Sunday, October 30, 2016

A Memorable Test Win For Bangladesh

October 30, 2016.

A red letter day in the history of Bangladesh cricket.

(As an aside, do people still use the term "red letter day" any more or am I a hangover from an old English medium era?)

Sometimes, you as a fan know, simply know, in your heart that today, your team will succeed against all odds. In 1999, I remember telling my incredulous Pakistani friends that we would defeat them in the World Cup

Similarly today, I just had a gut feeling. Yes, it wasn't going to be easy, but somewhere, we all Tiger fans had that feeling.

This date joins others in the years - such as the 2012 wins over India, Sri Lanka and West Indies or the whitewashing of New Zealand in 2010 and later in 2013. 2015 was a banner year with victories over Pakistan, India and South Africa, but this date, October 30, 2016, will stand apart from all the rest.

It was the day when we arrived in Test cricket, after having a significant improvement in ODI cricket. Sure, we had Test victories over a full strength Zimbabwe team (surely an oxymoron in itself), or a weakened West Indies team, but this was the big fish. For the first time we beat a team that is in a bonafide contest for the no. 1 Test team in the world, the holder of the Ashes and had pretty much their first choice in team selection. And we didn't have our premiere bowler - Mustafizur. And we had come soooo close in Chittagong. 

I had been following the match from the first ball. It was good that today was Sunday here in Canada - I could forget about sleep and just watch the game. Well, in reality I did keep dozing off intermittently, but in my defense that is traditional for a Test cricket audience.

As a Bangladeshi wicket after Bangladeshi wicket fell in the morning, I kept thinking, why the hurry? Did our batsmen forget this was Test cricket, and not an ODI?

And then England raced to 100-0 to just before tea. The target was 273, a seemingly daunting one on a spinning wicket. Suddenly it was far less challenging, and flashbacks of the ODI decider kept coming back. We had what we thought was a good, challenging target, but England openers carved out a big chunk of it to make it an easy stroll.

I don't know what the coach told the team in the interval. Whatever it was, it seemed to work. Suddenly, in the next 22.2 mesmerizing overs, Shakib and Mehedi destroyed England. From 100-0 to 164 all out. 

This time, as each wicket fell, the anticipation grew. Test is really the best - and this game had it all. Sudden twists, batting collapses, umpire mistakes, overturned decisions, intrigue, colourful characters and so on. 

I mean the way Shakib gave Stokes a send off was the best if you had followed the series. Had a grin on my face as he departed.

And then suddenly after Shakib's three wickets in four balls ... after that over ... it was all down to the last wicket. Suddenly, there could be no doubt. And then Mehedi bowled that ball.

And then the umpire raised his finger. We all turned to Finn. Would he review the decision? Yes he would. Of course. But wait! England had no reviews left. 

This is it. 




We had won.

It was a hot smoggy winter's day and I was in Dhaka in 2005 as Bangladesh defended against Zimbabwe for 5 sessions to earn a draw and win the series 1-0. How far we have come from that!

Cholo Bangladesh!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Little Kids Wearing Headscarves

There was an article in the Guardian recently which was entitled This trend of young Muslim girls wearing the hijab is disturbing

Now I will be the first to admit that I myself find it disturbing when I see six year old girls wearing a full hijab. Six year old girls are not required to wear hijab in Islam. They are not even required to pray. All of these rulings come much later, when they become adults (i.e. puberty). Why objectify young girls by asking them to wear a clothing that is supposed to be modest (and thus hide their sexuality - which they don't have SINCE THEY ARE SIX YEARS OLD)? 

Now I will also admit my discomfort is because most of the people I know (fathers especially) who make their little girls wear hijab usually tend to be those close minded hateful so-called "orthodox" Muslims with limited knowledge and a very harsh understanding of Islam. These are the 'fire-and-brimstone' type people and usually it's their kids I see dressed like this, hence my discomfort. 

But, is it any other person's business? And then if you continue to read the Guardian's article, you will see it slowly veers into nonsense. It makes statements about the hijab which isn't true. And then you come to realize that it's not the hijab that this writer finds scary, but the very fact that Muslims are practicing their religion. To this writer, the only good Muslim is a non-Muslim.

Now, if I were to write in the same veneer as the article, I would also say that this trend of young girls treating themselves as sex objects is highly disturbing. I am of course talking of the beauty pageants that occur in the US, with teenagers and sometimes kids as young as six. It's actually a documented fact that kids are now becoming hyper sexual and sexually aware in the West at a very early age.

The other day a video of a 13 year old girl setting up her boyfriend to see if he would cheat on her was widely shared on facebook. 13 years old?!!! At that age normal kids are thinking about exams and cartoons and movies. Yet in America and the West, it's normal to be engaged in a physical relationship when you are legally not even old enough to have that relationship.

So you tell me, which is more scary?

Perhaps it's those thirteen-year-old kids that should start wearing the hijab.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Western Canada Diaries - 15. The Dinosaurs of Drumheller

[ Continued from Part 14 - Calgary (Again)  ]

Around an hour and half drive north east of Calgary lies the town of Drumheller. The drive to Drumheller is a different drive compared to the Calgary - Banff drives. The road passes through completely flat terrains and farm lands, and almost no mountains.

As you get closer to Drumheller, the topography suddenly changes to badlands and dry lands. This is Drumheller, also known as the Dinosaur Capital of the World, or Dinosaur Valley.

Why dinosaurs? In 1930s, Drumheller was just a little town (having started life as a railway station) of coal miners. In 1955, however, the Dinosaur Provincial Park was established. Covering 80 square kilometres, including 27 kms along the Red Deer River (and Drumheller), the Dinosaur Provincial Park is recognized as the richest dinosaur fossil site in the world.

An exhibit at the Royal Tyrell Museum

Ever since 1889, when the first fossil of an  Albertosaurus, a smaller cousin of the famous T-Rex, was discovered, more than 400 dinosaur skeletons have been found here, representing over 55 individual species. No other area of comparable size anywhere has yielded such a large number and diversity of dinosaur fossils.

And of course, when you have such a rich diversity of dinosaur fossils, there has to be a museum.

The Royal Tyrell Museum is a huge tourist draw (and the main draw of Drumheller). There's over 130,000 fossils here, and the museum is huge.

More than 4,400 square metres (47,000 sq ft) of the museum's 11,200 square metres (121,000 sq ft) is dedicated to exhibits.

There's even perfectly preserved specimens of dinosaur eggs! The theme of the museum is a series of chronological galleries celebrating the 3.9-billion-year-history of life on Earth.

One of the most popular is "Dinosaur Hall", with over 40 mounted dinosaur skeletons, including specimens of the famous Tyrannosaurus Rex and Triceratops.


Of course the museum has an eye on modern mass entertainment, and you get to see the stars of the Ice Age movie series (well, their fossils).


Why are there so many fossils? We took a guided tour, and our guide told us that the true draw of Dinosaur Provincial Park, however, was in the dirt. 

Dinosaurs walked the Alberta Badlands during the Late Cretaceous Period (around 75 million years ago,) when the sub-tropical climate (in Canada!) nourished lush forests and great rivers that flowed east toward a warm inland sea.

"Tropical weather? In Canada? You don't say!"

The environment provided homes for a variety of creatures big and small, including sharks, turtles and crocodiles. Reptiles with wingspans wider than a small plane soared across the skies.

Those great rivers left behind the sand and mud deposits where dinosaur bones were quickly buried and then fossilized, and now form the hills and hoodoos of the Badlands.

When the last ice age ended 13,000 years ago, water from melting ice carved the valley where the Red Deer River flows, helping to create perfect conditions for fossil preservation.

You can easily spend 4-5 hours here. There's all types of exhibits, even about Jurassic era plants and microbes. They have activities for kids (and families) to go fossil hunting in the nearby badlands. Kids loved the dinosaurs (in fact my four year old knew most of them, because of Harry And His Bucket Full of Dinosaurs). Who said TV wasn't educational?

You will see dinosaurs (well, models of them) all over Drumheller.

The other big attraction (and I mean big) of Drumheller is the World's Largest Dinosaur.

This is a giant model of a Tyrannosaurus Rex (even larger than the known sizes of an actual T-Rex, approximately 4.5 times larger). The height is 26.3m, and you can climb the 106 stairs (for a fee).

It's situated in a park (with water fountains and splash pads) with free parking nearby. By the way, having a giant model of something in the middle of a small Canadian town is an unusual but common Canadian tradition.

Drumheller is a day trip from Calgary. You start in the morning, explore the Royal Tyrell Museum, go to the World's Largest Dinosaur site (most people don't go up, usually), and if you have time go to the Atlas Coal Mine, and then head back to Calgary. When making an itinerary, Drumheller's a must on the trip.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Western Canada Diaries - 14. Calgary (Again)

[ Continued from Part 13 - Edmonton  ]

Returning to Calgary from Edmonton, we had a few days before leaving for Vancouver and Victoria. And you do need a few days to unwind from a Banff / Jasper trip. For one, there's so many pictures to sort and upload!

I had already covered Calgary's Olympic Plaza and a brief introduction to the city, so in this post I want to just talk about a few of the other places in and around Calgary that you can visit. I will also cover Drumheller in the next post.

Nose Hill Park is a huge park atop a hill in north west Calgary. It's a gigantic city park (almost 11 square kilometres) but the main attraction is that you can see all of downtown Calgary from one spot in the park. It's a nice viewpoint and we did explore a few of the trails, but mostly we came to take a picture of Calgary from here.

If you want a family shot with Calgary in the background, this is the place to come.

Chestermere is a small city by Chestermere Lake. The nice thing to do in Chestermere is just sit by the lake and enjoy the beautiful serene scene.

It's not the great glacier lakes of the parks, but it's only a fifteen minute drive from where we were staying.

The lake is also used in the summer for waterskiing, wakeboarding, fishing and other sports. It's a nice spot for a picnic (there are benches) or simply being lazy.

There's also a playground nearby, and a place with a lot of benches that you can lounge in and soak up the sun (if you are so inclined, we desis tend to run away from the sun).

Peace Bridge is a bridge over Bow River in Calgary. Yes, the same Bow River that begins in the Rocky Mountains and is part of the Bow Falls and the Bow Valley.

The bridge features the red and white colours, as red and white is present in both the Flag of Canada and the Flag of Calgary.

It's a pedestrian bridge but also has separate bike lanes. It's designed to be barrier free for those users who have challenges with mobility. The bridge opened to the public in 2012.

The red and white patterns make for interesting pictures and I had to wait a little bit to get a shot with no one in the frame. The things our families have to tolerate when they have a photo hobbyist amongst them!

The people of Calgary are an outdoorsy type when the weather allows them, and we saw quite a lot of boats and rafts on the Bow River as we were exploring the bridge. This trend would be doubled when we were visiting Vancouver. As a general trend, Western Canadians seem more sporty and outdoorsy than Ontarians. Maybe it has something to do with their beautiful landscape.

Calgary has some other attractions such as the Calgary Zoo, but as I said I wanted to explore sights that were unique to the city. You visit one zoo, you have visited them all, mostly. Calgary is also, as I said, quite huge and it takes a long time to drive from one part of the city to another.

Coming up next: Drumheller.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Western Canada Diaries - 13. Edmonton

[ Continued from Part 12 - Columbia Icefield Glacier Adventure and Skywalk  ]


On the highway from Hinton to Edmonton

It was surreal to think I was walking in the streets of Edmonton, a city just under 3,500 km away from Toronto. I had always wanted to see the West Edmonton Mall, ever since seeing one of my friend's pictures of it on his visit. And here I was, walking in the mall.

An item crossed off the bucket list, as they say.

To be fair, Edmonton isn't exactly a touristy town. You see it on a Western road trip because, well, it's the biggest city out here north of Jasper. From Jasper we drove to this little town called Hinton, where we stayed the night. In the morning, after a good breakfast, we headed for Edmonton. In just under three hours, we reached our hotel in Edmonton. A quick freshening up later, we were ready to tour the city.

Well ... there's really ONE big attraction in Edmonton.

The West Edmonton Mall.

This mall is the largest mall in North America, and up until 2004 it was the largest mall in the world. The mall opened its doors in 1981 and is really the original mega mall, from which other cities building huge malls got their ideas.

Here's a bit of comparison with the world famous Dubai Mall.

Dubai Mall is the world's largest mall by total area. However, if taking gross leasable area into account, the West Edmonton Mall is the tenth largest in the world, while Dubai Mall is the nineteenth largest. While walking around in the mall, I realized that it was much easier to walk across the whole of West Edmonton Mall than Dubai Mall (which is really huge in terms of total area).

The West Edmonton mall has 800 stores, while Dubai Mall has over 1200. West Edmonton mall gets over 32 million visitors annually, while Dubai Mall hits 54 million. 20,000 vehicles can be parked in West Edmonton Mall, while Dubai Mall has parking for 14,000 cars.

I really don't have too many pictures to share of Galaxyland, but this place is the second largest indoor amusement park in the world (behind Ferrari World). There's all sorts of rides here, including Mindbender - the world's largest indoor triple loop roller coaster. Incidentally, the parking lot next to Galaxyland is the best place to park in the mall if you are looking for a centralized location.

We didn't visit the World Waterpark - apparently the world's second largest indoor waterpark, with the world's largest indoor wave pool. There's a hotel (in the mall) right next to the waterpark, and if you are visiting Edmonton with only this mall in mind, this is somewhere you can stay.

There is Sealife Caverns (also known as Sea Lions Rock). This is a place that has an indoor lagoon which contains a salt-water habitat with sea lions, as well as a replica of the Santa MarĂ­a.

The ship is huge (apparently to scale) and you can visit it for $2 / person. This is also the most picturesque location in the mall.

There's also submarines (that you can pay and control - it's lot of fun!) as well as aquatic life that lives underneath the exhibit. Quite cool, if you think about it! Apparently this whole structure was badly damaged during a hail storm in July 2004 (of course long since promptly repaired).

The gently shimmering water is really a pleasant hue of blue (I wonder how they maintain that colour) and makes for nice pictures if you are so inclined. I saw dozens of people with tripods and cameras there.

The lagoon is also used for sealion shows throughout the day.

The shows are free if you want to watch from the balcony in the upper level of the mall, but you have to pay if you want to sit up close in the amphitheater in front of the lagoon.

Honestly, it's not the Sea World or Marineland, so you are better off just watching it for free.

There's the typical small exotic animals (such as a baby alligator or newt or something).

This is followed by the sea lions executing some tricks such as jumping through rings, swimming through hoops, listening to (and dancing with) their trainer and one cool trick - cleaning litter from the pool.

There's also a huge ice rink in the middle of the mall (incidentally this was the "inspiration" behind the ice rink at Dubai Mall).

If you have visited Dubai Mall, should you visit West Edmonton Mall?

Well, if you are in Edmonton, you might as well. It's the only big attraction in town. However, it's attractive in its own way. For one, the Galaxyland and the waterpark is something that's not there in Dubai Mall, and also - this mall is actually busy with real shoppers buying stuff. You know .. it's a mall.

There's also another nice place in Edmonton we visited. It was the next morning, after breakfast, and before we headed back to Calgary. This was the beautiful Edmonton City Hall.

They have a nice fountain setup and a pool right in front of the City Hall, and it was a nice and sunny hot day (almost 30 C!).

There was also some festival going on in front of the City Hall, with performers, street dancers, vendors and the works.

Over all, Edmonton is a nice city that you can completely visit the highlights in two days, and something worth checking out. It's only 3 hours north of Calgary, and as can be seen in the map at the beginning of this post, Calgary-Banff-Jasper-Edmonton-Calgary is a nice circle and a great road trip.