Monday, October 20, 2008

Is Tendulkar the greatest?

Boria Majumdar writes in Times of India in the wake of Tendulkar becoming the highest run-getter in Tests

When Sachin Tendulkar broke Brian Lara's record for the most runs on Friday, the old question raised its head once again. Is Tendulkar the greatest ever cricketer? It's a debate that can never be settled with any kind of finality. This is especially so because such a question inevitably leads to comparisons across generations, contexts and timeframes, which are distinctive and also profoundly different from each other. Perhaps such comparisons are unfair as well. More so, because we don't have the resources to make such comparisons. Yet, these comparisons are inevitable. They add to the aura of modern sports, offer talking points and animate cricket fans across the world.

For example, when a Donald Bradman inspired millions of Australians to come out of the Great Depression in the 1930s and once again catapulted cricket to the forefront of Australia's national imagination with his unrivalled run-scoring abilities, how much pressure was he under? Or when Garfield Sobers led the charge in a Caribbean plagued by apartheid, what did it mean to his countrymen? Were they under more or less pressure than what Tendulkar has had to face for nearly two decades? When a billion-plus people are ready to deconstruct his every gesture, what must be going through his mind? These are the ingredients that spice up comparisons and make modern cricket the most talked about Indian obsession.

When Sunil Gavaskar left India's cricketscape, we did not want a player to fill the void; we needed a saviour who could help us overcome the crisis the nation was facing. The Tendulkar phenomenon may be linked to the medieval Indian practice of bhakti and the visual economy of darshan where the devotee worships the divine object of his desire. No contemporary icon has possibly had to face such intense scrutiny. That's why Tendulkar, who has under-gone this ordeal with perfection for nearly two decades, stands above other cricketers.

What does Tendulkar mean to Indians? Simply put, he is anything but a mere cricketer. He is a phenomenon we have collectively worshipped for 19 long years ever since he made his debut in 1989. He has given our cricket muscle and taught us to believe that we can be the best in the world. He is the cricketing equivalent of Amitabh Bachchan or Shah Rukh Khan, who is capable of hammering the very best villains, be it a Shoaib Akhtar or the legendary Shane Warne.

Tendulkar is our answer to every ace that the others might have in their bag. He has allowed Indian cricket fans to stand up tall even when the Indian team has collectively failed. From Tendulkar, the nation of a billion brooks no failure. No mortal could have lived with such expectations for years and yet achieve what he has. While it is true that Lara scored his runs in 20 fewer Tests, his volatile character and his inability to lift West Indies cricket out of the doldrums will always make him second best in any comparison with Tendulkar.

When Tendulkar disappoints, it hurts us all. When he got out for 88 against debutant Peter Siddle at Mohali — interestingly he has given his wicket to more than 10 debutants, including Craig White in the last Test — the entire country was in shock. The reaction was similar to what we witnessed in Bangalore a week earlier. Uniquely for him, it has been the same for two decades.

In recent times, questions have been raised over whether he is the champion he once was, whether he can still tear bowlers apart and whether he still deserves the mantle of the world's best batsman? However, all of these doubts have been laid to rest with several gritty performances over the last few years. These innings might not have had the flair of Tendulkar's earlier knocks but they are worth their weight in gold.

In this age of hyper nationalistic sport, Tendulkar is perhaps the only player who receives a standing ovation every time he steps out to the middle. It is the same everywhere in the world. For example, when Tendulkar stepped out to bat at Sydney in January 2008, it was a hugely satisfying moment as an Indian fan to see the entire stadium standing up to applaud a champion.

It was even better at Lord's in 2007. It remains one of the few grounds that Tendulkar has failed to make his own. When he got out to Monty Panesar in India's second innings in July 2007, even the Lord's Long Room — the most conservative as also the most strongly nationalist of bastions — groaned in sorrow. They wanted the master to leave his mark. It was as if Lord's lost out on something precious with Tendulkar getting out cheaply.

Against the Australians, who boast of the best cricketing infrastructure, excellent faci-lities, a great sporting culture and intensely competitive domestic cricket, our refrain has always been, "We have Tendulkar". This refrain hasn't changed for nearly two decades; chances are it will continue in the same vein for some more time.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Something you should read..

And where's Mr. Campbell?" Charlie asked.

"Gone to Switzerland. Mr. Campbell's a pretty sick man, Mr. Wales."

"I'm sorry to hear that. And George Hardt?" Charlie inquired.

"Back in America, gone to work."

"And where is the Snow Bird?"

"He was in here last week. Anyway, his friend, Mr. Schaeffer, is in Paris."

Two familiar names from the long list of a year and a half ago. Charlie scribbled an address in his notebook and tore out the page.

"If you see Mr. Schaeffer, give him this," he said. "It's my brother-in-law's address. I haven't settled on a hotel yet."

He was not really disappointed to find Paris was so empty. But the stillness in the Ritz bar was strange and portentous. It was not an American bar any more--he felt polite in it, and not as if he owned it. It had gone back into France. He felt the stillness from the moment he got out of the taxi and saw the doorman, usually in a frenzy of activity at this hour, gossiping with a chasseur by the servants' entrance.

Passing through the corridor, he heard only a single, bored voice in the once-clamorous women's room. When he turned into the bar he travelled the twenty feet of green carpet with his eyes fixed straight ahead by old habit; and then, with his foot firmly on the rail, he turned and surveyed the room, encountering only a single pair of eyes that fluttered up from a newspaper in the corner. Charlie asked for the head barman, Paul, who in the latter days of the bull market had come to work in his own custom-built car--disembarking, however, with due nicety at the nearest corner. But Paul was at his country house today and Alix giving him information.

"No, no more," Charlie said, "I'm going slow these days."

Alix congratulated him: "You were going pretty strong a couple of years ago."

"I'll stick to it all right," Charlie assured him. "I've stuck to it for over a year and a half now."

"How do you find conditions in America?"

"I haven't been to America for months. I'm in business in Prague, representing a couple of concerns there. They don't know about me down there."

Alix smiled.

"Remember the night of George Hardt's bachelor dinner here?" said Charlie. "By the way, what's become of Claude Fessenden?"

Alix lowered his voice confidentially: "He's in Paris, but he doesn't come here any more. Paul doesn't allow it. He ran up a bill of thirty thousand francs, charging all his drinks and his lunches, and usually his dinner, for more than a year. And when Paul finally told him he had to pay, he gave him a bad check."

Alix shook his head sadly.

"I don't understand it, such a dandy fellow. Now he's all bloated up--" He made a plump apple of his hands.

Charlie watched a group of strident queens installing themselves in a corner.

"Nothing affects them," he thought. "Stocks rise and fall, people loaf or work, but they go on forever." The place oppressed him. He called for the dice and shook with Alix for the drink.

"Here for long, Mr. Wales?"

"I'm here for four or five days to see my little girl."

"Oh-h! You have a little girl?"

Outside, the fire-red, gas-blue, ghost-green signs shone smokily through the tranquil rain. It was late afternoon and the streets were in movement; the bistros gleamed. At the corner of the Boulevard des Capucines he took a taxi. The Place de la Concorde moved by in pink majesty; they crossed the logical Seine, and Charlie felt the sudden provincial quality of the Left Bank.

Charlie directed his taxi to the Avenue de l'Opera, which was out of his way. But he wanted to see the blue hour spread over the magnificent façade, and imagine that the cab horns, playing endlessly the first few bars of La Plus que Lent, were the trumpets of the Second Empire. They were closing the iron grill in front of Brentano's Book-store, and people were already at dinner behind the trim little bourgeois hedge of Duval's. He had never eaten at a really cheap restaurant in Paris. Five-course dinner, four francs fifty, eighteen cents, wine included. For some odd reason he wished that he had.

As they rolled on to the Left Bank and he felt its sudden provincialism, he thought, "I spoiled this city for myself. I didn't realize it, but the days came along one after another, and then two years were gone, and everything was gone, and I was gone."

He was thirty-five, and good to look at. The Irish mobility of his face was sobered by a deep wrinkle between his eyes. As he rang his brother-in-law's bell in the Rue Palatine, the wrinkle deepened till it pulled down his brows; he felt a cramping sensation in his belly. From behind the maid who opened the door darted a lovely little girl of nine who shrieked "Daddy!" and flew up, struggling like a fish, into his arms. She pulled his head around by one ear and set her cheek against his.

"My old pie," he said.

"Oh, daddy, daddy, daddy, daddy, dads, dads, dads!"

She drew him into the salon, where the family waited, a boy and girl his daughter's age, his sister-in-law and her husband. He greeted Marion with his voice pitched carefully to avoid either feigned enthusiasm or dislike, but her response was more frankly tepid, though she minimized her expression of unalterable distrust by directing her regard toward his child. The two men clasped hands in a friendly way and Lincoln Peters rested his for a moment on Charlie's shoulder.

The room was warm and comfortably American. The three children moved intimately about, playing through the yellow oblongs that led to other rooms; the cheer of six o'clock spoke in the eager smacks of the fire and the sounds of French activity in the kitchen. But Charlie did not relax; his heart sat up rigidly in his body and he drew confidence from his daughter, who from time to time came close to him, holding in her arms the doll he had brought.

"Really extremely well," he declared in answer to Lincoln's question. "There's a lot of business there that isn't moving at all, but we're doing even better than ever. In fact, damn well. I'm bringing my sister over from America next month to keep house for me. My income last year was bigger than it was when I had money. You see, the Czechs--"

His boasting was for a specific purpose; but after a moment, seeing a faint restiveness in Lincoln's eye, he changed the subject:

"Those are fine children of yours, well brought up, good manners."

"We think Honoria's a great little girl too."

Marion Peters came back from the kitchen. She was a tall woman with worried eyes, who had once possessed a fresh American loveliness. Charlie had never been sensitive to it and was always surprised when people spoke of how pretty she had been. From the first there had been an instinctive antipathy between them.

"Well, how do you find Honoria?" she asked.

"Wonderful. I was astonished how much she's grown in ten months. All the children are looking well."

"We haven't had a doctor for a year. How do you like being back in Paris?"

"It seems very funny to see so few Americans around."

"I'm delighted," Marion said vehemently. "Now at least you can go into a store without their assuming you're a millionaire. We've suffered like everybody, but on the whole it's a good deal pleasanter."

"But it was nice while it lasted," Charlie said. "We were a sort of royalty, almost infallible, with a sort of magic around us. In the bar this afternoon"--he stumbled, seeing his mistake--"there wasn't a man I knew."

She looked at him keenly. "I should think you'd have had enough of bars."

"I only stayed a minute. I take one drink every afternoon, and no more."

"Don't you want a cocktail before dinner?" Lincoln asked.

"I take only one drink every afternoon, and I've had that."

"I hope you keep to it," said Marion.

Her dislike was evident in the coldness with which she spoke, but Charlie only smiled; he had larger plans. Her very aggressiveness gave him an advantage, and he knew enough to wait. He wanted them to initiate the discussion of what they knew had brought him to Paris.

At dinner he couldn't decide whether Honoria was most like him or her mother. Fortunate if she didn't combine the traits of both that had brought them to disaster. A great wave of protectiveness went over him. He thought he knew what to do for her. He believed in character; he wanted to jump back a whole generation and trust in character again as the eternally valuable element. Everything wore out.

He left soon after dinner, but not to go home. He was curious to see Paris by night with clearer and more judicious eyes than those of other days. He bought a strapontin for the Casino and watched Josephine Baker go through her chocolate arabesques.

After an hour he left and strolled toward Montmartre, up the Rue Pigalle into the Place Blanche. The rain had stopped and there were a few people in evening clothes disembarking from taxis in front of cabarets, and cocottes prowling singly or in pairs, and many Negroes. He passed a lighted door from which issued music, and stopped with the sense of familiarity; it was Bricktop's, where he had parted with so many hours and so much money. A few doors farther on he found another ancient rendezvous and incautiously put his head inside. Immediately an eager orchestra burst into sound, a pair of professional dancers leaped to their feet and a maître d'hôtel swooped toward him, crying, "Crowd just arriving, sir!" But he withdrew quickly.

"You have to be damn drunk," he thought.

Zelli's was closed, the bleak and sinister cheap hotels surrounding it were dark; up in the Rue Blanche there was more light and a local, colloquial French crowd. The Poet's Cave had disappeared, but the two great mouths of the Café of Heaven and the Café of Hell still yawned--even devoured, as he watched, the meager contents of a tourist bus--a German, a Japanese, and an American couple who glanced at him with frightened eyes.

So much for the effort and ingenuity of Montmartre. All the catering to vice and waste was on an utterly childish scale, and he suddenly realized the meaning of the word "dissipate"--to dissipate into thin air; to make nothing out of something. In the little hours of the night every move from place to place was an enormous human jump, an increase of paying for the privilege of slower and slower motion.

He remembered thousand-franc notes given to an orchestra for playing a single number, hundred-franc notes tossed to a doorman for calling a cab.

But it hadn't been given for nothing.

It had been given, even the most wildly squandered sum, as an offering to destiny that he might not remember the things most worth remembering, the things that now he would always remember--his child taken from his control, his wife escaped to a grave in Vermont.

In the glare of a brasserie a woman spoke to him. He bought her some eggs and coffee, and then, eluding her encouraging stare, gave her a twenty-franc note and took a taxi to his hotel.


He woke upon a fine fall day--football weather. The depression of yesterday was gone and he liked the people on the streets. At noon he sat opposite Honoria at Le Grand Vatel, the only restaurant he could think of not reminiscent of champagne dinners and long luncheons that began at two and ended in a blurred and vague twilight.

"Now, how about vegetables? Oughtn't you to have some vegetables?"

"Well, yes."

"Here's épinards and chou-fleur and carrots and haricots."

"I'd like chou-fleur."

"Wouldn't you like to have two vegetables?"

"I usually only have one at lunch."

The waiter was pretending to be inordinately fond of children. "Qu'elle est mignonne la petite? Elle parle exactement comme une Française."

"How about dessert? Shall we wait and see?"

The waiter disappeared. Honoria looked at her father expectantly.

"What are we going to do?"

"First, we're going to that toy store in the Rue Saint-Honoré and buy you anything you like. And then we're going to the vaudeville at the Empire."

She hesitated. "I like it about the vaudeville, but not the toy store."

"Why not?"

"Well, you brought me this doll." She had it with her. "And I've got lots of things. And we're not rich any more, are we?"

"We never were. But today you are to have anything you want."

"All right," she agreed resignedly.

When there had been her mother and a French nurse he had been inclined to be strict; now he extended himself, reached out for a new tolerance; he must be both parents to her and not shut any of her out of communication.

"I want to get to know you," he said gravely. "First let me introduce myself. My name is Charles J. Wales, of Prague."

"Oh, daddy!" her voice cracked with laughter.

"And who are you, please?" he persisted, and she accepted a role immediately: "Honoria Wales, Rue Palatine, Paris."

"Married or single?"

"No, not married. Single."

He indicated the doll. "But I see you have a child, madame."

Unwilling to disinherit it, she took it to her heart and thought quickly: "Yes, I've been married, but I'm not married now. My husband is dead."

He went on quickly, "And the child's name?"

"Simone. That's after my best friend at school."

"I'm very pleased that you're doing so well at school."

"I'm third this month," she boasted. "Elsie"--that was her cousin--"is only about eighteenth, and Richard is about at the bottom."

"You like Richard and Elsie, don't you?"

"Oh, yes. I like Richard quite well and I like her all right."

Cautiously and casually he asked: "And Aunt Marion and Uncle Lincoln--which do you like best?"

"Oh, Uncle Lincoln, I guess."

He was increasingly aware of her presence. As they came in, a murmur of ". . . adorable" followed them, and now the people at the next table bent all their silences upon her, staring as if she were something no more conscious than a flower.

"Why don't I live with you?" she asked suddenly. "Because mamma's dead?"

"You must stay here and learn more French. It would have been hard for daddy to take care of you so well."

"I don't really need much taking care of any more. I do everything for myself."

Going out of the restaurant, a man and a woman unexpectedly hailed him.

"Well, the old Wales!"

"Hello there, Lorraine. . . . Dunc."

Sudden ghosts out of the past: Duncan Schaeffer, a friend from college. Lorraine Quarrles, a lovely, pale blonde of thirty; one of a crowd who had helped them make months into days in the lavish times of three years ago.

"My husband couldn't come this year," she said, in answer to his question. "We're poor as hell. So he gave me two hundred a month and told me I could do my worst on that. . . . This your little girl?"

"What about coming back and sitting down?" Duncan asked.

"Can't do it." He was glad for an excuse. As always, he felt Lorraine's passionate, provocative attraction, but his own rhythm was different now.

"Well, how about dinner?" she asked.

"I'm not free. Give me your address and let me call you."

"Charlie, I believe you're sober," she said judicially. "I honestly believe he's sober, Dunc. Pinch him and see if he's sober."

Charlie indicated Honoria with his head. They both laughed.

"What's your address?" said Duncan sceptically.

He hesitated, unwilling to give the name of his hotel.

"I'm not settled yet. I'd better call you. We're going to see the vaudeville at the Empire."

"There! That's what I want to do," Lorraine said. "I want to see some clowns and acrobats and jugglers. That's just what we'll do, Dunc."

"We've got to do an errand first," said Charlie. "Perhaps we'll see you there."

"All right, you snob. . . . Good-by, beautiful little girl."


Honoria bobbed politely.

Somehow, an unwelcome encounter. They liked him because he was functioning, because he was serious; they wanted to see him, because he was stronger than they were now, because they wanted to draw a certain sustenance from his strength.

At the Empire, Honoria proudly refused to sit upon her father's folded coat. She was already an individual with a code of her own, and Charlie was more and more absorbed by the desire of putting a little of himself into her before she crystallized utterly. It was hopeless to try to know her in so short a time.

Between the acts they came upon Duncan and Lorraine in the lobby where the band was playing.

"Have a drink?"

"All right, but not up at the bar. We'll take a table."

"The perfect father."

Listening abstractedly to Lorraine, Charlie watched Honoria's eyes leave their table, and he followed them wistfully about the room, wondering what they saw. He met her glance and she smiled.

"I liked that lemonade," she said.

What had she said? What had he expected? Going home in a taxi afterward, he pulled her over until her head rested against his chest.

"Darling, do you ever think about your mother?"

"Yes, sometimes," she answered vaguely.

"I don't want you to forget her. Have you got a picture of her?"

"Yes, I think so. Anyhow, Aunt Marion has. Why don't you want me to forget her?"

"She loved you very much."

"I loved her too."

They were silent for a moment.

"Daddy, I want to come and live with you," she said suddenly.

His heart leaped; he had wanted it to come like this.

"Aren't you perfectly happy?"

"Yes, but I love you better than anybody. And you love me better than anybody, don't you, now that mummy's dead?"

"Of course I do. But you won't always like me best, honey. You'll grow up and meet somebody your own age and go marry him and forget you ever had a daddy."

"Yes, that's true," she agreed tranquilly.

He didn't go in. He was coming back at nine o'clock and he wanted to keep himself fresh and new for the thing he must say then.

"When you're safe inside, just show yourself in that window."

"All right. Good-by, dads, dads, dads, dads."

He waited in the dark street until she appeared, all warm and glowing, in the window above and kissed her fingers out into the night.


They were waiting. Marion sat behind the coffee service in a dignified black dinner dress that just faintly suggested mourning. Lincoln was walking up and down with the animation of one who had already been talking. They were as anxious as he was to get into the question. He opened it almost immediately:

"I suppose you know what I want to see you about--why I really came to Paris."

Marion played with the black stars on her necklace and frowned.

"I'm awfully anxious to have a home," he continued. "And I'm awfully anxious to have Honoria in it. I appreciate your taking in Honoria for her mother's sake, but things have changed now"--he hesitated and then continued more forcibly--"changed radically with me, and I want to ask you to reconsider the matter. It would be silly for me to deny that about three years ago I was acting badly--"

Marion looked up at him with hard eyes.

"--but all that's over. As I told you, I haven't had more than a drink a day for over a year, and I take that drink deliberately, so that the idea of alcohol won't get too big in my imagination. You see the idea?"

"No," said Marion succinctly.

"It's a sort of stunt I set myself. It keeps the matter in proportion."

"I get you," said Lincoln. "You don't want to admit it's got any attraction for you."

"Something like that. Sometimes I forget and don't take it. But I try to take it. Anyhow, I couldn't afford to drink in my position. The people I represent are more than satisfied with what I've done, and I'm bringing my sister over from Burlington to keep house for me, and I want awfully to have Honoria too. You know that even when her mother and I weren't getting along well we never let anything that happened touch Honoria. I know she's fond of me and I know I'm able to take care of her and--well, there you are. How do you feel about it?"

He knew that now he would have to take a beating. It would last an hour or two hours, and it would be difficult, but if he modulated his inevitable resentment to the chastened attitude of the reformed sinner, he might win his point in the end.

Keep your temper, he told himself. You don't want to be justified. You want Honoria.

Lincoln spoke first: "We've been talking it over ever since we got your letter last month. We're happy to have Honoria here. She's a dear little thing, and we're glad to be able to help her, but of course that isn't the question--"

Marion interrupted suddenly. "How long are you going to stay sober, Charlie?" she asked.

"Permanently, I hope."

"How can anybody count on that?"

"You know I never did drink heavily until I gave up business and came over here with nothing to do. Then Helen and I began to run around with--"

"Please leave Helen out of it. I can't bear to hear you talk about her like that."

He stared at her grimly; he had never been certain how fond of each other the sisters were in life.

"My drinking only lasted about a year and a half--from the time we came over until I--collapsed."

"It was time enough."

"It was time enough," he agreed.

"My duty is entirely to Helen," she said. "I try to think what she would have wanted me to do. Frankly, from the night you did that terrible thing you haven't really existed for me. I can't help that. She was my sister."


"When she was dying she asked me to look out for Honoria. If you hadn't been in a sanitarium then, it might have helped matters."

He had no answer.

"I'll never in my life be able to forget the morning when Helen knocked at my door, soaked to the skin and shivering, and said you'd locked her out."

Charlie gripped the sides of the chair. This was more difficult than he expected; he wanted to launch out into a long expostulation and explanation, but he only said: "The night I locked her out--" and she interrupted, "I don't feel up to going over that again."

After a moment's silence Lincoln said: "We're getting off the subject. You want Marion to set aside her legal guardianship and give you Honoria. I think the main point for her is whether she has confidence in you or not."

"I don't blame Marion," Charlie said slowly, "but I think she can have entire confidence in me. I had a good record up to three years ago. Of course, it's within human possibilities I might go wrong any time. But if we wait much longer I'll lose Honoria's childhood and my chance for a home." He shook his head, "I'll simply lose her, don't you see?"

"Yes, I see," said Lincoln.

"Why didn't you think of all this before?" Marion asked.

"I suppose I did, from time to time, but Helen and I were getting along badly. When I consented to the guardianship, I was flat on my back in a sanitarium and the market had cleaned me out. I knew I'd acted badly, and I thought if it would bring any peace to Helen, I'd agree to anything. But now it's different. I'm functioning, I'm behaving damn well, so far as--"

"Please don't swear at me," Marion said.

He looked at her, startled. With each remark the force of her dislike became more and more apparent. She had built up all her fear of life into one wall and faced it toward him. This trivial reproof was possibly the result of some trouble with the cook several hours before. Charlie became increasingly alarmed at leaving Honoria in this atmosphere of hostility against himself; sooner or later it would come out, in a word here, a shake of the head there, and some of that distrust would be irrevocably implanted in Honoria. But he pulled his temper down out of his face and shut it up inside him; he had won a point, for Lincoln realized the absurdity of Marion's remark and asked her lightly since when she had objected to the word "damn."

"Another thing," Charlie said: "I'm able to give her certain advantages now. I'm going to take a French governess to Prague with me. I've got a lease on a new apartment--"

He stopped, realizing that he was blundering. They couldn't be expected to accept with equanimity the fact that his income was again twice as large as their own.

"I suppose you can give her more luxuries than we can," said Marion. "When you were throwing away money we were living along watching every ten francs. . . . I suppose you'll start doing it again."

"Oh, no," he said. "I've learned. I worked hard for ten years, you know--until I got lucky in the market, like so many people. Terribly lucky. It didn't seem any use working any more, so I quit. It won't happen again."

There was a long silence. All of them felt their nerves straining, and for the first time in a year Charlie wanted a drink. He was sure now that Lincoln Peters wanted him to have his child.

Marion shuddered suddenly; part of her saw that Charlie's feet were planted on the earth now, and her own maternal feeling recognized the naturalness of his desire; but she had lived for a long time with a prejudice--a prejudice founded on a curious disbelief in her sister's happiness, and which, in the shock of one terrible night, had turned to hatred for him. It had all happened at a point in her life where the discouragement of ill health and adverse circumstances made it necessary for her to believe in tangible villainy and a tangible villain.

"I can't help what I think!" she cried out suddenly. "How much you were responsible for Helen's death, I don't know. It's something you'll have to square with your own conscience."

An electric current of agony surged through him; for a moment he was almost on his feet, an unuttered sound echoing in his throat. He hung on to himself for a moment, another moment.

"Hold on there," said Lincoln uncomfortably. "I never thought you were responsible for that."

"Helen died of heart trouble," Charlie said dully.

"Yes, heart trouble." Marion spoke as if the phrase had another meaning for her.

Then, in the flatness that followed her outburst, she saw him plainly and she knew he had somehow arrived at control over the situation. Glancing at her husband, she found no help from him, and as abruptly as if it were a matter of no importance, she threw up the sponge.

"Do what you like!" she cried, springing up from her chair. "She's your child. I'm not the person to stand in your way. I think if it were my child I'd rather see her--" She managed to check herself. "You two decide it. I can't stand this. I'm sick. I'm going to bed."

She hurried from the room; after a moment Lincoln said:

"This has been a hard day for her. You know how strongly she feels--" His voice was almost apologetic: "When a woman gets an idea in her head."

"Of course."

"It's going to be all right. I think she sees now that you--can provide for the child, and so we can't very well stand in your way or Honoria's way."

"Thank you, Lincoln."

"I'd better go along and see how she is."

"I'm going."

He was still trembling when he reached the street, but a walk down the Rue Bonaparte to the quais set him up, and as he crossed the Seine, fresh and new by the quai lamps, he felt exultant. But back in his room he couldn't sleep. The image of Helen haunted him. Helen whom he had loved so until they had senselessly begun to abuse each other's love, tear it into shreds. On that terrible February night that Marion remembered so vividly, a slow quarrel had gone on for hours. There was a scene at the Florida, and then he attempted to take her home, and then she kissed young Webb at a table; after that there was what she had hysterically said. When he arrived home alone he turned the key in the lock in wild anger. How could he know she would arrive an hour later alone, that there would be a snowstorm in which she wandered about in slippers, too confused to find a taxi? Then the aftermath, her escaping pneumonia by a miracle, and all the attendant horror. They were "reconciled," but that was the beginning of the end, and Marion, who had seen with her own eyes and who imagined it to be one of many scenes from her sister's martyrdom, never forgot.

Going over it again brought Helen nearer, and in the white, soft light that steals upon half sleep near morning he found himself talking to her again. She said that he was perfectly right about Honoria and that she wanted Honoria to be with him. She said she was glad he was being good and doing better. She said a lot of other things--very friendly things--but she was in a swing in a white dress, and swinging faster and faster all the time, so that at the end he could not hear clearly all that she said.


He woke up feeling happy. The door of the world was open again. He made plans, vistas, futures for Honoria and himself, but suddenly he grew sad, remembering all the plans he and Helen had made. She had not planned to die. The present was the thing--work to do and someone to love. But not to love too much, for he knew the injury that a father can do to a daughter or a mother to a son by attaching them too closely: afterward, out in the world, the child would seek in the marriage partner the same blind tenderness and, failing probably to find it, turn against love and life.

It was another bright, crisp day. He called Lincoln Peters at the bank where he worked and asked if he could count on taking Honoria when he left for Prague. Lincoln agreed that there was no reason for delay. One thing--the legal guardianship. Marion wanted to retain that a while longer. She was upset by the whole matter, and it would oil things if she felt that the situation was still in her control for another year. Charlie agreed, wanting only the tangible, visible child.

Then the question of a governess. Charlie sat in a gloomy agency and talked to a cross Béarnaise and to a buxom Breton peasant, neither of whom he could have endured. There were others whom he would see tomorrow.

He lunched with Lincoln Peters at Griffons, trying to keep down his exultation.

"There's nothing quite like your own child," Lincoln said. "But you understand how Marion feels too."

"She's forgotten how hard I worked for seven years there," Charlie said. "She just remembers one night."

"There's another thing." Lincoln hesitated. "While you and Helen were tearing around Europe throwing money away, we were just getting along. I didn't touch any of the prosperity because I never got ahead enough to carry anything but my insurance. I think Marion felt there was some kind of injustice in it--you not even working toward the end, and getting richer and richer."

"It went just as quick as it came," said Charlie.

"Yes, a lot of it stayed in the hands of chasseurs and saxophone players and maîtres d'hôtel--well, the big party's over now. I just said that to explain Marion's feeling about those crazy years. If you drop in about six o'clock tonight before Marion's too tired, we'll settle the details on the spot."

Back at his hotel, Charlie found a pneumatique that had been redirected from the Ritz bar where Charlie had left his address for the purpose of finding a certain man.

DEAR CHARLIE: You were so strange when we saw you the other day that I wondered if I did something to offend you. If so, I'm not conscious of it. In fact, I have thought about you too much for the last year, and it's always been in the back of my mind that I might see you if I came over here. We did have such good times that crazy spring, like the night you and I stole the butcher's tricycle, and the time we tried to call on the president and you had the old derby rim and the wire cane. Everybody seems so old lately, but I don't feel old a bit. Couldn't we get together some time today for old time's sake? I've got a vile hang-over for the moment, but will be feeling better this afternoon and will look for you about five in the sweat-shop at the Ritz.

Always devotedly,


His first feeling was one of awe that he had actually, in his mature years, stolen a tricycle and pedalled Lorraine all over the Étoile between the small hours and dawn. In retrospect it was a nightmare. Locking out Helen didn't fit in with any other act of his life, but the tricycle incident did--it was one of many. How many weeks or months of dissipation to arrive at that condition of utter irresponsibility?

He tried to picture how Lorraine had appeared to him then--very attractive; Helen was unhappy about it, though she said nothing. Yesterday, in the restaurant, Lorraine had seemed trite, blurred, worn away. He emphatically did not want to see her, and he was glad Alix had not given away his hotel address. It was a relief to think, instead, of Honoria, to think of Sundays spent with her and of saying good morning to her and of knowing she was there in his house at night, drawing her breath in the darkness.

At five he took a taxi and bought presents for all the Peters--a piquant cloth doll, a box of Roman soldiers, flowers for Marion, big linen handkerchiefs for Lincoln.

He saw, when he arrived in the apartment, that Marion had accepted the inevitable. She greeted him now as though he were a recalcitrant member of the family, rather than a menacing outsider. Honoria had been told she was going; Charlie was glad to see that her tact made her conceal her excessive happiness. Only on his lap did she whisper her delight and the question "When?" before she slipped away with the other children.

He and Marion were alone for a minute in the room, and on an impulse he spoke out boldly:

"Family quarrels are bitter things. They don't go according to any rules. They're not like aches or wounds; they're more like splits in the skin that won't heal because there's not enough material. I wish you and I could be on better terms."

"Some things are hard to forget," she answered. "It's a question of confidence." There was no answer to this and presently she asked, "When do you propose to take her?"

"As soon as I can get a governess. I hoped the day after tomorrow."

"That's impossible. I've got to get her things in shape. Not before Saturday."

He yielded. Coming back into the room, Lincoln offered him a drink.

"I'll take my daily whisky," he said.

It was warm here, it was a home, people together by a fire. The children felt very safe and important; the mother and father were serious, watchful. They had things to do for the children more important than his visit here. A spoonful of medicine was, after all, more important than the strained relations between Marion and himself. They were not dull people, but they were very much in the grip of life and circumstances. He wondered if he couldn't do something to get Lincoln out of his rut at the bank.

A long peal at the door-bell; the bonne à tout faire passed through and went down the corridor. The door opened upon another long ring, and then voices, and the three in the salon looked up expectantly; Lincoln moved to bring the corridor within his range of vision, and Marion rose. Then the maid came back along the corridor, closely followed by the voices, which developed under the light into Duncan Schaeffer and Lorraine Quarrles.

They were gay, they were hilarious, they were roaring with laughter. For a moment Charlie was astounded; unable to understand how they ferreted out the Peters' address.

"Ah-h-h!" Duncan wagged his finger roguishly at Charlie. "Ah-h-h!"

They both slid down another cascade of laughter. Anxious and at a loss, Charlie shook hands with them quickly and presented them to Lincoln and Marion. Marion nodded, scarcely speaking. She had drawn back a step toward the fire; her little girl stood beside her, and Marion put an arm about her shoulder.

With growing annoyance at the intrusion, Charlie waited for them to explain themselves. After some concentration Duncan said:

"We came to invite you out to dinner. Lorraine and I insist that all this shishi, cagy business 'bout your address got to stop."

Charlie came closer to them, as if to force them backward down the corridor.

"Sorry, but I can't. Tell me where you'll be and I'll phone you in half an hour."

This made no impression. Lorraine sat down suddenly on the side of a chair, and focussing her eyes on Richard, cried, "Oh, what a nice little boy! Come here, little boy." Richard glanced at his mother, but did not move. With a perceptible shrug of her shoulders, Lorraine turned back to Charlie:

"Come and dine. Sure your cousins won' mine. See you so sel'om. Or solemn."

"I can't," said Charlie sharply. "You two have dinner and I'll phone you."

Her voice became suddenly unpleasant. "All right, we'll go. But I remember once when you hammered on my door at four A.M. I was enough of a good sport to give you a drink. Come on, Dunc."

Still in slow motion, with blurred, angry faces, with uncertain feet, they retired along the corridor.

"Good night," Charlie said.

"Good night!" responded Lorraine emphatically.

When he went back into the salon Marion had not moved, only now her son was standing in the circle of her other arm. Lincoln was still swinging Honoria back and forth like a pendulum from side to side.

"What an outrage!" Charlie broke out. "What an absolute outrage!" Neither of them answered. Charlie dropped into an armchair, picked up his drink, set it down again and said:

"People I haven't seen for two years having the colossal nerve--"

He broke off. Marion had made the sound "Oh!" in one swift, furious breath, turned her body from him with a jerk and left the room.

Lincoln set down Honoria carefully.

"You children go in and start your soup," he said, and when they obeyed, he said to Charlie:

"Marion's not well and she can't stand shocks. That kind of people make her really physically sick."

"I didn't tell them to come here. They wormed your name out of somebody. They deliberately--"

"Well, it's too bad. It doesn't help matters. Excuse me a minute."

Left alone, Charlie sat tense in his chair. In the next room he could hear the children eating, talking in monosyllables, already oblivious to the scene between their elders. He heard a murmur of conversation from a farther room and then the ticking bell of a telephone receiver picked up, and in a panic he moved to the other side of the room and out of earshot.

In a minute Lincoln came back. "Look here, Charlie. I think we'd better call off dinner for tonight. Marion's in bad shape."

"Is she angry with me?"

"Sort of," he said, almost roughly. "She's not strong and--"

"You mean she's changed her mind about Honoria?"

"She's pretty bitter right now. I don't know. You phone me at the bank tomorrow."

"I wish you'd explain to her I never dreamed these people would come here. I'm just as sore as you are."

"I couldn't explain anything to her now."

Charlie got up. He took his coat and hat and started down the corridor. Then he opened the door of the dining room and said in a strange voice, "Good night, children."

Honoria rose and ran around the table to hug him.

"Good night, sweetheart," he said vaguely, and then trying to make his voice more tender, trying to conciliate something, "Good night, dear children."


Charlie went directly to the Ritz bar with the furious idea of finding Lorraine and Duncan, but they were not there, and he realized that in any case there was nothing he could do. He had not touched his drink at the Peters', and now he ordered a whisky-and-soda. Paul came over to say hello.

"It's a great change," he said sadly. "We do about half the business we did. So many fellows I hear about back in the States lost everything, maybe not in the first crash, but then in the second. Your friend George Hardt lost every cent, I hear. Are you back in the States?"

"No, I'm in business in Prague."

"I heard that you lost a lot in the crash."

"I did," and he added grimly, "but I lost everything I wanted in the boom."

"Selling short."

"Something like that."

Again the memory of those days swept over him like a nightmare--the people they had met travelling; then people who couldn't add a row of figures or speak a coherent sentence. The little man Helen had consented to dance with at the ship's party, who had insulted her ten feet from the table; the women and girls carried screaming with drink or drugs out of public places--

--The men who locked their wives out in the snow, because the snow of twenty-nine wasn't real snow. If you didn't want it to be snow, you just paid some money.

He went to the phone and called the Peters' apartment; Lincoln answered.

"I called up because this thing is on my mind. Has Marion said anything definite?"

"Marion's sick," Lincoln answered shortly. "I know this thing isn't altogether your fault, but I can't have her go to pieces about it. I'm afraid we'll have to let it slide for six months; I can't take the chance of working her up to this state again."

"I see."

"I'm sorry, Charlie."

He went back to his table. His whisky glass was empty, but he shook his head when Alix looked at it questioningly. There wasn't much he could do now except send Honoria some things; he would send her a lot of things tomorrow. He thought rather angrily that this was just money--he had given so many people money. . . .

"No, no more," he said to another waiter. "What do I owe you?"

He would come back some day; they couldn't make him pay forever. But he wanted his child, and nothing was much good now, beside that fact. He wasn't young any more, with a lot of nice thoughts and dreams to have by himself. He was absolutely sure Helen wouldn't have wanted him to be so alone.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

IPL: Ambani and Zinta buy their own boys

MUMBAI: The high-profile Indian Premier League (IPL) on Thursday received an overwhelming response with some of India's top industrialists like Mukesh Ambani and Vijay Mallya and film stars Shah Rukh Khan and Preity Zinta winning bids to own teams in the Twenty20 venture. After prolonged suspense, BCCI vice president and Chairman of the IPL Governing Council Lalit Modi on Thursday disclosed the names of the winning bidders, who shelled out staggering amounts to be owner of the city-based teams. Reliance Industries chief Mukesh Ambani pipped Vijay Mallya to win the bid for the Mumbai team for $111.9 million. The liquor baron, however, won the bid for the Bangalore team for $111.6 million. Actor Shah Rukh Khan, joining hands with Juhi Chawla and Jay Mehta, won the bid for the Kolkata team for $75.09 million.
Fellow actor Preity Zinta and her boy friend Ness Wadia won the bid for the Mohali team for $76 million. Among others, GMR Holdings won the bid for the Delhi team ($84 million), India Cements bagged the Chennai team ($91 million), Deccan Chronicle bid successfully for the Hyderabad ($107.01 million) outfit and Emerging Media won the bid for the Jaipur team for $67 million. The bids of the ICICI, Sahara and Futures Group were disqualified, Modi said. "We can say that all the hard work fructified and the IPL is here to stay," Modi told reporters. Asked if Shah Rukh was bidding just to use cricket as a means to promote his films, Modi said, "Shah Rukh loves cricket and that's why he invested his money. It has got nothing to do with film promotion. "We have heard similar complaint in the past but the Board never endorsed those views," he said. He also dismissed suggestions that there was a conflict of interests in Indian Cement, which has BCCI treasurer N Srinivasan as a shareholder, becoming a team owner. "Mr Srinivasan is just a stakeholder there and he is not the owner. So there is no such conflicts of interests," he said. Modi admitted some of the contracted international players would skip the twenty20 tournament which begins on April 18 owing to national commitments but said the pool was big enough. "A team needs only four players from abroad and we already have a huge number of them contracted with us. You will have enough of them from the day one," he said. In all, 59 matches would be played over 44 days with ICC umpires officiating the games, which would be broadcast live on SET Max, Modi said. "We already have 80 contracted players and their auction would start soon," Modi said. Each franchise would consult with the IPL Governing Council before naming the teams and discussing revenue sharing, he said.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

CAG faults tax exemptions to Tendulkar, Gavaskar

New Delhi
May 14, 2007
Cricket stars Sachin Tendulkar and Sunil Gavaskar have come under the scanner of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), who has found that they have been given a wrong benefit of income deduction as sportsmen which has resulted in a short levy of over Rs 4.42 crore in tax.
The assessments for the relevant years from 1998-99 to 2002-03, in case of Tendulkar, have been reopened.
The assessment for 2004-05 has been selected for scrutiny. The CAG report, which was tabled in the Parliament today, faulted the income tax department for giving incorrect allowance of deduction of income for both the stars for their earnings not from the game but from endorsements and commentating.
In Tendulkar's case, an audit scrutiny of assessment records revealed that aggregate deduction of Rs 8.89 crore was allowed on foreign currency remmitance received by him on account of sports endorsement-- advertisements and publicity activities.
As the income was not derived from his profession, the allowance of deduction was not in order. The CAG said the department's argument that the assessee had derived it in the capacity of artist was not acceptable as he had received it in the capacity of model which cannot be construed as an artist for this provision.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Just wait for Smart Bat...smen!

Melbourne: Australia's World Cup-winning team may not be in need of it but a hi-tech Smart Crikcet Bat to help big hitters like Adam Gilchrist smash the ball even further could be on the market within 18 months.
The Australian-developed, Smart Cricket Bat, has been patented as the world's first bat with active vibration control, a system already in use in baseball bats and tennis racquets, reports 'The Australian'.
The Smart Cricket Bat's key to reducing the "zinging effect" felt by big-hitting batsmen is in its innovative handle. It can reduce vibration by up to 42 per cent.
Melbourne's RMIT University has developed the bat in conjunction with the Australian Research Council, bat manufacturer Kookaburra Sport and sensor company Davidson Measurement.
The $600,000 project uses electro-mechanical sensors and actuators, built into the bat's handle. The technology is used in collaboration with a vibration-absorbing polymeric-based synthetic material.
The materials convert shock waves into heat and dampen vibration by generating waves in the opposite direction.
RMIT project leader Sabu John said the technology had increased the "sweet spot" of the cricket bat - the area in which the batsman experiences least impact when hitting the ball hard - providing greater control. It may also reduce the injuries experienced by top-level batsmen.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

A Nobel-winning neurologist's favorite books on memory

By Eric Kandel
1. "Ficciones" by Jorge LuisBorges (Grove, 1962).
Memory is the scaffold that holds our mental life together. One of its most remarkable characteristics is that it has no
restraints on time and place. Memory allows you to sit in your living room while your mind wanders back to childhood, recalling a special event that pleased or pained you. This time-travel ability, often sparked by a sensory experience that opens the floodgates of memory, is central to much great fiction.
It is described in the most detail in Marcel Proust's million-word classic, "Remembrance of Things Past," in which a madeleine dipped in tea famously prompts an onrush of images from the protagonist's childhood. But one of the
most fascinating descriptions of memory in fiction can be found in Jorge Luis Borges's seminal short-story collection, "Ficciones," first published in 1945 in Spanish. Borges, who knew for much of his life that he was slowly going blind
from a hereditary disease, had a deep sense of the central and sometimes paradoxical role of memory in human existence.
This sense informs much of "Ficciones" but particularly the story "Funes, the Memorious," which concerns a man who suffers a modest head injury after falling off a horse and, as a result, cannot forget anything he has ever experienced, waking or dreaming. But his brain is filled only with detail, crowding out universal principles. He can't
create because his head is filled with garbage! We know that an excessively weak memory is a handicap, but, as Borges shows, having too good a memory can be a handicap as well--the capacity to forget is a blessing.
2. "Memories Are Made of This by Rusiko Bourtchouladze (Columbia, 2002).
There are several good introductions to the biology of memory storage for the general reader, but I
particularly like Rusiko Bourtchouladze's. A gifted writer who is also a behaviorist, she discusses both of the great themes of memory research: the "systems problem" of memory storage (the areas of the brain recruited for
different forms of memory) and the "molecular problem" (the molecular mechanismswhereby memory is stored at each site). In considering the system problems of memory, Bourtchouladze describes the now famous patient called H.M., who underwent brain surgery that left him with a devastating memory loss. H.M. could
not store any new information about people, places and objects.
The great Canadian psychologist Brenda Milner studied H.M. and, in a classic analysis carried out over two decades, succeeded in localizing this component of memory storage to the medial temporal lobe. Bourtchouladze brings these riveting discoveries to life.
3. "Memory and Brain" by Larry R. Squire (Oxford, 1987).
"Memory and Brain" is a classic in the biology of memory. In it, Larry R. Squire, a professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at the University of California at San Diego, provides a superb historical overview of the key
experiments and insights that have given rise to our current understanding of the problem of memory storage. Squire himself has played a vital role in this history: He pioneered our understanding that memory exists in two major forms: declarative memory (this is the kind of memory that H.M. lost) and procedural memory (for motor and perceptual skills such as riding a bike or hitting a backhand--this is the memory that H.M. retained). His later work includes such breakthroughs as identifying the hippocampus in the medial temporal lobe as
critical for the storage of declarative information.
4. "The Seven Sins of Memory" by Daniel L. Schacter (Houghton Mifflin, 2001).
In "The Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers," Harvard professor Daniel L.
Schacter shows that declarative memory (the kind involving people, places and
objects) is highly fallible and susceptible to distortion and suggestion. The seven "sins" refers to memory's various weaknesses: its transience, absentmindedness, blocking, misattribution, suggestibility, bias and
persistence. Schacter, another pioneer in the study of human memory, employs his insights not only to reveal the fragility of memory and its extraordinary vulnerability to influence by authority figures but also to indicate effective
ways of understanding how memory is normally encoded.
5. "Memory From A to Z"
by Yadin Dudai (Oxford, 2002).
Any question that remains unanswered after reading the above works by Bourtchouladze, Squire and Schacter can be answered by Yadin Dudai, a professor at the Weizmann Institute in Israel. This is an
entertaining, wide-ranging and well-written primer (subtitle: "Keywords, Concepts and Beyond") with more than 130 entries that range from discussions of memory on the molecular level to examinations of the philosophical issues that
confront researchers. "Memory A to Z" begins with "A priori" and runs through subjects such as "False Memory," "Metamemory" and "Synapse," before ending at "Zeitgeist." The book is a handy reference, accessible to the general reader.
Dr. Kandel is University Professor in the Center for Neurobiology and Behavior at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. He is the author of "In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind" (Norton, 2006). He won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2000 for his studies of

Saturday, March 10, 2007

How The Brain Rewires Itself

Friday, Jan. 19, 2007
It wasa fairly modest experiment, as these things go, with volunteers trooping intothe lab at Harvard Medical School to learn and practice a little five-fingerpiano exercise. Neuroscientist Alvaro Pascual-Leone instructed the members ofone group to play as fluidly as they could, trying to keep to the metronome's 60beats per minute. Every day for five days, the volunteers practiced for twohours. Then they took a test.At the end of each day's practice session, theysat beneath a coil of wire that sent a brief magnetic pulse into the motorcortex of their brain, located in a strip running from the crown of the headtoward each ear. The so-called transcranial-magnetic-stimulation (TMS) testallows scientists to infer the function of neurons just beneath the coil. In thepiano players, the TMS mapped how much of the motor cortex controlled the fingermovements needed for the piano exercise. What the scientists found was thatafter a week of practice, the stretch of motor cortex devoted to these fingermovements took over surrounding areas like dandelions on a suburban lawn.Thefinding was in line with a growing number of discoveries at the time showingthat greater use of a particular muscle causes the brain to devote more corticalreal estate to it. But Pascual-Leone did not stop there. He extended theexperiment by having another group of volunteers merely think about practicingthe piano exercise. They played the simple piece of music in their head, holdingtheir hands still while imagining how they would move their fingers. Then theytoo sat beneath the TMS coil.When the scientists compared the TMS data on thetwo groups--those who actually tickled the ivories and those who only imagineddoing so--they glimpsed a revolutionary idea about the brain: the ability ofmere thought to alter the physical structure and function of our gray matter.For what the TMS revealed was that the region of motor cortex that controls thepiano-playing fingers also expanded in the brains of volunteers who imaginedplaying the music--just as it had in those who actually played it."Mentalpractice resulted in a similar reorganization" of the brain, Pascual-Leone laterwrote. If his results hold for other forms of movement (and there is no reasonto think they don't), then mentally practicing a golf swing or a forward pass ora swimming turn could lead to mastery with less physical practice. Even moreprofound, the discovery showed that mental training had the power to change thephysical structure of the brain.OVERTHROWING THE DOGMAFOR DECADES, THEPREVAILING DOGMA IN neuroscience was that the adult human brain is essentiallyimmutable, hardwired, fixed in form and function, so that by the time we reachadulthood we are pretty much stuck with what we have. Yes, it can create (andlose) synapses, the connections between neurons that encode memories andlearning. And it can suffer injury and degeneration. But this view held that ifgenes and development dictate that one cluster of neurons will process signalsfrom the eye and another cluster will move the fingers of the right hand, thenthey'll do that and nothing else until the day you die. There was good reasonfor lavishly illustrated brain books to show the function, size and location ofthe brain's structures in permanent ink.The doctrine of the unchanging human brain has had profound ramifications. Forone thing, it lowered expectations about the value of rehabilitation for adultswho had suffered brain damage from a stroke or about the possibility of fixingthe pathological wiring that underlies psychiatric diseases. And it implied thatother brain-based fixities, such as the happiness set point that, according to agrowing body of research, a person returns to after the deepest tragedy or thegreatest joy, are nearly unalterable.There are uncharted worlds inside your head, but science is drawing a mapButresearch in the past few years has overthrown the dogma. In its place has comethe realization that the adult brain retains impressive powers of"neuroplasticity"--the ability to change its structure and function in responseto experience. These aren't minor tweaks either. Something as basic as thefunction of the visual or auditory cortex can change as a result of a person'sexperience of becoming deaf or blind at a young age. Even when the brain suffersa trauma late in life, it can rezone itself like a city in a frenzy of urbanrenewal. If a stroke knocks out, say, the neighborhood of motor cortex thatmoves the right arm, a new technique called constraint-induced movement therapycan coax next-door regions to take over the function of the damaged area. Thebrain can be rewired.The first discoveries of neuroplasticity came from studiesof how changes in the messages the brain receives through the senses can alterits structure and function. When no transmissions arrive from the eyes insomeone who has been blind from a young age, for instance, the visual cortex canlearn to hear or feel or even support verbal memory. When signals from the skinor muscles bombard the motor cortex or the somatosensory cortex (which processestouch), the brain expands the area that is wired to move, say, the fingers. Inthis sense, the very structure of our brain--the relative size of differentregions, the strength of connections between them, even theirfunctions--reflects the lives we have led. Like sand on a beach, the brain bearsthe footprints of the decisions we have made, the skills we have learned, theactions we have taken.SCRATCHING A PHANTOM LIMBAN EXTREME EXAMPLE OF HOWCHANGES IN the input reaching the brain can alter its structure is the silencethat falls over the somatosensory cortex after its owner has lost a limb. Soonafter a car crash took Victor Quintero's left arm from just above the elbow, hetold neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran of the University of California at SanDiego that he could still feel the missing arm. Ramachandran decided toinvestigate. He had Victor sit still with his eyes closed and lightly brushedthe teenager's left cheek with a cotton swab.Time.comCNN.comSearch Archive Wednesday, February 28, 2007 HOME U.S. WORLD BLOGS BUSINESS & TECH HEALTH & SCIENCE ENTERTAINMENT PHOTOS MAGAZINE SPECIALS How The Brain Rewires ItselfFriday, Jan. 19, 2007 By SHARON BEGLEY Enlarge PhotoIllustration for TIME by David PlunkertArticle ToolsPrintEmailReprints (3 of 5)Where do you feel that? Ramachandran asked. On hisleft cheek, Victor answered--and the back of his missing hand. Ramachandranstroked another spot on the cheek. Where do you feel that? On his absent thumb,Victor replied. Ramachandran touched the skin between Victor's nose and mouth.His missing index finger was being brushed, Victor said. A spot just belowVictor's left nostril caused the boy to feel a tingling on his left pinkie. Andwhen Victor felt an itch in his phantom hand, scratching his lower face relievedthe itch. In people who have lost a limb, Ramachandran concluded, the brainreorganizes: the strip of cortex that processes input from the face takes overthe area that originally received input from a now missing hand. That's whytouching Victor's face caused brain to "feel" his missing hand.RelatedThe NewMap Of The BrainThere are uncharted worlds inside your head, but science isdrawing a mapThe Mystery of ConsciousnessYou exist, right? Prove it. How 100billion jabbering neurons create the knowledge--or illusion--that you're here6Lessons for Handling StressTake a deep breath. Now exhale slowly. You've justtaken the first step toward managing stress and avoiding burnoutTime Travel inthe BrainWhat are you doing when you aren't doing anything at all?GraphicsFive Paths to Understanding the BrainFrom gruesome ancient rituals to modernpharmacology, mankind had been trying to discover what's really going on insideour heads. A short historyVideoMysteries of ConciousnessSarah Scantlin is aliving medical miracle. An accident injured her brain so severely she shouldhave died, but 20 years later she has regained the ability to speak * SarahScantlin's Dad SpeaksVideoExercise Your BrainDr. Sanjay Gupta tells us howwe can keep our memory as we age and even create new brain cells through mentaland physical exercise * Dr. Gupta Interviews Professor Arthur KramerMoreVideos* Blind Learn To See With Tongue* Helping The Blind To See* A LookInside A Baby's Brain* How Your Brain Handles Stress* Coping With StressSimilarly, because the regions of cortex that handle sensations from the feetabut those that process sensations from the surface of the genitals, some peoplewho have lost a leg report feeling phantom sensations during sex. Ramachandran'swas the first report of a living being knowingly experiencing the results of hisbrain rewiring.THINKING ABOUT THINKINGAS SCIENTISTS PROBE the limits ofneuroplasticity, they are finding that mind sculpting can occur even withoutinput from the outside world. The brain can change as a result of the thoughtswe think, as with Pascual-Leone's virtual piano players. This has importantimplications for health: something as seemingly insubstantial as a thought canaffect the very stuff of the brain, altering neuronal connections in a way thatcan treat mental illness or, perhaps, lead to a greater capacity for empathy andcompassion. It may even dial up the supposedly immovable happiness set point.Ina series of experiments, for instance, Jeffrey Schwartz and colleagues at theUniversity of California, Los Angeles, found that cognitive behavior therapy(CBT) can quiet activity in the circuit that underlies obsessive-compulsivedisorder (OCD), just as drugs do. Schwartz had become intrigued with thetherapeutic potential of mindfulness meditation, the Buddhist practice ofobserving one's inner experiences as if they were happening to someone else.When OCD patients were plagued by an obsessive thought, Schwartz instructed themto think, "My brain is generating another obsessive thought. Don't I know it isjust some garbage thrown up by a faulty circuit?" After 10 weeks ofmindfulness-based therapy, 12 out of 18 patients improved significantly.Before-and-after brain scans showed that activity in the orbital frontal cortex,the core of the OCD circuit, had fallen dramatically and in exactly the way thatdrugs effective against OCD affect the brain. Schwartz called it "self-directedneuroplasticity," concluding that "the mind can change the brain." Where do you feel that? Ramachandran asked. On his left cheek, Victoranswered--and the back of his missing hand. Ramachandran stroked another spot onthe cheek. Where do you feel that? On his absent thumb, Victor replied.Ramachandran touched the skin between Victor's nose and mouth. His missing indexfinger was being brushed, Victor said. A spot just below Victor's left nostrilcaused the boy to feel a tingling on his left pinkie. And when Victor felt anitch in his phantom hand, scratching his lower face relieved the itch. In peoplewho have lost a limb, Ramachandran concluded, the brain reorganizes: the stripof cortex that processes input from the face takes over the area that originallyreceived input from a now missing hand. That's why touching Victor's face causedbrain to "feel" his missing hand.Similarly, because the regions of cortex that handle sensations from the feetabut those that process sensations from the surface of the genitals, some peoplewho have lost a leg report feeling phantom sensations during sex. Ramachandran'swas the first report of a living being knowingly experiencing the results of hisbrain rewiring.THINKING ABOUT THINKINGAS SCIENTISTS PROBE the limits ofneuroplasticity, they are finding that mind sculpting can occur even withoutinput from the outside world. The brain can change as a result of the thoughtswe think, as with Pascual-Leone's virtual piano players. This has importantimplications for health: something as seemingly insubstantial as a thought canaffect the very stuff of the brain, altering neuronal connections in a way thatcan treat mental illness or, perhaps, lead to a greater capacity for empathy andcompassion. It may even dial up the supposedly immovable happiness set point.Ina series of experiments, for instance, Jeffrey Schwartz and colleagues at theUniversity of California, Los Angeles, found that cognitive behavior therapy(CBT) can quiet activity in the circuit that underlies obsessive-compulsivedisorder (OCD), just as drugs do. Schwartz had become intrigued with thetherapeutic potential of mindfulness meditation, the Buddhist practice ofobserving one's inner experiences as if they were happening to someone else.When OCD patients were plagued by an obsessive thought, Schwartz instructed themto think, "My brain is generating another obsessive thought. Don't I know it isjust some garbage thrown up by a faulty circuit?" After 10 weeks ofmindfulness-based therapy, 12 out of 18 patients improved significantly.Before-and-after brain scans showed that activity in the orbital frontal cortex,the core of the OCD circuit, had fallen dramatically and in exactly the way thatdrugs effective against OCD affect the brain. Schwartz called it "self-directedneuroplasticity," concluding that "the mind can change the brain."The same is true when cognitive techniques are used to treat depression.Scientists at the University of Toronto had 14 depressed adults undergo CBT,which teaches patients to view their own thoughts differently--to see a faileddate, for instance, not as proof that "I will never be loved" but as a minorthing that didn't work out. Thirteen other patients received paroxetine (thegeneric form of the antidepressant Paxil). All experienced comparableimprovement after treatment. Then the scientists scanned the patients' brains."Our hypothesis was, if you do well with treatment, your brain will have changedin the same way no matter which treatment you received," said Toronto's ZindelSegal.But no. Depressed brains responded differently to the two kinds oftreatment--and in a very interesting way. CBT muted overactivity in the frontalcortex, the seat of reasoning, logic and higher thought as well as of endlessrumination about that disastrous date. Paroxetine, by contrast, raised activitythere. On the other hand, CBT raised activity in the hippocampus of the limbicsystem, the brain's emotion center. Paroxetine lowered activity there. AsToronto's Helen Mayberg explains, "Cognitive therapy targets the cortex, thethinking brain, reshaping how you process information and changing your thinkingpattern. It decreases rumination, and trains the brain to adopt differentthinking circuits." As with Schwartz's OCD patients, thinking had changed apattern of activity--in this case, a pattern associated with depression--in thebrain.HAPPINESS AND MEDITATIONCOULD THINKING ABOUT THOUGHTS IN A new wayaffect not only such pathological brain states as OCD and depression but alsonormal activity? To find out, neuroscientist Richard Davidson of the Universityof Wisconsin at Madison turned to Buddhist monks, the Olympic athletes of mentaltraining. Some monks have spent more than 10,000 hours of their lives inmeditation. Earlier in Davidson's career, he had found that activity greater inthe left prefrontal cortex than in the right correlates with a higher baselinelevel of contentment. The relative left/right activity came to be seen as amarker for the happiness set point, since people tend to return to this level nomatter whether they win the lottery or lose their spouse. If mental training canalter activity characteristic of OCD and depression, might meditation or otherforms of mental training, Davidson wondered, produce changes that underlieenduring happiness and other positive emotions? "That's the hypothesis," hesays, "that we can think of emotions, moods and states such as compassion astrainable mental skills."With the help and encouragement of the Dalai Lama,Davidson recruited Buddhist monks to go to Madison and meditate inside hisfunctional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) tube while he measured their brainactivity during various mental states. For comparison, he used undergraduateswho had had no experience with meditation but got a crash course in the basictechniques. During the generation of pure compassion, a standard Buddhistmeditation technique, brain regions that keep track of what is self and what isother became quieter, the fMRI showed, as if the subjects--experiencedmeditators as well as novices--opened their minds and hearts to others.More interesting were the differences between the so-called adepts and thenovices. In the former, there was significantly greater activation in a brainnetwork linked to empathy and maternal love. Connections from the frontalregions, so active during compassion meditation, to the brain's emotionalregions seemed to become stronger with more years of meditation practice, as ifthe brain had forged more robust connections between thinking and feeling.Butperhaps the most striking difference was in an area in the left prefrontalcortex--the site of activity that marks happiness. While the monks weregenerating feelings of compassion, activity in the left prefrontal swampedactivity in the right prefrontal (associated with negative moods) to a degreenever before seen from purely mental activity. By contrast, the undergraduatecontrols showed no such differences between the left and right prefrontalcortex. This suggests, says Davidson, that the positive state is a skill thatcan be trained.For the monks as well as the patients with depression or OCD,the conscious act of thinking about their thoughts in a particular wayrearranged the brain. The discovery of neuroplasticity, in particular the powerof the mind to change the brain, is still too new for scientists, let alone therest of us, to grasp its full meaning. But even as it offers new therapies forillnesses of the mind, it promises something more fundamental: a newunderstanding of what it means to be human.

6 Lessons for Handling Stress

Friday, Jan. 19, 2007
Take a deep breath. Now exhale slowly. You're probably not aware of it, but your heart has just slowed down a bit. Not to worry; it will speed up again when you inhale.
This regular-irregular beat is a sign of a healthy interaction between heart and head.
Each time you exhale, your brain sends a signal down the vagusnerve to slow the cardiac muscle. With each inhale, the signal gets weaker andyour heart revs up. Inhale, beat faster. Exhale, beat slower. It's an ancientrhythm that helps your heart last a lifetime. And it leads to lesson No. 1 inhow to manage stress and avoid burnout.REMEMBER TO BREATHEEVOLUTION HAS BEQUEATHED TO OUR BRAINS A variety ofmechanisms for handling the ups and downs of life--from built-in chemicalcircuit breakers that shut off the stress hormones to entire networks of nerveswhose only job is to calm you down. The problem, in the context of our alwayswired, always on-call world, is that they all require that you take regularbreaks from your normal routine--and not just an occasional weekend trip. Youcan try to ignore the biological need to periodically disengage, but there'sgrowing evidence that it will eventually catch up with you. Insurance claims forstress, depression and job burnout are now the U.S.'s fastest-growing disabilitycategory.Making matters worse, Americans tend to cope with stress in all thewrong ways. A November survey by the advocacy group Mental Health America foundthat we frequently deal with chronic stress by watching television, skippingexercise and forgoing healthy foods. The problem with these coping mechanisms isthat they keep you from doing things that help buffer your stress load--likeexercising or relaxing with friends or family--or add greater stress to yourbody. Indeed, using many of our most cherished time-saving gadgets can backfire.Cell phones and mobile e-mail devices--to give just two examples--make it harderto get away from the office to decompress. Working from home may, in some cases,exacerbate the situation because it isolates employees while simultaneouslyblurring the line between work and leisure.We also have a lot of misconceptionsabout who gets stressed out and why. Twenty years ago, psychologists almostexclusively blamed job stress on high workloads or lack of control on the job.More recent studies, says Christina Maslach, a pioneer in burnout research atthe University of California, Berkeley, show that unfairness and a mismatch invalues between employees and their companies play an increasing role intriggering stress. "Probably one of the strongest predictors is when there's avacuum of information--silence about why decisions were made the way they were,"Maslach says. "Another is having to operate in conflict with your values. Do youneed to shade the truth to get authorization from the insurance company? Are youselling things that you know people don't really need?"NO. 2STRESS ALTERS YOURBLOOD CHEMISTRYFOR YEARS PSYCHOLOGISTS HAVE concentrated on the behavioralsymptoms of burnout: lost energy, lost enthusiasm and lost confidence. Now,thanks to new brain scans and more sophisticated blood tests, scientists candirectly measure some of the effects of stress on mind and body--often withsurprising results. You are probably familiar with the signs of an adrenaline surge (racing pulse,hairs on the neck standing on end), which evolved to help us fight or fleepredators and other immediate dangers. And you may have heard of cortisol,another stress hormone, which is produced more slowly than adrenaline andlingers in the bloodstream longer. But did you know that too little cortisol inyour bloodstream can be just as bad as too much? Or that tucking into comfortfoods, while soothing in the short term, can sabotage your long-term stressresponse by increasing the number of inflammatory proteins in your body?What's emerging is a complex picture of the body's response to stress thatinvolves several interrelated pathways. Scientists know the most about cortisolbecause until now that has been the easiest part to measure. "But when one thingchanges, all the others change to some degree," says Bruce McEwen, aneuroendocrinologist at Rockefeller University who has spent decades studyingthe biology of stress, primarily in animals. So just because you see animbalance in one area doesn't mean you understand why it is happening. "We'relearning that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), burnout, chronic fatiguesyndrome and fibromyalgia are all related in some ways," McEwen says. The nextstep is to figure out if there are any genetic predispositions that tip theresponse to stress toward one set of symptoms or another.NO. 3YOU CAN'T AVOIDSTRESSEVEN GETTING OUT OF BED CAN BE TOUGH ON THE BODY. SEVERAL hours beforeyou wake each morning, a tiny region at the base of your cerebrum called thehypothalamus sends a signal that ultimately alerts your adrenal glands, whichsit on top of your kidneys, to start pumping out cortisol, which acts as awake-up signal. Cortisol levels continue to rise after you become conscious inwhat is sometimes referred to as the "Oh, s___! It's another day" response. Thismay help explain why so many heart attacks and strokes occur between 6 a.m. and8 a.m.Because cortisol is a long-acting hormone, you can dally under the coversa bit without losing any steam. But your brain is already taking steps toprotect you from the shock of starting a new day. Rising cortisol levels signalthe hypothalamus to stop sounding the alarm. Other parts of the brain chime in,and eventually the adrenal glands ratchet down their cortisol production. Inother words, the brain's stress response contains its own off switch.Mostpeople's cortisol, as measured by a saliva test, peaks a few hours after waking.Levels then gradually decline during the course of the day--with a few blipsscattered here and there. That pattern typically changes, however, in people whoare severely depressed. Their cortisol level still rises early in the morning,but it stays high all day long. It's almost as if their hypothalamus hasforgotten how to turn off the stress response. (Intriguingly, people who aresleep deprived also exhibit a high, flat cortisol level.)Researchers figured something similar had to be happening in burnout victims.But rather than finding a prominent cortisol peak, investigators discovered ashallow bump in the morning followed by a low, flattened level throughout theday. Intriguingly, such blunted cortisol responses are also common amongHolocaust survivors, rape victims and soldiers suffering from PTSD. Thedifference seems to be that people with PTSD are much more sensitive to cortisolat even these low levels than those with burnout. "We used to blame everythingon high cortisol," says Rachel Yehuda, a neurochemist and PTSD expert at theMount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. "Now we can blame things on lowcortisol as well."STRESS CAN AGE YOU BEFORE YOUR TIMESCIENTISTS HAVE LONG SUSPECTED THATunremitting stress does damage to the immune system, but they weren't sure how.Then two years ago, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco,looked at white blood cells from a group of mothers whose children suffered fromchronic disorders like autism or cerebral palsy. The investigators found clearsigns of accelerated aging in those study subjects who had cared the longest forchildren with disabilities or who reported the least control over their lives.The changes took place in microscopic structures called telomeres, which areoften compared to the plastic wrappers on the ends of shoelaces and which keepchromosomes from shredding. As a general rule, the youngest cells boast thelongest telomeres. But telomeres in the more stressed-out moms weresignificantly shorter than those of their counterparts, making them, from agenetic point of view, anywhere from nine to 17 years older than theirchronological age.NO. 5STRESS IS NOT AN EQUAL-OPPORTUNITY EMPLOYERIN 1995, INA NOW CLASSIC EXPERIMENT, SCIENTISTS AT THE University of Trier in Germanysubjected 20 male volunteers to a situation guaranteed to raise their stresslevels: participating in a mock job interview and solving arithmetic problems infront of strangers who corrected them if they made mistakes. As expected, eachsubject's cortisol level rose at first. But by the second day of the trial, mostof the men's cortisol levels did not jump significantly. Experience had taughtthem that the situation wasn't that bad. Seven of the men, however, exhibitedcortisol spikes every bit as high on the fourth day as the first. Only by thefifth day did their stress reaction begin to disappear.More recently,researchers have found that subjects with low self-esteem are more vulnerable tostress. Jens Pruessner at McGill University in Montreal believes that thehippocampus, a finger-size structure located deep in the brain, is at leastpartially responsible. It turns out that the hippocampus, which helps you formnew memories and retrieve old ones, is particularly sensitive to the amount ofcortisol flooding your cerebrum. So when cortisol levels begin to rise, thehippocampus sends a set of signals that help shut down the cortisol cascade.Using several different types of brain scans, Pruessner has shown that peoplewho test below average on self-esteem also tend to have smaller-than-averagehippocampi. The differences become clear only when you compare groups of people,Pruessner notes, so you can't look at any single person's brain scan anddetermine whether he or she has low self-esteem. But when you look at overallresults, they suggest that a smaller hippocampus simply has more troublepersuading the rest of the brain to turn off the stress response.Still unclear is how the body goes from having repeated activation of the stressresponse to showing the typically blunted cortisol levels of someone sufferingfrom burnout. "We are still studying this," says Samuel Melamed of Tel AvivUniversity in Israel. "But if there is no relief and the cortisol stays up forlong periods of time, the body stops responding and readjusts the level."NO. 6THERE'S MORE THAN ONE WAY TO RELIEVE STRESSTHIS IS PROBABLY THE TOUGHEST LESSONTO INTERNALIZE BECAUSE when stress overwhelms the system, your choices oftenseem more limited than they are. Behavioral scientists have a name for thispsychological reaction. They call it learned helplessness, and they have studiedthe phenomenon closely in laboratory rodents, whose nervous system bearsstriking similarities to that of humans.Here's how the experiment works: if youprovide mice with an escape route, they typically learn very quickly how toavoid a mild electrical shock that occurs a few seconds after they hear a tone.But if the escape route is blocked whenever the tone is sounded, and new shocksoccur, the mice will eventually stop trying to run away. Later, even after theescape route is cleared, the animals simply freeze at the sound of thetone--despite the fact that they once knew how to avoid the associated shock.Obviously, humans have more intellectual resources at their disposal than micedo, but the underlying principle remains. When too many of the rules change,when what used to work doesn't anymore, your ability to reason takes a hit. Justbeing aware of your nervous system's built-in bias toward learned helplessnessin the face of unrelieved stress can help you identify and develop healthyhabits that will buffer at least some of the load. But the one thing you should not do is ignore the risks. Animal research hasshown that there is a relatively small window for reversing the physiologicaleffects of chronic stress. Studies of people are starting to produce similarresults. Once a person's cortisol level gets completely blunted, it seems tostay that way for years. You owe it to yourself and your loved ones not to letthat happen.

For the record: Sreesanth's six over Nel and war dance

New Delhi: Sreesanth, whose famous war dance has now become a symbol of India'shistoric Test triumph against South Africa in Johannesburg, says he will try tokeep his aggression in control to ensure that he is not penalised in future. Sreesanth said that he would continue to be aggressive as a bowler but will becareful not to over-do it and risk inviting the attention of ICC Match Referees.
"I know that if I do something similar again, I could miss a game. It is my dutythat I do not do anything stupid," he said. The Kerala seamer, who was finedone-third of his match fee for his reaction after dismissing Hashim Amla in thesecond innings, said he had learnt his lesson and would not violate any code ofconduct. Sreesanth also disclosed what had transpired between him and AndreNel, which prompted him to break into a jig after hitting the South Africanpaceman for a six. "As soon as I walked in to bat, Nel said `I can smellblood, I can smell blood,'" the Kerala bowler was quoted as saying in `Outlook'magazine. "Then after beating me, he said `You don't have the fire, man. Youshould have a big heart to play. You are like a bunny to me.' He turned back andsaid it again `You are a bunny man and I will get you next ball,'" Sreesanthrecalled. Nel changed the field for the next ball, moving the short-legfielder to deep square-leg and told wicketkeeper Mark Boucher that he would bowla bouncer. "I am a fast bowler and was sure that he would bowl a length ball.I just took my chance and stepped out to connect the ball," Sreesanth said. "Iguess I just could not control myself when I saw the ball soar over theboundary," he said, referring to his impromptu dance as he saw the ball go for asix.