Mastering the Fates

How about a film marathon? Watching movies based on the flaming human spirit that pursues excellence against all odds? In a coincidence that bordered on the mystical, I was recently afforded an opportunity to watch a few of such soulful ones: On Pele, on Jesse Owens, on Mandela, on Alan Turing.

‘The Imitation Game’ makes you weep- with overwhelming empathy for a tortured genius. Alan Turing the brilliant mathematician who was driven to suicide at 41, has been beautifully portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch.  The enigmatic Turing pieces together the world’s first thinking machine amidst mind numbing pressures, battles deep human prejudices and yearns for life assuring friendships.  All the while, he is quietly saving millions of lives.The film makes us aware of how deeply flawed we are, as a human race. We are the most cruel of all living beings. I felt touched by an Angel after watching this beauty of a movie.

‘Invictus’, is named after William Ernest Henley’s poem that was Nelson Mandela’s favourite. It depicts the elegant Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela, emerging from prison in 1994 after 27 years. He is faced with a divisive nation where mutual hatred and suspicions reign. The Rugby World Cup of 1995  is used as an opportunity by the great leader to  inspire a unifying sense of nationhood in the South Africans. One sees leadership in action, greatness in front of the eyes, making us dazzled with the purity of the undying human spirit and the enthralling power of sports.( I loved the Maori war dance, the Haka, before the finals.)

‘ Out of the darkness that covers me/Black as the pit from pole to pole/ I thank whatever Gods may be/ For my unconquerable soul…’

‘Race’- the movie on Jesse Owens, who won four gold medals at the Berlin Olympics under Hitler’s very eye, is  both informative and inspiring.We see that the White House  did not acknowledge Owens’ victory and that he was forced to enter his own victory party  at the Waldorf Astoria through the entrance meant for servants. Jesse Owens the quietly confident star, his encounter with German competitor Luz  Long that carries a beautiful story in its  own strength, the manipulations of power- all make for  a mesmerising watching. I  was stunned by the actor who enacted Joseph Goebbels with finesse- Barnaby Metschurat- for the sensitively portrayed body language, the look in his eyes, the palpable touch of evil power. The nexus between politics, business and sports was again high lighted through the story of Avery Brundage. Someone should study that character further for a management course in Power and Politics.

Pele-the birth of a legend, the biographical film, with music by A.R.Rehman, should not be missed by football fans. I wished that my father was watching it with me- when  I watched Pele’s father teaching him the Ginga style (inspired by the Capoeira martial arts )of playing football , using a mango fruit. The mind numbing poverty and the amazingly talented  Brazilian children playing football with cloth balls were eye openers in a literal sense too. Here too, was the human spirit at work, aiming for excellence amidst all odds. The beautiful game is showcased in a wonderful way.

‘ It matters not how strait the gate

How charged with punishment the scroll

I am the master of my fate:

I am the captain of my soul.’



Twin Poems ( On Football) Translation

My father adores football. I grew up seeing him scream , “Goaaallll….” with an uncommon passion, as he watched all the great football matches around the globe in his home television. The other family members merely rolled their eyes while this recurrent phenomenon usually rang out  around midnight and continued late into the early hours.

I am a mere curious onlooker- whose attention is caught more by facts than anything else.

So, when I read the twin poems on football in my Mother tongue- the Kerala proclivity for football is as legendary as that of West Bengal- I could not help delving deeper, and translating them. It gets curious and curiouser, as  Lewis Carroll would have put it, when names and countries take on a whole new manoeuvre in the feet, cough, hands of an adept word-player. It is a beautiful game, after all.

Irratta Kavithakal ( P.N.Gopikrishnan)/ Twin Poems

( Mathrubhumi Weekly, Nov 22-28, 2015)

Translated from Malayalam


2010 July 11

It was the final of 2010, between Spain and Holland

The last football game

Which took possession of us.

It was

Not a ball.

A nightmare coloured in

Eighteen shades.

A human head-

A woman,

From the Dutch half.

A man,

From  the Spanish half.

From the referee’s perspective,

The head changed betwixt

Those of children

And transgenders.

The black wizard of that night

Was Arjen Robben.

He was -speed.

He was- bullet.

He was also- the gun.

Our issue was not his form.

His name- (pronounced) Aryan.

If Hitler were a player,

He would have played like that.


That brute force would lead


Getting up  bristling, from pain, wounds,

Even as in a cartoon-

But never turning

Into one.

We called out

To the forgotten Gods.

To the sculptors of our


They were helpless.

That gave us no option

But to turn poets.

We started writing

In Capdevilla, In David Villa

In Ramos

Finally in Iniesta

The  tiki- taka of poetry,

We kept on writing.

In that moment-

When poetry overtook brute force –

Arjen made a mistake.

The mistake of a century.

( Poet’s Note * The  Jo’bulani ball used for the World Cup had eleven colours)



28, September 2015

In India , Hitler will not

Play football.

Because, it is merely a game

Of ninety minutes.

It is just an affair of five days.

So, in India, where the game

Has to be played for epochs,

Hitler does not appear

As a bearded Arjen Robben,

But as a mob.

The mob is not just a mob.

Crores of heads,

Twice that many hands,

Twenty times more claws,

Thirty two times fangs-

A murderous creature.

It moves stealthily,

But acts very quickly.

When a country splits into two

To play a final,

When the players change sides often

When the referee changes sides too,


Will be forced to turn poets

Yet again.

Not the goal seeking

Striker poets

Who try to score

With four lines at a time.

But  those who slip backwards,

Guarding the net of the future-

The Goal keeper poets.