Babble Without a Pause

December 8, 2015

Perspectives On Being Fleeced (and other stories)

paul-noth-then-we-carefully-disguise-the-bribes-as-legal-fees-by-changing-the-word-new-yorker-cartoon

INDIA (2005)

  1. Passport office. 10am. Stand in line 4-5 hours to get your passport renewed. Wait for hours. Get told to come back the next day.
  2. You decide it’s not worth your time.
  3. You pay some Rupeeses to expedite your application processing.
  4. Case AUTO-MAGICALLY gets processed the next day and you have your passport.

    BRIBE, they call it.

    “Third world country. What did you expect?” I overhear.

    200_s

 

U.S.A (2015)

  1. Submit application to have your work visa renewed. Wait 4 months for  a process that typically takes a month or two (AT MOST). Get informed by friendly neighborhood attorneys that it could take up to 6 months more, BUT nice guy that you are, you could technically continue working while waiting for approval, but you are virtually under house arrest and literally cannot leave the country for vacation, emergency, or even if Jesus returns (because History lesson, Jesus was from the Middle East, not Amurica).
  2. You decide to not have to be stuck for another 4 months due to government inefficiencies and red tape.
  3. You pay some Dollarses in fees to expedite your visa processing.
  4. Case AUTO-MAGICALLY gets approved in two weeks and you have your visa.

    PREMIUM PROCESSING, they call it.

    “First world country. Things get done quick.” I overhear.

    200_s

#JustSaying

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November 27, 2015

Of Intolerant Views On Intolerance

FULL DISCLOSURE – I am not a fan of celebrity culture, but make an exception for this man. In my opinion, he is an actor who treads off-the-beaten-path. Like his film roles, he is an unconventional celebrity, and embodies for the most part, a forward thinking mindset, one that I find myself aligned with. There are exceptions, most recently when he criticized the comedians operating a satirical Youtube channel titled AIB for their vulgar language, despite having himself acted in a handful of roles that involved crude language. Sometime between 2 and 3 years ago, Mr. Khan was the face of Satyameva Jayate, a national show that broke from traditional Indian talk shows with its hard-hitting analysis of issues plaguing our country. The toast of the nation back then, everyone crowed about how he was a rare celebrity with a conscience, seeking to do public good, by bringing to light the many issues plaguing the country.

____________________________________________

intolerance
“FUCK Aamir Khan, man” I overhear this afternoon, as I sit down to lunch at a restaurant some 12,000 km from Delhi.

If you haven’t heard the name Aamir Khan in conversations over the past two days, I have one question for you. That rock you’ve been living under, is it sedimentary, igneous, or metamorphic? On a more serious note, in case you aren’t aware, the name belongs to an Indian citizen and prominent actor vilified by countless twitterati, blogophiles, and social media enthusiasts over the past two days for comments he made in an interview. Lest I be accused of not quoting accurately or misrepresenting context, here is that question, and his answer:

Anant: Aamir, are you agreeing with the protest (award wapsi, or the recent trend of Indian authors, artists and prominent figures returning awards previously handed out by the Indian govt) or do you think it’s uncalled for… do you think it is premature?

Aamir: Well, I think, if I am not mistaken there are so many people in this room who are much more knowledgeable than me so I am feeling intimidated to speak in front of all of you. But my understanding is that a lot of people from the creative fraternity are protesting because of the growing discomfort they felt or the growing atmosphere of intolerance that they felt around them… growing sense of insecurity and disappointment with that, and as a result that was their way of showing that they are not happy with the situation.

As an individual myself, as a part of the country, as a citizen, we read in newspapers what’s happening and certainly I have also been alarmed. I can’t deny that I am alarmed.. by a number of incidences. For any society it is very important to have a sense of security. I mean there will be acts of violence in world for different reasons. But for us as Indians, as a part of society to have a sense of security… two-three things are very important, I feel. One is sense of justice. If there is a wrong step that anyone takes, then a correct justice is what is required. Common man should feel that justice will be done. That’s what gives a sense of security. The second and very important sense of security is the people who are our elected representatives – people who we select to look after us for five years if at state level or Centre. When people take law in to their hands and when there is a sense of insecurity, we look upon these people to take a strong stance, make strong statements and speed up the legal process to prosecute cases. When we see it happening there is a sense of security but when we don’t see that happening there is a sense of insecurity. So it does not matter who the ruling party is. It’s happened across ages. On television debates, we see where one political party, in this case, the BJP which is ruling right now, is accused of various things. They said, ‘But what happened in 1984?’. But that doesn’t make right what’s happening now. What happened in ‘84 was disastrous and horrendous. At other times also, through ages, whenever there is a violent act, when an innocent person is killed, be it one or a large number, that’s very unfortunate. And these unfortunate moments are the ones when we look towards our leaders to take a strong step. Make statements that are reassuring to the citizens.
[….]
To complete my answer that there is a sense of fear more than there was earlier. I do feel there is a sense of insecurity. When I sit at home and talk to Kiran. (Wife) Kiran and I have lived all our lives in India. For the first time, she said, should we move out of India? That’s a disastrous and big statement for Kiran to make to me. She fears for her child. She fears about what the atmosphere around us will be. She feels scared to open the newspapers everyday. That does indicate that there is a sense of growing disquiet… growing sense of despondency. You feel depressed, you feel low.. why is it happening? This feeling exists in me too.”

The tendency of people anywhere, to unite against outsiders, perceived or otherwise, is nothing uncommon. Its called xenophobia, and is as old as time. As recently as 2013, Aamir Khan was praised across large swathes of the Indian community, for lending his voice to a TV show that highlighted pressing social issues, in contrast with his peers who largely made commercial films that raked in crores of rupees, but stayed silent on most national issues of any significance. But all of those encomiums were heaped on the man and his body of work at a point in time, when India was under successive coalition governments. When he spoke out against issues the country faced, nobody so much as raised an objection to his comments, as they were perceived as being intended to improve our nation’s policies and practices to better the lives of its citizens. Medieval practices like female infanticide, or the caste system were considered fair game, and nobody batted an eyelid, everyone applauded along, and hit Like/Share/Comment. Now however, it’s a different story. Any time someone so much as mentions the government, or the prime minister in a negative light, you have these rabid fanboys (and girls) climbing over each other to heap scorn on you. Don’t believe me? Check out the comments board on any social media post criticizing the Modi/BJP government, and you will see what I mean. Aamir has learned that the hard way.

If Aamir Khan says he fears for his wife and son due to what he believes is rising intolerance in the country, pro-Hindu masses assume it MUST CERTAINLY be driven by anti-Hindu motives, because he’s Muslim. A friend said Aamir’s comments outraged him because (and I paraphrase) the common man would see/hear a big celebrity speak of growing intolerance which could stoke fears in the minority community, leading to communal violence. So the expectedly juvenile solution proposed by this fringe crowd borders on “this muslim guy doesn’t appreciate that we ‘tolerate’ him and his kind here. Maybe he thinks he will be better off in any one of ‘HIS’ countries, so let’s give him what he wants and send this S.O.B. across the border, to any of a dozen Islamic countries”. Or so goes the reasoning in BJP and vocally pro-Hindu segments, who have found popular mouthpieces lately in the forms of prominent figures like Subramanian Swamy, a member of the BJP. You see, unlike Aamir Khan, who voiced his opinion in response to a question asked in a public interview, instigators like Mr. Swamy stoke communal fears without even being asked. Ask yourself, of the two, whose words are more likely to fan flames of violence.

Yes, politicians pitting citizens against each other is a real thing. Has been, will be. The pattern certainly didn’t begin and end with the BJP coming to power. It is called vote bank politics in India, it’s called pandering in the US, and is known by various terms in various nations. The very notion of us-against-them is a time tested way to cut up a country into little parts, divide and conquer, until it is neighbor against neighbor, brother against brother, friend against friend. I say this to clarify this is NOT a new phenomenon under the BJP, but has existed in previous Indian governments as well. Having said that, the sheer volume in such incendiary comments and commentary has ratcheted up, with the tacit approval of this government. And it hasn’t happened silently, secretly, or under the table, but fairly brazenly, by leaning on the RSS and other communal-based organizations for inputs on governance. Sample this: a year into its rule, the BJP government held behind-closed-doors meetings with its parent organization, the RSS. The official tagline for this 3-day meet was an ‘exchange of notes’. The prime minister himself attended and spoke at the event. How is any member of the religious majority, or anyone from the minority for that case, supposed to expect any measure of objectivity and even-handedness from a government that rather openly associates itself with a hardline right-wing group committed to an openly communal ideology. Why then is a citizen not entitled to a viewpoint that says that intolerance is on the rise. You see, communal incidents aren’t just restricted to a number, a statistic that goes up or down with each successive government. The same statistic that says communal incidents aren’t on the rise, could say the opposite a few months before. A government leaning on its parent organization for inputs on governance and policy, is no longer the government of all, but government of a few, as reflected in cabinet appointments of trusted RSS sevaks to key positions in education and other ministries.

But we are tolerant, you say. We are, yes, compared to several other countries out there, most of them theocracies who outlaw other faiths. But that is the DIFFERENCE. India is not a theocracy, has never been one, and hopefully never will be. So we can and should do better than those other nations. Abhorrence for the Congress model of pandering to minorities should not be used as a pretext to indulge in outrage against any vocal member of the minority demographic that the Congress sought to appease. Look at the comments board on almost any online media site, and you will see large portions of the majority Hindu population across the country expressing sentiments akin to saying out loud that their time has now come, and that it is time to set right the skewed prioritization of minorities which happened under the Congress watch while overlooking the majority . I’m certainly not talking hatred of non-Hindu populations bordering on violent intent, but more of a smug one-upsmanship level of glee that the government in power represents Hindu interests, and not “sickular” interests, a supposedly derogatory term for fake secularism as practiced by the previous ruling party at the center.

Rabindranath Tagore is the author of one of my favorite poems, “Chitto Jetha Bhayshunyo” (loosely translated as ‘Where the mind is without fear’), a call to action in pre-independence India, that sounds like it was born from desperation. Had Tagore written this poem today, it is safe to say he would’ve been harassed on social media, his fans would have lined up outside his home to shout slogans about him being a “sickular” celebrity bent on weakening the multi-cultural fabric of the country. Except, there would have been no chants for him to be deported to the nearest Islamic nation. Consider the number of artists, meritorious citizens, scientists and others who chose to return awards and honors previously bestowed on them as a symbolic gesture (titled in the media as ‘Award wapsi‘) protesting growing intolerance and government silence in these cases. There were certainly Hindus in this group of silent activists. Yet, besides the expected disappointment expressed by some diehard fans of this government, there were certainly no ethnic slurs, abuses, or faux threats in their direction. Certainly, none of the Hindu participants were harassed to leave the country. If they were, I certainly didn’t hear it. Why is it then that Aamir is told to be grateful for the tolerance this country has shown him, and to be respectful for what “the country has made him”. Would such expectations be leveled against an Anupam Kher or any one of the multiple national award winners who returned awards bestowed on them by the government, who also happen to be Hindu, had they echoed similar sentiments under a Congress-led regime? What makes a Muslim any less of a citizen, or supposedly less entitled to an opinion than a Hindu citizen. There lies your answer.

humanity
You see, Khan being Muslim, or Kher being Hindu, is merely incidental to the fears and emotions they express. As a country, it is our duty to ensure that no citizen feels that way. It’s a lofty ideal, and one that we won’t ever solve in the near or even distant future. No country or civilization has, and we certainly aren’t going to be among the first. But it is an ideal that we must at least aspire to. Yet, because he belongs to a national minority, our basest instincts make his ethnicity the easiest to target, with comments such as these that have been doing the rounds on social media everywhere:

“My country is tolerant. Let’s see you find this level of tolerance anywhere in a theocracy like Pakistan or Saudi Arabia”.
“My country is tolerant, how dare you say it isn’t. Get on a train and get out, go back to Pakistan”.
“My country is tolerant, so what if ONE stray citizen was lynched a month ago for the contents of his plate”.
“My country is tolerant, so what if it really isn’t, the previous government was no better”.

In response to Aamir’s comments, taken out of context of course, have been two prominent viral posts doing the rounds. One is by a Sikh gentleman who speaks at length about how tolerant all of India has been to watch his movies, even the ones portraying Hindu gods in a negative light, and how if he had experienced intolerance all these years, even back in 1984, he never spoke up about it. The other, by a Muslim lady from Bangalore, a doctor who claims to never have faced discrimination or intolerance for as long as she can remember. To both these fine folks, I say I’m glad to hear that. But for every one citizen who hasn’t had to face intolerance, there are many more who have. So if expressing concern over the intolerance in the country is too sweeping a generalization to pardon, then so should attempts to brush every single instance of actual intolerance under the carpet by citing one person’s individual experiences.

Incidentally, today is the 26th of November 2015. On this night, 7 years ago, terrorists launched what was the largest coordinated attacks on Indian soil in a long while. In times of war as on that night, we band together, united under the flag of country. In times of peace, almost counter-intuitively, we challenge each other’s pride in country, patriotism, or religion. It’s almost like when there is no war, we seek out and set up reasons to wage ideological wars. Where terrorism is involved, it is clear that these incidents have nothing to do with religion. If they were, then terrorists would handpick and save their own, and kill only others. No, that isn’t the case. Muslims also died in the Mumbai terror attacks of  2008, because “religious” terror really has no religion. Communal violence and unrest, on the other hand, are instigated and perpetrated, strictly in the name of religion, or ethnic identity. And it is these communal incitement that needs to be carefully monitored, because as long as politicians are allowed to bait citizens, whether in India or elsewhere across the world, a nation’s people will fight outsiders in times of war, and fight each other in times of peace.

July 30, 2012

If you can’t beat them …..

……. who are we kidding. Of course we can. Apart from molesting them, slapping them, degrading them, infantilizing them, groping them, sexually assaulting them, and possibly raping them. All in broad daylight. If there were a sport called find-women-having-a-reasonably-good-time-and-beat-the-living-shit-out-of-them, us Indians (or atleast the self-appointed-goons among us) would win the gold, silver and bronze hands down, every four years. Hell, we’d get a walkover at all future Olympics. Two incidents in the last two months have helped India wake up to this epiphany. Which is why, even as we speak, Suresh ‘pocketed-most-of-the-CWG-funds-toward-much-needed-ethics-transplant-surgery’ Kalmadi is vociferously lobbying the halls of Parliament, trying desperately to get our elected netas to, in turn, lobby the IOC to recognize FWHARGTABTLSOOT as an official sport of the 2016 Olympics.

 

 

In case you’ve been living under a rock, the Olympic(k on women) games have been going on for a while in India now. Of note, the latest variant, in which journalists desperately trying to up the ante (no, not Nita Ambani; e………asy Bhajji, down boy) on their TRPs, actually incite mobs to gather around women, assault them, drag them by their hair along the street and do as they please, and proceed to capture aforementioned beizzati on film, for subsequent ultra slow-mo replay and (literal) blow-by-blow analysis on struggling television channel.

 

The latest incident in Mangalore brings to memory a similar fiasco in the same city a little over three years ago. Lest we forget, the  attacks on a group of party-hopping youngsters at a pub back on Jan 24th 2009 were perpetrated by a rabid bunch of Hindu moralists. You know, the kind that beat their wife to a pulp back home, but are against Sherlyn Chopra posing for Playboy because (and I paraphrase): “It is an affront to our motherland’s glorious cultural and moral heritage”. This time around, a group of youngsters allegedly celebrating their friend’s birthday were accused of hosting a ‘rave’ party. Enter the Smug Saffron Scoundrels, ready to dole out a well-deserved dose of beating, slapping and thrashing.

 

Most of you will cry foul at this next bit. I get that as we speak, well-meaning organizations like India Against Corruption are fighting a lone war to clean the scam (and urine-stained) halls of government. I get that  they have a clear objective vis-a-vis elimination of corruption in beloved Hindustan. I also get, and respect the personal sacrifice most of the activists make, risking family and self to stand out in the sun, forgoing food and/or water, while lazier software-employed, air-conditioned-office-sitting armchair activists (yours truly included)  ‘share’ or ‘like’ a picture of a corruption fighting octagenarian on their favourite social network.

 

That said, how about we put aside corruption for, oh I don’t know, the better part of next century, and focus instead on elimination of rape on our streets. Because I sure as hell would prefer to live with paying the paan-chewing pear-shaped government babu Rs. 5000 to get the electricity meter installed in my home, than see someone’s daughter/sister/wife/girlfriend dragged along the streets because she had a drink (or two). This charade of moral/religious policing has to stop. To be clear, it isn’t just the beard-sporting, gun-wielding Pakistani who qualifies to be a terrorist. We have far too many homegrown terrorism within our borders to be pointing to Pakistan (or other Islamic countries) as sources of terrorism. Anytime another of these reprehensible bastards step out of their house to protect their religion, the life of another woman is at stake. Today it might just be a statistic. [X] girls assaulted in bar in Mangalore. Tomorrow, it could be your daughter.

 

The last time this happened, the leader of Shri Rama Sena was sent pink chaddis by the handful. Apparently feeling overlooked, the Hindu Janagarana Vedike stepped up this time, and is possibly anticipating a huge booty (honestly, no pun intended) of colorful lingerie. As a friend so eloquently put it though, “…. the time for sending pink chaddis is over”. It is time for us to collectively take responsibility for this shambolic state of affairs in this country. Everytime a principal is found guilty of calling in his own young wards into his office to satisfy some depraved urge. Everytime a news reporter is found inciting all-too-ready roadside goons to carry out their thuggery on women and men doing nothing more than having a good time. Everytime a Hindu/Muslim/Christian/Other vigilante rushes into a pub/bar/restaurant claiming to be upholding Indian morals, whilst simultaneously slapping a girl across the face. Everytime one or more such incidents happen in plain sight, rather than whip out our iPhones to capture the video for later upload to prominent social network for shares/likes/comment gathering, keep that god awful phone in your pocket. Step up, and hold these pond scum accountable.

 

A prominent public transport anti-terrorism awareness program in New York carries the slogan ‘If you see something, say something’. How about we adopt that to our current situation. ‘If you see something, DO something’. Like catch these greasy monkeys. Shoot the bastards where the sun don’t shine. Then hang them from the 10th floor of the nearest multiplex. Let’s teach these sonsofbitches a lesson. Perhaps it’s time for some good ol’ Saudi Arabian justice. You know, ‘an eye for an eye’. ‘A tooth for a tooth’. ‘A penilectomy for a sexual assault’.

 


POST-SCRIPT

As reported by Mangalore Today, the HJV has reacted strongly to the accusations flying thick and fast. I leave to you, the reader, the task of draw conclusions pertaining to the level of intellect posessed by these buffoons. Presenting to you, exhibit A. And B.

Milord, I rest my case.

 

 

 

April 8, 2011

Ind-glorious Basterds


2:30 am – It could be pre-match anxiety, the cold in my matchbox apartment, or the acid reflux in my throat from having wolfed down 3 parathas with paneer makhani barely an hour ago. Either way, I can’t seem to sleep. I take a walk outside my apartment in 40⁰F weather, thoughts all the while on what might transpire over the next 10 hours.

2:45 am – Back home. The walk definitely helped. Dilemma time now. Stay up for another 1 hour, then get ready. Or sleep for an hour, and risk oversleeping and missing the 1s (possibly Indian) innings. I fall asleep …  still weighing my options.

3:46 am – Hmm, so there is such a thing as a biological clock. The alarm I set for 4 am has yet to go off, yet here I am, wide eyed. Possibly the first time I’ve woken without hitting the snooze button 10 times or smashing the clock against the floor. Time to take a shower, methinks. Sri Lankan cricket team stinks, that doesn’t mean I should too. A quick shower, brush my teeth and I’m set. Meanwhile, in my apartment, 3 of my friends are snoring, having driven down from New Jersey to watch the match.

4:20 am – Frantic calls from fellow cricaholics,  enquiring my latitude and longitude, and how long it might take for me to walk/drive/fly the quarter mile to our rendezvous point, their apartment. I assure them I’m ready and leaving, but end up getting distracted and online, chatting for a few fleeting moments with the fiancée, who’s not yet fallen asleep.

4:35 am – Phone rings yet again. Friends yet again, wondering if I got mugged while walking down the road in ‘The Greatest City In America’. I assure them I’m not, and proceed to close said chat session, much to fiancée’s chagrin. Run blind from the apartment, jump into the trusty BatMobile Honda Civic. Fly at 70 mph (I think) in a residential area. I’m there. FINALLY.

4:35 am – Yes, it’s been exactly 0 seconds from leaving my apartment, to getting to the friends’ place. Impressive, yes. Why thank you. We leave, walking at a brisk pace, still faster than Munaf Patel can bowl. In between, we walk through the university campus, discussing the merits or lack thereof, of the theme song, “De Ghuma Ke”, in context of the 1999 anthem; “Come on India, dikha do”.

4:45 am – We’ve walked a ¾ mile in 10 minutes. We’re HERE. We walk up the 2 flights of stairs to where the room at Nolan’s should be set up and ready for action. A BIG queue outside the entrance seems to indicate it is already house-full. Apparently, not. The undergrad student in possession of the keys seems to have a malfunctioning biological clock and is nowhere to be seen. The faithful stand intently in front of a laptop showing the live stream, and stand at attention as the national anthem is played. Goosebumps. Some sing it loud, others whisper the words, still others with eyes closed When it’s over, the WOOOs, YEAAAHHHs and whistles pierce the early morning silence.

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5:00 am – Ok, so we’re in the room. Front row chairs immediately grabbed, and apparently, we still don’t have the keys to the inner control room which has the remote controls for the projector and the ceiling mounted big screen. In the sea of 50-odd Indian fans in the room, we now spot 3 Sri Lankan fans, dressed in their team uniforms, and draped in the SL flag. It shows you what this game should be about; bringing people together. Folks pull out two laptops, mount them on strategically placed tables on left and right sides of rooms. Connection to WillowTV established, we are just in time to see Tharanga and Dilshan take guard, to our man, Zak.

5:04 am – It’s slowly become apparent that there’s a delay between the two laptops. Left-side-of-room Lenovo is 5-6 seconds ahead of right-side-of-room Dell. We figure this out after entire left side of room erupts in joy. We wonder why, and then erupt again, as as Tharanga falls on our screens too, to a stunning catch from Veeru. Jai Ho, and all that good stuff. 1 down. 9 more Lankans to go.

5:05 am – Funny status update from friend on Facebook. “Pehle goron ko haraaya. Phir haram khoron ko haraaya. Ab Sita ke choron ko haraaya” [Roughly translates to –  “First we beat the whites (Australia). Then we beat the (insert expletive here) Pakistanis. Now to beat the kidnappers of Sita”] On a side note, projector room keys have now arrived, and thanks to some nifty work by the IGSA guys, we are all set now, and watching the action on the proverbial big-screen.

5:25 am – A large crowd seems to be heading to the back of the room. Come on, it can’t be over that quick, I think to myself. Turns out, a certain Donuts company of the Dunkin’ kind, has very graciously offered to sponsor a light breakfast for the 100-odd people assembled. Mmm, bagels, chocolate donut and potato chips, topped off with coffee.

5:30 am to 9:10 am – I’m not sure what happened. Woozy on the details here, but I’m woken from my blissful sleep by a friend who tells me SL have wrapped up their innings. About time. Boy, that was some good boredom-plus-food-induced coma. It’s true what they say. If Kumara Sangakkara won’t put you to sleep, then Kulasekara Mudiyanselage Dinesh Nuwan Kulasekara (yes, that’s one person) will.

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9:23 am – Sachin and Sehwag stride out to the square.  I’ve always wondered why it’s called that, especially since from where I’m sitting, it almost certainly appears to be rectangular. Oh well. Note to self. Go to an optician and have your eyes checked. Watching them take guard for the innings that could shape the fate of this cup, I am itching to yell ‘THIS IS SPARTAAA!!” but somehow manage to temper my excitement.

9:25 am – Gone. Out. LBW. To baal-ki-dukan. Whattaball. Stunned, we sit. Sehwag has immediately referred it, so surely there must be an inside-edge. He must know something we don’t. The side-on view – not a no-ball. Pitching? In line. Hitting? In line. Surely it hit bat before pad? Turns out it hit more air than bat before the pad. 3rd umpire verdict. OUT. Goddammit.

9:32 am – Ok, Sachin is in pristine touch. The ball seems to be rocketing off his bat, but for whatever reason, doesn’t make its way to the boundary the 1st couple of times.  The outfield surely doesn’t seem lightning fast as it did in the 1st half. Conspiracy theorist time. I’m betting they took out the outfield during the dinner break, and put in a heavy, sodden turf when no one was looking.

9:32:54.5 am – Sachin. Ramesh. Tendulkar. Bat – Straight. Power – Immense. Punch – Short. Ball – Flies. GOD. IS IN THE HOUSE.

9:40 am – Sri Lanka’s side-arm chucker bowler Lasith Malinga runs in. Bowls a perfect outswinger to the man. Who reaches for it, and a significant outside edge is gobbled by the keeper.

Malinga to Tendulkar, OUT, The ball that silenced a billion. Most of Wankhede is silent. Some of it is very noisy, and has Sri Lankan flags waving away in a frenzy. Sachin’s World Cup is over. No 100th 100 today. Malinga gets another over, another go at a wicket, and he responds with a wicket. It’s that patent back of a length ball outside off and as always, Malinga got it to go away. Sachin tried the same shot, last ball of the previous Malinga over, trotting across and looking for the steer through the off side. This time he edged it, and though it was dying on Sanga, he wasn’t going to put it down. He dives to the right and comes up with the biggest wicket of the World Cup

SR Tendulkar c †Sangakkara b Malinga 18 (21m 14b 2×4 0x6)

Hushed silence. So quiet, it’s almost as if as a nation, we’ve died 1.2 billion collective deaths. Some reach for their cellphones, to update foreboding I-told-you-so status messages on Facebook. Others ooh, aah and swear under their breaths. A friend looks at me and goes: “Ok, Macys’ chalna hai?”. Pat comes the reply. “Not a chance. Let’s sit and watch this pan out.”

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9:45 am – It still hasn’t sunk in, that century no. 100 will have to wait another day. The poet, the romantic, the diehard fan in us all still thinks Sachin will walk back out of the dressing room, call for UDRS to review the decision, and that infernal heart-beat sound on the slow motion stump microphone will fail to detect the edge, thereby giving him another life.

9:50 am – Ok. Fine. Sachin didn’t do it. Gautam and Virat start off circumspect, knowing another wicket at this stage will cause irreparable damage. A couple quiet overs. It doesn’t matter. It shouldn’t. The expert commentator in each of us kicks in. There’s about a 100 of us in the room right now. Every run, every single, every forward defence, every leave is applauded as I have never heard before.

10:13 am – Gambhir steps out to Randiv. He lofts. It goes miles in the air (really Sunny Gavaskar? Miles? Where’d you learn measurement? Your physics teacher would be so ashamed of you right now, if, you know, you hadn’t scored those 10,000 test runs). Kulasekara gets under it, and …… drops it.  Gambhir, now on 30. “You just dropped the world cup, son”.

10:38 am – Gambhir tickles Murali around the corner. Murali doesn’t seem amused at being tickled in public. Maybe Gauti should try under the soles of his feet next time. Turns around for the second, runs in, desperately short, flings himself in to the crease. Thankfully Sangakkara hasn’t collected it cleanly, so our little man is in. The dive that inspired an entire Cricinfo article.

.

10:53 am –As Ravi Shastri might say, “against the run of play”, a STUNNING catch from Dilshan, whose name, like his famous Dilscoop, is suffixed with a TM. Seemingly innocuous ball. Attempt to whip to leg. Flies to the right of Dilshan. Who plucks it like a chicken’s feathers at a poultry store (Sorry, couldn’t think of anything more appropriate that could be plucked). Kohli is pretty damn pissed as he walks off. Well played Virat. No shame there.

10:53 am – WHAT? Mahendra Singh WHO is in? Are you effing kidding me? The guy whose top score all tournament has been 34. To face Slinga’ Malinga? Damnit. “If this guy likes living on the edge so much, perhaps we should just push him off it the next time” I think to myself as Malinga runs in to bowl to the Indian captain. Calls for his head ring out across the room. As the wise zenmaster Sidhu says: “IF if’s and and’s were pots and pans …..” something something

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Let’s be honest. When was the last time you sat through an ENTIRE 50 over innings. Never, I presume. Me neither. Yet here I am, sitting in the front row seat, surrounded by about 100 fellow maniacs, applauding every single, every forward defence, every box(cup) adjustment, and every drinks break. Dhoni reaches out, pats it down the ground to long-on? No worries. Applause rings out across the room. Gauti steps out and gently coaxes the ball into the gap? Even louder, we go “Gambhiiiir ….. Gambhir <CLAP CLAP CLAP>“. Inbetween, chants of “Jinkalaka naka-naka ooh aah, ooh aah” start up. The target is being whittled down with such assuredness, that us old-timers, followers of cricket from the mustachioed days of Kumble, Srinath, Ganguly and Azhar instinctively sense something ominous about to happen. Can you blame us?

11: 23 am – Gambhir and Dhoni, continue ticking precious runs off the target. The required rate goes above 6 barely a couple of times, and everytime it does, Dhoni steps back to a customary short ball from Muttaih Muralitharan, whacks it through covers, with deceptively ferocious power, and watches it rocket to the fence. Russell Arnold, he of the annoying nasal voice, says something about “destiny” and an Indian win, which seems totally arbitrary at the time, but as minutes tick on, he seems to be on to something.

12:20 pm – OUT! Gambhir has, as is his wont, tried to give the opposition a chance. As a country, we’re renowned the world-over for (apart from call-centers), being a hospitable people. As if trying to exemplify that fact, as he did thrice against Australia in the quarters, he runs down the pitch, and half-cuts, half-slaps the ball, which doesn’t bounce as anticipated, and the resulting edge cannons into the stumps. WHY the f*ck Gauti?!!! Anyway, once the choice abuses directed at female relatives are done with, we stand up as one to applaud an innings, scarcely believable not so much in its production, but in its timing and context. Generous applause continues for a whole minute.

12:30 pm – Powerplay time. 30 balls. 30 to get. 5 overs. 3 from Malinga. 2 from Murali. It’s come down to this. The atmosphere is still tense, as is the knot in my stomach. By this point, I’ve had so much coffee, I might soon Bleed Bru. Walking around the room trying to scavenge the last donut from the table in the back, it gives you goosebumps, looking at the crowd that has gathered. Apparently word has gotten round, so it’ s heart-warming to see an old gentleman and his wife, probably 70 years of age, sitting at the back of the room, holding hands, looking intently, squinting to catch a glimpse of the far away screen. They can tell you how it felt when we last won one of these. Glory days of Indian cricket, they will tell you. If that doesn’t give you goosebumps, nothing ever will.

12:34 pm – Malinga has just bowled the last over for 3 runs. 27 required from 24 balls. For the first time in a while, the required rate is more than run-a-ball, with Murali due to come on next. Palpable tension in the room. And THEN. Sangakkara turns away from Murali. Apparently he doesn’t have enough faith in his trump card tonight. 800-wickets in tests. 534 in ODIs. But today, he’s been rendered toothless Just like his smile. It’s Kulasekara to bowl the 47th over. As one, each of us quietly says a thank-you to our brother-from-another-mother, Sangakkara.

1.4.1.4.0.1. Just like that, its down to 16 from 18 balls. Surely, we have it now.

12:38 pm – Malinga, for the 48th over. Ok, lets just see him off. Thrash Kula again. Dhoni has other ideas. Consecutive whips to the leg-side, fly away to the boundary. We’re up on our feet now. Everyone. Every known mother, father, brother- and sister-related chant rings out from literally every mouth in the room. I’m hugging strangers, back-slapping people I don’t even know, screaming choice abuses and high-fiving friends so hard that my hands are ringing from the impact.

12:42 pm (Probably) – 4 runs to get. 11 balls. Kulasekara runs in to bowl, lands it on a length, curving into Dhoni, who swings. Bat traces a beautiful arc, straight through the ball. Shastri is mumbling some tripe (as always), but stops talking, and changes mid-sentence. “….. absolutely magnificent ….  DHONNIIII ….. finishes it off in style!!!”. Side-on camera from square leg takes over. Dhoni stays still in his follow-through. Frozen in time. He takes a forward step, bat upright in left hand, twirls it a la Rajnikant in slo-mo, and holds it upright once more. Captain COOL indeed. What style. What a sexy. What an effing innings. Whatay match. I can’t even hear myself think, as pandemonium descends on Nolan’s.  Screeching, yelling abusing, shouting, hugging, fist-bumping. High-fiving.

We’ve beaten them. We’ve beaten them all. INDIA. CHAMPIONS. ONCE MORE.


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September 23, 2010

The Scum-n-Wealth Games

© http://www.timescontent.com

 

Welcome to India. The land of open sewers, stray dogs, dengue fever, and lower standards of hygiene. Or atleast that’s what the clowns (read: politicians) running this circus (read: country) would have you believe. A land of plenty (excuses, that is) and poverty (the entire sporting infrastructure, recently broken overhead bridge included, was built using silly putty and superglue, because, you see, we simply cannot afford cement to build actual bridges in the midst of this recession).  Lalit Bhanot, secretary general of the Commonwealth Games organising committee, was heard saying at a news conference recently that the athletes’ accommodation needed a “deep cleaning”, but everything would be ready on time. “According to us the room may be clean, but the foreign officials may require a certain standard of cleanliness and hygiene which may differ from our standards,” he said. Welcome to India, indeed. Swalpa adjust maadi.

STUPID phoren people with their hygiene and precious sanitation. The nerve of those spoilt brats! Yes sir, our Indian athletes would much rather sleep on a surface that was earlier defecated on by a stray animal, than on a clean, plush mattress made from a thousand goose feathers.  They most certainly prefer to perform their morning ablutions in toilets that won’t flush, and bathtubs that won’t drain. I assure you, our beloved Indian sportsmen wouldn’t mind taking communal showers, and sleeping on bamboo floor mats. Speaking of standards, we DEFINITELY have extremely low ones, and those are best typified in the hordes of uneducated illiterate buffoons we elect to take charge of the highest offices in the country.

My sympathies go out to our esteemed IOA chairman, and head of the Commonwealth Games committee Mr. Suresh Kalmadi; how, in his infinite wisdom could he have predicted in 2003 upon leading a successful Indian bid for the 2010 games, that 7 years of notice would not suffice to build a stadium and sporting facilities atleast upto national standards, leave alone international standards. How dare the CWG committee thrust such impractical, unreasonable expectations on his fragile shoulders ? Reached for comment, Suresh Kalmadi had this to say. Wait, whats that ? He’s nowhere to be found ? Manmohan Singh has relieved him of his duties ? Oh.

Speaking of imbeciles, somewhere on a yacht in the middle of the Indian Ocean, with a proximity-sensing CBI-issued ankle bracelet strapped to his weary legs, a certain Mr. Lalit Modi is quietly exulting in the fact that he isn’t the biggest scamster in Indian sport. That honour now goes to the Indian government, the CWG committee and the thousands of greasy yes-men involved in this fiasco, who now stand head and shoulders above the rest, in terms of sheer incompetence. Given how this is going, the sadist in me is definitely looking forward to the 1st ever Indian Formula-1 race scheduled to be held in Delhi next year. Chances are, we could have potholes instead of hairpin bends, stray dogs patrolling the track instead of race stewards, makeshift tarpaulins to make up for the lack of a roof, and plastic chairs in lieu of grandstands lined with Tifosi.

Of course, none of this fiasco would be possible without the wilful support and encouragement of all species that constitute the government food chain, from the bottom (the office babu with paan stains on his white shirt white pant and white shoes), through the mid-level contractor(s) building the stadiums, all the way to the top (sports minister who doesn’t know what a Commonwealth IS), and ending with the (dis)honourable chief minister Ms. Sheila Dixit. Upon being questioned about the quality (or lack thereof) of the games facilities, Ms. Dixit appeared peeved, before nonchalantly replying “The games are not collapsing”. Umm, I’m sorry to interrupt you madam, but the makeshift roof at the weightlifting arena just did.

The “We are like this wonly” attitude is what has carried our beloved country thus far, and God forbid we let it go now. Which probably explains our elation upon getting a silver Olympic medal after 50 years, instead of dejection on missing out on the gold. We are a nation of average (hygiene and standards, apparently). Or our ability to summon the gall needed to tell the world this is our idea of an international sporting event. It’s why we decide to spend millions of Rupees to stage a bid for the 2010 Commonwealth Games, then decide to do a half-ass job of it. We are like that wonly.

At the time of going to press, word around town is that the nearly 200-strong England national athletic contingent have been asked to share a 8-bed 1-bath apartment in the Sri. Sri. Rajiv Gandhi Memorial Residential block (you seem surprised by that name) of the aforementioned athletes village. Also crammed into the 8 bedrooms – a herd of cows that wandered in from nearby pastures, who now refuse to leave. The Brits seem to have hammered out a sleeping arrangement with the cows, the terms of which dictate that the athletes themselves will abdicate their beds to the cows, so long as the bovines don’t leave cow dung lying around on the floor. The poor Poms have also been requested to share toothpaste, soap and towels for the duration of the games with the Australian team sleeping on the balcony, a request that was met with an emphatic “Sod off, MATE ! by the Aussie team.

Let the shames, I mean Games, begin.

March 13, 2010

Indian Pimping League

Ah, the IPL ! That great pimp of us all. Makes whores of that illustrious breed of fine human beings called commentators and desperate customers of us, the breed of ever-willing rabid cricket lovers. Add to that some fantastic TV producers who cut away from the on-field action every 30 seconds so we can look at strategically placed ground-level cameras focussing on upskirt angles of cheerleaders gyrating with an almost obscene vulgarity that seems more like a borderline advertisement for Victoria’s Secret. Voyeurs around the world seem to be having a field day with this, and might  eventually become cricket fans, almost as an afterthought.  Throw into the mix the players, paid obscene amounts of money for 3 weeks of work, and VOILA !what you have is the closest thing society has come, or will ever come to approving a public brothel or legalized prostitution.

And lest I forget, the sponsors. Agreed, they pay filthy sums of money to have their name shouted from the rooftops at every conceivable moment, but have we REALLY come to this ? A six is now a DLF’er (or a DLF Maximum). A wicket is now called a Citi moment of success, obviously in reference to that oh-so-obvious paragon of SUCCESS, Citibank ! The hyperbole and the forced excitement in the voices of these overpaid, undereducated, pompous, vocabulary-deprived unsuccessful ex-players would be laughable, if it wasn’t so jarring and loud. Ravi Shastri, for example seems to forget that he has a microphone fitted into and held in place by the nose hair in his bellowing nostrils, (a microphone, Mr. Shastri, is a device that can, amplify your voice so you don’t have to blare it out like a foghorn). Mr. Laxman Sivaramakrishnan, that symbol of talent and longevity (who, by the way played all of 9 tests and 14 ODIs), rambles on and on, incoherently about Sachin’s batting stance, and technique, while pointing to the way JP Duminy’s front foot is coming “back and across”. Sunil Gavaskar can’t get enough of the Dilscoop, even though that last shot was an on-drive straight down the ground.

Which reminds me, its Time for the Hindustan Lever Super Stat – Batting Averages

  • L Sivarama-watshisface – 2.50
  • JP Duminy – 34.94
  • Sachin Tendulkar – 45.12

Lalit Modi has gone on record, saying

I see the IPL becoming bigger than the NFL, the NBA, the English Premier League. 

Sure. Why Not. I think so too. Can’t you just see Kobe Bryant making the game winning Burger King buzzer beater. Or Tim Duncan stepping up to the Free Throw line, with a none-too-subtle AD at the bottom of the TV screen showing a  Huggies AD, with a punchline rolling across screen, “HUGGIES – Freedom for babies Free Throw“. Or Joe Flacco making the game winning touchdown for the Baltimore Ravens against the Minnesota Vikings, with a hyperactive commentator on ESPN yelling, “…… and he scores, he scores !!! 7 points,….. with the TYLENOL touchdown !!!”. Close your eyes now. Can’t you just see it now ? Wayne Rooney makes a brilliant run down the left flank, all the way to the penalty box. He tackles, one, two defenders, makes a brilliant side-step and makes a brilliant, curling shot into the top right far post  “…….. for the GATORADE goooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooallllll “. Yup. I see it now.

Here’s the beef I have with commentators and others of their ilk. These are the same guys, Harsha wheres-my-hairpiece Bhogle Sunil I-wish-my-son-was-a-half-decent-batsman Gavaskar Ravi flaring-nostrils-RayBan-at-night Shastri, Laxman oiled-and-slicked-Tamil-movie-star-wannabe Sivaramakrishnan, who write endless syndicated columns by day and during the week, romanticizing Test Cricket, and all its qualities, who go on unendurably from Monday to Friday about how  Twenty 20 cricket is a sham, a mere show, a carnival of humungous proportions, which can never mimic the appeal and the endurance of Test cricket. These same guys go into their commentary booths come Saturday and Sunday, and jump off their seats everytime a DLF Maximum is hit, or the bowler delivers a JAFFER of a delivery, or celebrate with the Deccan Chargers when theyve had a CITI moment of Success.

Commentators apart, the players are no less erudite in their assessment of the game. Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, for example, when asked after the game, says he “tried to bowl in the right areas”. I guess thats why you went for 125 runs in your 10 overs, while making faces in a sad attempt to intimidate the batsmen, nincompoop. You have bowlers saying they tried to “hit the deck hard” … (whatever that means), or fielders who “fly through the air to take a stunning catch inches from the ground” (Poor Superman has got a complex). Then you have captains  – at the toss, saying ridiculous things like we’re-looking-to-win (No kidding?) , or “The toss doesn’t matter” (Oh yeah, wise guy ? Why did you go out there … to see how many sides a coin has ??),  or after the game, going “the boys did well“. Even though they lost.

Let put all that aside for the present. Cause the GIANT circus has just rolled into town. For now, lets sit back and  partake of the legalized flesh-trade show that is the IPL 2010, and be glad we don’t have to deal with the nonsensical cowardly imbecile called Fake IPL Player this time around. Let all the hackneyed references to tracer-bullet, super-shots, fine tickle, gone like a rocket, going-going-gone,  that one’s out of here and bowling good line and length BEGIN.

November 30, 2008

In the land of the blind…

Another barbaric attack ….. another few disillusioned young men drawn into and brainwashed into terrorism, to savage a country and hold it to ransom for 60 hours. Another hundred or two hundred lives snatched away in an instant. Yet at the end of it all, how far have we come. Since the last attack on Mumbai, that bustling epitome of India’s spirit, the instinct to survive and move on with your life, how much has changed in the way we have looked at our own security. The politician’s perspective certainly hasnt changed. He still prowls around the area, waiting for the opportune moment to pounce on a city ravaged with war, terror and attacks on its innocence. And come election time, no matter what the previous government did, the incumbent is made to look like a terrorist, with mud slinging matches waged with such ferocity and passion.

The politician’s point of view hasn’t changed one bit in those 2 years that have gone by, purely because he hasn’t lost a close member of his family. He still drives around the city when and where he pleases, with his Z-level security, attending the occasional session of Parliament, storming the well of the house (Lok or Rajya Sabha), demanding adjournement for the days proceedings, throwing that tantrum long enough for the speaker to adjourn the session. A nice leisurely stroll outside Parliament lawns, and back again that afternoon for another stalled session of parliament, held up by another moron, armed with the most trivial of reasons to postpone the parliament session till the next day. All done for the day, and its back to the free airline ride back home in business class, and all the other perks. If there’s one thing our politicians haven’t realized till today, it’s that they are reponsible for the security of India. Yes, INDIA. NOT Mumbai, NOT Chennai, NOT Hyderabad, NOT Delhi. FOR INDIA. For the security of its people, and to uphold the sovereignty of the country, that has been entrusted into their not-so-able hands. Death hasn’t hit them as close as it has hit us, hit our friends and their families, hit our own loved ones. Which is why they still walk around with the audacity to tell us we’re safe when clearly we are not.

When a boat loaded with armed youth docks near Colaba to offload a few young men, with satchels on their shoulders, everybody shrugs, pays little heed, and walks on. Not one suspicious look here or there. Thats cause we’ve been exposed to so much in our lifetime, that when we see obvious hints before us, we often fail to see them. What was the Coast Guard doing at the time. Shouldn’t every single boat/ship/cruise liner entering the maritime border be subjected to the most intense scrutiny and security check? Its easy to say this in retrospect, once you know where they come from. How much easier should it have been then, for politicians to stop their bickering for once, and realize the threat before it struck in such horrific fashion. POTA came into effect in 2002. In the intervening 6 years, how many terrorists have been detained under this law, found guilty and been sentenced to death or life imprisonment ? Easy. Barely a handful. Contrast this with the number of politicians who’ve used and abused this for their whims and politican mileage. Vaiko, an inconsequential player in Indian politics, is symbolic of this problem. Pass a law into effect, and the loopholes in it get used by every singe politician. Compare this with the USA. As those of you who know me will agree, I’m not among the biggest fans of the USA. The one attack that was perpetrated on their soil was 9/11 and their reaction was so swift, so hard, it crushed the forces of terror that carried out those crimes. In the past 7 years, NOT ONE single attack has been carried out on US soil since. This isn’t to imply that the USA is suddenly a safe haven in the midst of global terror. It’s just the way they have responded. They’ve got into the mindset of that terrorist, and acted swiftly and with force. Contrast this reaction with that of the Indian government.

Look at this video, and tell me how much confidence you got in the government and their capability to handle the situation, by hearing Mr. Manmohan Singh talk here. NONE. In all honesty, it looks like the PM was reading his message off a teleprompter as is so often the case, NOT speaking TO the Indian populace from his heart, from a strong conviction that the perpetrators of this crime would not be let free that easily. In all honesty, if you want visible proof of the last vestiges of Manmohan Singh’s manhood, you could probably find them floating in a bottle of formaldehyde, on Sonia Gandhi’s desk. Truth is, the man lost all trace of his manhood the second he got installed as the puppet Prime Minister by Sonia Gandhi. The man has POSITIVELY NO SENSE of how to lead a country. For those who disagree, let me remind you here is the man, the self same man who was our leader when Mumbai got attacked in 2006. There again, he promised to find the terrorists and hunt them down. Whats changed. The answer? NOTHING. Nothing has changed cause this government, as others before it, believes in patching up the system, not overhauling it in its entirety. Nothing has changed because apart from talking, this government has done absolutely nothing, to ensure such terrorists are nabbed. Life simply goes on, the politicians make their stump speech about the Spirit of Mumbai, among other cliched terms, to stir up strong emotions within us, to inspire some hope, then pray really hard that the citizens forget the trauma, and that life goes back to normal.

Today, the government will react, I’m sure, by deciding to pass a law to secure the water boundaries all around its perimeter. Too little, too late. In the land of us blinded by rage, the one eyed man has convinced us that we are indeed blind, and that they know the path to safety. To them, i say ENOUGH. ENOUGH of your abuse of power. ENOUGH of trivial words like loss, unity, patriotism, anger that you bandy around in moments like these. ENOUGH of old men, past their 60s, 70s and possibly 80s, running their country, like a record player stuck on the same discordant note. ENOUGH of petty bullshit like Mr. Manmohan Singh, Jaswant Singh, and L K Advani bickering on whether or not to fly in the same airplane side by side, while the paratroopers, the NSG are forced to wait 15 hours. 15 BLOODY HOURS. And ultimately take a ride on Delhi BestBus to get to Mumbai. If you leaders can’t coexist, why are you in power in the 1st place. it is US, the imbeciles, the fools who vote you into power every single time and are made to feel like bigger fools with every immature, reckless and political statement you make. Imagine the leader of a country, supposed to be a minority leader, for whom it is too low or demeaning to fly with the opposition leader. For whom his ego needs to be massaged in the midst of a national crisis. What kind of IMPOTENT wimp of a leader of a nation is this. No wonder we are the constant target of terror strikes on such a scale.

Dawood Ibrahim must be sitting in Pakistan now amazed beyond his wildest imagination at the ease with which he was able to carry off this entire mission. Yet we’re the ones left grappling and trying to come to terms with this monumental loss of life. The first step we can take as a nation is not to play the blame game. Thats the prerogative of the government, and thats something they are specialized at. I was rather amused to hear this piece of analysis from one of the experts, on one of the leading news channels. He said “I dont think the government itself knows the meaning of intelligence, and I’m talking about a different kind of intelligence here”. When a government deliberately ignores intelligence reports indicating a major strike on the country, some heads must roll. But apart from the traditional rolling of heads, concrete steps must be taken to ensure this kind of idiocy, foolish ineptitude is never witnessed again, not by our generation, and for sure not by our children. Government at the highest level needs to be purged of the officials who do nothing. We’re sick of words. We want deeds to back up those empty hollow words.

More than anything else, this incident should be the wake-up call for the rest of us. Never before in terrorist history has the entire event played out before our very eyes. 60 hours of non-stop coverage of the event, almost turned the lives of Mumbaikars into reality TV beamed into our living rooms. By taking it lying down all these years, we’ve emboldened the terrorist organizations worldwide to attack us. 2 years back, they used bombs planted in crowded suburban trains. Today, they walked into our bus terminals, our homes and hotels in a city we are proud to call ours, and opened fire with the confidence that comes only from foolishness or the confidence that comes from a feeling of invincibility. I suspect it is the latter. Today they took our hotels hostage, tomorrow it could very well be our homes. We aren’t safe in our homes anymore, and this wake up call has sounded way too close for us to ignore any longer. Our entire political system needs upheaval, and the government should be held responsible for its actions (more so, the lack of any).

Above all else, here is a message to the government. STOP taking the SPIRIT of this great country for granted. Every single time we have been held to ransom by terrorist forces, Mumbai has stood tall as a beacon of strength, a symbol of perseverance through personal loss and bereavement. People have woken up the next day and taken the same metro train that was blown to bits the day before. That comes from an inner resolve, a strength that goes beyond human fortitude. It has come from the belief that we are strong enough to make it through anything. But this crisis has shown us that we are all too mortal.

But here’s my one SINGULAR message to the political hierarchy in Delhi, Mumbai and our country in general. Today you were lucky to survive. Tomorrow it could strike closer home to YOU. That could be YOUR family in the Taj or some other posh locale. Even an iron-clad spirit can break. the most strong-willed resolve can crack. Don’t wait for us to crack. Be the support we need to hold us up. STOP TAKING THE SPIRIT OF MUMBAI FOR GRANTED. JUST AS YOU SHOULD STOP TAKING YOUR COUNTRY FOR GRANTED. The spirit of this glorious nation is in the courage of its brave people. It not some untapped resource for you to use at ur whims to explain away all your failings. We’ve been blind to your ineptitude till now, and you have convinced us all along that you knew better. We’ve got our own eyes opened now, and we’ve got them focussed squarely on you.

August 14, 2008

An emotional Independence day …

Another Independence day is upon us. Yet while this day has passed by every year for the last 62 years, this one is closer to my heart. Today, i celebrate freedom in the truest sense of the word. Freedom to decide my future, freedom to be here, in a foreign land. To make the decisions i would never have made living in India. Living with parents or family back home, you tend to get laid back, lackadaisical infact, when it comes to making independent choices, since your parents are always around. You’ve got friends there ….. you can always turn for help to a familiar face. Yet, when you leave all that familarity behind, and try to get familiar with yourself is when you realize that the ability and the opportunity to make your own choices, to think for yourself, to live by yourself, is in itself freedom, the independence that comes with growing up. Looking back on all those years, now is when i feel most I.N.D.E.P.E.N.D.E.N.T

Last year, i arrived here on 8th August, 1 week from this same day. Yet, in that excitement of being amid new environs, and amid unknown faces and people, in a different cultural backdrop, Aug 15th was a blur. At the time, i was trying to get on my feet like a baby learning to take its first steps, uncertainly balancing on both feet till it feels steady enough to take the next step forward. Yet, one year on, here I am, having learned to walk, and ready to run, maybe even fly. Yes I’m glad i took those first, hesitant steps into the unknown. And I’m glad that i was given that chance, cause i live in a country that is truly free, and respects my desire to be free.

When i look forward, i take it for granted that my children will live free too, enjoying the same independence I do today. Maybe its a foolhardy sense of naivete in a time and society such as this we live in. Only time will tell. But along with what fate has in store, we have a part to play in fate itself. To fight for the same rights we enjoy everyday. To remember the armed forces who silently fight our battles for us, who sit cramped in bunkers in the coldest of winters when we sit in front of our TVs. Who give that ultimate sacrifice so we can live to see another day as a free nation. I want to give something back to the great country that bore me, nourished me and made me what I am today. It sounds almost hypocritical to say all this sitting in the comforts of my home in Maryland. But I can and I will do something to repay that debt, in some small way. This is NOT where i want to be all my life. Home is where my heart is.

August 11, 2008

India's GOLDEN boy

Abhinav Bindra stunned the shooting fraternity by winning the Olympic Gold medal at the Beijing Olympics today, India’s FIRST GOLD in over 108 years of participation in the Olympics. The quadrennial extravaganza is the cynosure of all eyes in every country around the world every 4 years, all countries save India that is. I’ve only been alive since ’83, but the few Olympic games i’ve witnessed have been a humiliating performance from the Indian contingent. Every Olympiad, barring sterling performances from 1 or 2 gems, the rest fall way short of the world standard. It isnt for dearth of money in the country, or lack of talent. It is simply the governments repeated failure to learn from past mistakes.

Every so often, Indian athletes have demonstrated flashes of brilliance which seem to suggest that the talent is very much there, the ability isn’t a problem, and that they are very much willing to work hard. Yet, why is it that we are CELEBRATING our FIRST gold medal since the hockey team won their last gold way back in 1980 (Thanks Jinsi for tht correction 🙂 i thought it was 1960’s) ? Maybe it is our collective mindset, that as a country so rabid about cricket, other sports get applause if the athletes win a token medal or two, and in doing so, draw the attention away from cricket only for the briefest of whiles. Maybe its high time we give them their due.

Maybe its time for me to start my usual share of rants against the government and all those responsible for the neglected condition of sport in our country. But for the time being, lets bask in the joy and contentment and pride only we know the value of. After 108 years of disappointment, we can only hope this is the beginning of a golden age. Thank you Abhinav Bindra, for a surprisingly early Independence Day gift to the nation 🙂

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