many. This went on into February it felt like and then more cricket. You know the one. Pool stages. Forty-two matches. Fourteen cities in two countries, Australia and New Zealand and teams and fans crossing the sea; often as Russel Arnold cooed in your ear commentating. All was well in cricket heaven and even better on earth while most of North America slept. For those of us sinners across time zones, living in two time zones with the price for heaven being paid in lost sleep, another blog post postponed and before I knew it the pool stages of the cricket world cup have now come to an end. Alas I’ve yet to write the post about watching cricket with strangers in the Parkdale neighbourhood of Toronto two world cups ago. Did not get to that either. How to? Not when you spend your nights watching even more cricket. Delighted by minnows and associate teams and slowly falling in love with them. Well may be not slowly. Falling in love fast. Then the news the ordinary cricket world woke up to that in 2019 the CWC will have only ten teams and not fourteen. Essentially excluding associate nations.
Afghanistan is one of them. With Shapoor Zadran and his Shohaib Akhtar hair and airplane simulations which never failed to delight. The Irish are also associates, standing up to South Africa and the other excellent associate being the Scottish team with the splendid bat of Koetze. The journeymen from UAE without UAE passports and their day jobs the last of the associates this time around. And the lad from Ambalangoda – Guruge — a good bowler from Sri Lanka working in the UAE and thus playing for UAE.
The pool stages of this world cup have been a celebration of outsiders and second class citizens of the cricket world. The ICC’s inbred royalty play each other in repetitious games and tournaments over and over, over after over through the years until we get treated to the outsiders every four years or so. Yes granted in 2011 Canada and Kenya were awful embarrassments. But it was a laugh. Then we forget about them because the rest of the time the ICC ignores them along with the Afghanistans and Irelands in cricket. They rarely get to play the big, sorry, top teams. I loved Afghanistan so much and knowing the limits of the Sri Lankan team without Murali even fantasized an Afghan win over the Sri Lankans and guess what; that nearly happened. Sri Lanka got the scare of their lives. Sri Lanka won that game only by a hair’s breadth. What does this say about the associate teams that are hidden away from public view the rest of the time and the ICC cricketing hierarchy? Those not seen on TV and Internet cricket channels which are dominated by the big player nations.
Without the associates the pool stages of CWC15 would’ve been dull as ditch water. But instead they thrilled and their joy was infectious. They endeared and endured. They stood up to the big guns as the whole world laughed at England. And most of all they had so much fun and so did we watching them and cheering them on. Ireland has a good administrative structure; as does Afghanistan with a lot of support from Pakistan. But UAE is pretty well fly by night in that they have day jobs. And Scotland cricket is also well established. Thus these teams rose to the top and in a way it is UAE who are the heroes of the associates at CWC15 for having come this far with very little support. Then ordinary layperson like you and I heard that ICC royalty had cut back the teams to a mere ten for CWC19. No associates. They only want the big-timers. You know the big timers like England and even Zimbabwe. And the cricket world, no not the ICC, but the real cricket world who watch and love aren’t pleased one bit. We fear CWC19 with ten teams will be a big yawn. A petition is circulating to change this so associates get to play.
Much has been said about this injustice since this world cup started; not just to the teams but to the spectators; but most of all to cricket and its growth and the diversity of its players and the diversity of how it is played. According to Subash Jayaraman, a panelist in this podcast, ICC associate nations are being restricted by full test playing nations (such as England who no longer can play cricket for toffee) at the top of the ICC hierarchy. The ICC also takes back most of the money the ICC makes which gets redistributed back amongst the top teams and only about one eighth of the budget goes to the associates. The ICC is doing very little about developing the game and spreading cricket amongst the associates and in more countries; some of them already cricket playing nations.
The panelist/s also discuss Nepal, Papua New Guinea, for example and how they can do with a little or a lot of help from their big brother neighbours India and Australia. Unlike the relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan where Pakistan nurtures and supports the Afghan team Australia nor India do zilch for their cricket loving neighbours who could do with a little help. And the other question to ask is if it is fair to leave it to the magnanimity of one ICC cricket team to help another when development and nurturing of cricket amongst minor cricketing nations ought to be inbuilt into the ICC’s structure and governance.
In this timely, informative, engaging and considered podcast by The Guardian Subash Jayaraman says that the ICC does not want more member countries with full member status because the top cricket nations don’t want to share more voting powers for fear that more votes will bring chaos; whatever chaos means. This is unjust and it is wrong for cricket when the world needs to see more Afghanistans. Nepal and Papua New Guinea, and Hong Kong to name a few. The more the merrier provided they strive for a good game. It is better for the world.
In the last segment the panel discusses the possible outcomes at the Quarter final knock off stages. A Sri Lanka win is not impossible if Sri Lanka wins the toss and bats first. Pakistan could possibly beat Australia because Pakistan is now in good form. Can Bangladesh beat India? Well not as easily as even a Gayle-less West Indies could beat New Zealand.
So while you fret and worry in the approximately sixteen or so hours before the first Quarter Final match between Sri Lanka and South Africa it is essential that we understand fully how and what stands in the way of associate nations that play well being seen in the world cricket arena. This is an excellent, considered chat that should be crucial knowledge for every cricket lover, cricket fanatic and cricket tragic at this stage of the tournament.
And then there is that problem of cricket broadcasters and their meddling in matches and the very game and how and where it is played. We all ought to be up in arms or be after the ICC with our bats raised. And you still have a few hours to mull over the slightly flippant but interesting precursor to the quarters. And as Subash Jayaraman says – Anything is possible.
why bother to shine
like the glistening moon
a silver river
this asphalt street
for only the desolate
the inky night
paints the houses black
window panes dark handkerchiefs
from morning suits
and eleanor rigby
lies down to sleep
remembering the silver sheen
of a long dark braid
woven, like three street strands of a song
January 18, 2014
Kiribath is such an amazing treat. Just add extra water in some good rice and cook it well and add a little light coconut milk with enough salt to taste. Cook it down until it is a happy mush with the grains somewhat still in tact and spread it out on a plate like a cake and cool it. Cut it into pieces and bob’s your uncle.
I’ve eaten ridiculous quantities of Christmas cake that kiribath was certainly not on the agenda though a lot of people seem to think not to make kiribath on January 1st is really pushing your luck. But heck my waistline is in great peril. Still. I’d been pining through all the Christmas cooking which incidentally is not really Sri Lankan but more western oriented, yes pining for a good spicy fish head dish. A Portuguese fish head soup may be or a Korean fish head soup or an impromptu something or the other with lotsa spice. In some places in the world fish head is a delicacy because that is where the flesh is the sweetest. It is true. If you don’t know that then sorry I guess you need to try it or else forever hold your tongue.
Kiribath in some Sinhala homes are made on the 1st of every month for good luck. It is made on New Years and on special days. Again for good luck. At exam time many mothers make kiribath before one marches out to slaughter at the O Levels or A Levels. So much luck bags of it I really don’t know what people do with all the luck they harvest making all that kiribath. Sometimes Amma made too much. And she’d plonk it on the table with the rest of the food; usually just curries those days. But always welcome. Kiribath. Usually kiribath is not eaten with a curry but with Jaggery (sweet palm sugar) or a hot relish type condiment– Lunu Miris. Never with gravy etc. But if there were leftovers they got served up as if it were regular rice. Except it is not regular rice because it has coconut milk in it and it is not loose like just rice but more like a rice cake. Kiribath with fish curry from those unusual times when there was an excess of kiribath; and fish cooked in a spicy coconut milk sauce with Kiribath is an amazing combination. Not that it is on the menu when the kiribath is first made but it is just offered with whatever meat or fish curry that is left over in the kitchen.
This is from long ago and my mom has not made kiribath for me since the late 70s except on the odd visits after I left home. And she’s now long left this earth. But I remember the taste of it all. I’ve been pining for this in the back of my mind. I had purchased a few fish heads by feigned accident from Ambal Trading when I went down there to pick up something else on the 30th. Curry leaves. You know how it is. One thing leads to another and god knows where one ends up.
Usually when you make a fish curry you end up with the gravy going all watery which is a huge drag. So I tried a few tricks and it worked so that the gravy was thick thick thick and heavier than whipping cream. And the lemon rind at the end was not something my mom did. Nor did she do the fry up which I think is more a Kerala style and ditto with the sambar powder. Main thing is to keep the gravy from getting watery and not to overcook the fish remembering these are fish with bones. The fact that it is made of fish heads adds ridiculous amounts of flavour and you get to suck on the bones and even chew the juices out of them. You know what they say. You are never lonely when eating spaghetti. But try fish head curry. Lonely. No chance.
The fish heads cost me $4.50 at Ambal Trading which is ridiculously cheap. And even better. Kiribath and spicy fish head curry go together with cava like a horse and carriage. For left over bubbly from 31st night. Happy all round. It all turned out slightly different from what mom made but divine nevertheless. Make some.
About 4lbs of Seer (King Fish) fish head with gills discarded and head cut into about 1 inch pieces. Do not throw anything. (The fish monger will do this for you).
The cream of a can of good coconut milk. (Chill for about an hour and without shaking open the can and carefully spoon the cream and put into a separate container. You can use the watery residue in something else).
One small onion sliced.
Three or four green chillies sliced.
Four large garlic cloves. (2 sliced and 2 grated).
1 inch piece ginger (half finely minced and the rest grated).
Four sprigs fresh curry leaves.
1 or 2 teaspoons black Mustard seeds
3 tablespoons cooking oil
One cardamom pod bashed
2 x 1″ pieces of Ceylon cinnamon
1 Tablespoon Paprika
1 heaping teaspoon turmeric
About 3 or 4 red dry chillies roughly banged up in a mortar and pestle so they are in rough flake-like pieces (it’s ok if the seeds are whole)
About a teaspoon or two of fresh rough ground black pepper
1 tablespoon sambar powder (get from Tamil shop)
Fenugreek seeds (1/4 teaspoon)
Salt to taste
Three pieces goraka (get it from Tamil shops or Sri Lankan on line grocers)
Juice of one lemon including the rind of a lemon freshly grated. (grate at end straight into the curry)
Thoroughly wash goraka (careful sometimes it has sand on it) and put in about a cup of boiling water and bring to a medium simmer and cook for about 30 – 45 minutes watching so as not to let it dry out. Idea is to simmer so the flavour gets out into the water and you end up with about ½ cup of sour water.
Thoroughly rinse the cut up fish. (Be careful don’t cut yourself on the bony bits and sharp ends. Some of teeth can be sharp). Drain well and if you can even dry it with paper towels carefully. Place in a very large bowl. Add the turmeric, paprika, black pepper and dry chilli pieces to the fish with salt. Add the grated ginger and garlic and half fenugreek seeds. Toss with a spoon or spatula gently to cover most of the fish. Cover with plastic and keep in fridge about 30 minutes.
Gather the stuff for the temperado (fry up):
Half the curry leaves. Half the onions. Fenugreek seeds. Sliced garlic and minced ginger. One piece cinnamon. Sambar powder and mustard seed.
All the remaining ingredients except for lemon and coconut milk should be put into another small bowl as it will go in after the fry up.
In a large sauce pan heat the oil and when hot fry the mustard seeds. They will pop. Use a splatter shield or it could burn you. Add the rest of the fry up ingredients and once the onions are near brown turn off fire and remove pan from heat. Add the sambar powder and quickly stir for about 10 seconds until fragrant. Place back on medium heat and add half of the fish and gently stir so it get’s singed a little. Add the rest of the fish and do the same. Now add the remaining ingredients except for lemon and coconut milk. Also add the goraka water and the goraka pieces. Make sure the fresh ingredients (like onion etc.) are below the fish pieces. Now add about a cup of the thick coconut milk. No need to mix. It will not cover the fish but the fish will render liquid as it cooks and mingle.
Cover and on medium to high heat bring to a near boil then reduce to allow fish to render liquid and it will then mix with the coconut milk and the liquid should come to nearly the top of the fish. Gently shake and mix from time to time and cook for about 15-20 minutes on a high simmer. Taste for salt. Make sure the fish cooks gently all the time no higher than a high simmer otherwise it may get too mushy if the fish breaks up too much. Remember too much friction is the enemy of fish most days.
Important to remember that it is the thick coconut cream that prevents the gravy becoming too watery. Also remember not to overcook the fish but just right so the bones are just cooked through.
At the end grate the rind of a lemon into the gravy and add the lemon juice. Taste for seasoning for salt and lemon/sour. The sauce will be very thick. Slightly thicker than whipping cream. Serve with Kiribath. How to make kiribath? Well it is all over the internet. Go check.
Happy New Year!
By the way:
Choice of fish. Grouper head and red snapper head is great for this too. But make sure the scales on the head are totally removed by the fish monger before cutting it. The cut up head goes into the curry skin and all. But no one wants fish scales in their curry. No sirree.
Heat: This may be spicy for some so feel free to vary the pepper and chillies. But the whole point in the dish is that it is hot and tangy. If you love it hot add your hottest freshest deadliest chillies as much as you can take instead of the quantities mentioned in ingredients. It will be sublime. (This is a big secret and enjoy the heat.)
For Phil Hughes (25) who took to that great big pavilion in the sky and who will be missed at 2015 WC. 63no.
lovesick for cricket
the last two days
how do i describe
a canvass under lights
shrieks of howzat
broken hearts bittered when run out
a gift of true sweet love
people like poetry
alone at the wicket
the great yawning chasm
a hell into which you may fall
in less than 1/10th of a second
one by one
a run at a time
with luck a four
sometimes a sweep-ticket
of a six
it matters not who you are
which land – curried or of roasted beef
toast or chapathi
frock or sari
it is that one run that matters
making everything stand still
a moment in time
let me just be – lovesick
that beautiful sound of ball – on bat
there really is nothing else
March 19, 2011
This poem is from March 2011written during that Cricket World Cup.
The best truths are sometimes found when you walk alone, unsullied by other opinions. I was surprised by how slim a volume this was. The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín is all of a hundred-and-four pages and sized small. Without reading any book reviews so easily obtainable I fell into it. A perfect size and light of weight in my smallish oldish hands and solid in its hard covers. After all some book reviews go almost as long as one hundred and four pages it seems. My only early reservation was the somewhat religious title.
I might upset some J.M. Coetzee experts by saying this. The Testament of Mary is the absent but imagined core in the riddle that is The Childhood of Jesus which I argue was part of Coetzee’s unseen intent. What did that book say that was not said. Many have struggled with that question. Quite a few reviewers have got it wrong. And this is the answer. Not that this takes away anything from Coetzee’s book which I prize very highly. Hewn in crystal clear spare language Tóibín’s pen is given over to Mary, mother of Jesus, to speak her truth, unjudged, while striving to make sense of The Childhood of Jesus. My theory and my humble-pie opinion, of course.
Mary, from the Virgin on the Rocks to the Pieta is a historical/mythological icon on whom has been projected, some may argue, idealized sexist and burdensome roles for women. Mother, virgin, mother of God. And of course that tall order that is the immaculate conception. A standard that many women are held to and who pay for not trying. Virgin of the assumption, Our Lady of the Lourdes blue and white plastic bottle with holy water in it. All defined for Mary by a male biblical patriarchy.
In The Testament Mary is a wise straight talking woman of measured precise speech who unfurls all of the ballyhoo about the Virgin Mary. Speaking for herself with authority and clarity and sometimes even with self-interest. Sacrifice is the concept least sung about and I submit this is a good thing.
This book is a rejection of what has been imposed on women through the concoction that is the mother of god. And it is done beautifully and sparsely and so movingly and most of all without risking charges of sacrilege. At least in my opinion. Remember the Satanic Verses?
When we meet her Mary is essentially alone and separated from Jesus though it is difficult to tell if it is before the cross or after. She speaks often from rooms of her own with long distance echoes of Woolf. The rooms, though not always of her choosing in which she is often alone shorn of women’s work that is the lot of many a woman with family around her especially in Mary’s day. When she does take on those tasks, either alone or around others, they turn into cameos of sorts. The rooms are sparse, the garden, the animals, the day to day tending to, the drawing of water, so simple and clearly wrought. The room and Mary’s solitude and its stillness in her escape from the world are beautifully drawn and illuminated as if in a Vermeer painting. That is how the writing registers on the heart. Ironically almost like a prayer and a blessing though it was not prayers I was looking for. I never do. Sometimes the thought of a cloistered nun jars the mind but Mary takes care of it in her articulations and assertions, banishing the concept.
Bad things happen to most people. When really really bad things happen, as inevitably they tend to for a lot of us only the one who suffers knows its lonely horror, its isolating gravity, and its deep devastating betrayal. No one else does. As was the case with Mary, the mother of Jesus.
“Each of the nails was longer than my hand.”
As you read and go into the book the time-lines are ambivalent. It is unclear if it is before or after the crucifixion until you are well into the book. The references to other persons such as Miriam, Mary, Marcus are entirely removed of religious or pious references. They become day to day humdrum individuals with their own personalities and narratives clearly drawn through their actions as seen by Jesus’s mother. These personalities heighten Mary’s clarity of thought and perceptions as to what is happening around her and to her and to Jesus. Almost as if they are filters and sometimes mirrors. And Mary’s clarity of thought is stunning. A lesson in itself.
Mary is so utterly no-nonsense that she is a virtual myth buster. Her version of events as to how Jesus turns water into wine puts some doubt on whether it really happened or if it was a set up. Sometimes the reader is made to wonder if Jesus was the first celebrity and the crucifixion the first mob justice. At times one wonders if she will take us to an entirely unknown alternate but entirely credible narrative as to what really happened to her son and to her. One almost waits for it. But just when you expect it to take some unknown twist or turn Tóibín tames the reader’s imagination and takes the reins again.
What you read is literally Jesus’s mother talking to you. She is nothing like the idealized or sorrowful statues you’ve seen made of plaster of Paris or those you see inside churches looking tragic and melodramatic. There is no melodrama here. No Paris and certainly no plaster. Nor is Mary anything like the plastic bottles in which Lourdes holy water is sold. The woman you meet here is spare, strong and no-nonsense. Of spartan yet deep deep un-gratuitous unadorned emotion. Mary relates clearly what happened to her and to her son though not exactly as we have been told about until now. The writing absent of filigree and uncrowded, perfectly paced yet authoritatively resonant with beautiful jewel-like clarity. As if written in light sometimes. A counterpoint to the mumbo jumbo bible thumping that the church often spews and hides behind in cryptic church jargon. And sometimes the lines hit your whole being like emotional grenades that explode suddenly in sentences that turn up unexpectedly. One stops, sometimes to let the tears that well in your eyes dry out; or on at least one occasion in this writer’s case to sit and sob uncontrollably.
In the latter parts of this sparse work of breathtaking clarity the pieta appears in your mind as a shadow or even a dream of sorts; assuming one is familiar with it. And Mary testifies as to what really happened. It is the grenades that hit you from time to time like the hammering of nails on the cross against all resistance from your own body and being that makes your heart burst like bombs and then weigh your heart down like the heaviest of rocks till you pick yourself up again and continue. Because continue you must.
“The world is a place of silence, the sky at night when the birds are gone is a vast silent place. No words will make the slightest difference to the sky at night.”
This is the silence of the sky that always bears witness to the great losses of humanity and of horrors visited on humanity by humans, especially by those in power and then the mob is always there like the Greek Chorus to applaud. The populace is complicit. And at the end of the book there is a sort of a return to a prayer for the world; almost a moment of light of what is important when she goes back in time when they were a family and she recalls the Sabbath days when prayers were for:
“… justice to the weak and the orphan, maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute, rescue the needy, deliver them from the hands of the wicked.”
A drink of sweet water drawn out from deep in Mary’s memory after the horror, mostly the gaping loss of losing her son. A manifesto.
There is also a scene where she almost comes to dealing with those who talk about how she conceived her son – the immaculate conception – but somehow Tóibín does not take us there. Instead what is left unsaid is that Mary is portrayed so clearly as a no-nonsense sensible woman that even the idea of a Virgin birth is an absurdity. You can see it in her insurmountable and silent wall of rage that Tóibín uses as markers throughout the book. Except in some of the crucial scenes where she is placed in situations where she has no agency, Mary asserts herself and affirms what really happened. The true story. Where she clearly has no agency Mary is usually seen as an observer. Equally potent. Never a bystander. Mary is also capable of potential for violence if needed to assert herself. Another revelation.
And in the telling the book testifies to the worst aspects of humanity. The mob. Untold violence. Cruelty. Bloodlust. Cold hard dehumanizing officialdom as it runs its course unstoppable. Certain aspects of the telling is almost a metaphorical trial where everything is set up. There is no justice and justice is a lie. The only justice is in its appearance as if it were dispensing justice. Not much unlike how the law is to some today and has always been.
This should be on every mother’s bed side table in hard cover, if not every woman’s. As if it were a prayer book. (No I have no bible nor any prayer books near where I sleep.) And one must read it as habit at least once a month when the full moon is out and when we are a little crazy. It is so short. A lesson spoken by the mother of Jesus about sensibility, the big lie that is justice, and the truth we must find in our own hearts unsullied by the illusions and agendas of others. And the eternal truth that is suffering and its sad dignity. I know I overused the word spare. But it is spareness and sparseness that illuminates with such clarity and sometimes breathtaking beauty; making your heart stop in clear reasoned wonder. Far better than madness.
A book like no other. Sacred. A watershed for me and perhaps for the world.
A short postscript. Given these times. I once knew someone who, when he got angry, grabbed a hold of my hands and then twisted them till my wrists hurt so much that I had to scream. This happens to a lot of women. As a family lawyer this method often came up as part of women’s narratives. After decades one forgets these things. But for many years the phantom pain used to haunt me. But not any longer. I am not sure if it is a good or a bad thing. Time does heal memory’s horror. But on reading this they now hurt again. And may be it is a good reminder of the horror of the world. And the freeing purity and sanctity of one’s own knowledge.
Renuka Mendis, Toronto
November 13, 2014
they say they brought
the old train back
you ask that from northrop frye
he’d beg to differ
and so will i
we can still do it
tap the sweet palmyrah
the sweetness in our hearts
from clarence to beig
to rukmani to galleface kisses
to kassapa’s topless babes
on hardrock surfaces
lovers à la isurumuniya
to siripade samanala kanda…
to mungo nanda’s daughter
before mungo jerry came along
we can borrow
from the cinnamon peelers
the english patients
its all here
we can do it
but Kip holds my hand,
the nose ring
a railway map’s foment
for those who cannot
this sweet milk
or do they.
as they rotted sweet acrid
the dead disappeared
dream of thosai?
the devi brings back
as you step over the dead
sit with you
in the railway carriage
when you wash your hands
can you see?
he sits across from you
unable to dream
to stir the silky batter
with her bare hands.
Renuka Mendis, Toronto, October 12, 2014
On the more trivial side, either a public figure many of us admired was much less than we thought he was or we were deprived of an excellent radio host for no tangibly good reason. On the less trivial side, either the state (the CBC in this case) has placed itself in the bedrooms of the nation or Jian Ghomeshi got away with deplorable things due in no small part to a culture that turned the other way from his behaviour. And least trivial of all, either a select number of people have suffered battery and/or abuse or they have diminished these very serious types of crimes with false allegations.
Originally posted on Bryce J. McNeil:
It’s no secret that due to my job description, history with the station and genuine affinity for it and its content, I usually find myself listening to Album 88 during my morning commute. But there are sometimes exceptions to the rule. Being a big sports fan, I may occasionally check out the local sports stations for my favorite teams. Or I’ll check in with college radio stations from my past.
By any reasonable standard, Q is an excellent public radio program featuring a wide range of guests on a wide range of subjects and some of that credit, at least, must go to its now-former host, Jian Ghomeshi. You might love his smooth delivery…
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