Books and Authors: The Cricket Series

Post-2009 T20 World Cup Special…

Great Expectations — Anonymous Indian cricket fan

A House Divided — Anonymous sports TV reporter

A Burnt Out Case — Anonymous Indian player

A Farewell to the Cup — Mahendra Singh Dhoni

Chronicle of a Defeat Foretold — Another anonymous sports TV reporter

Paradise Lost — Another anonymous Indian Fan

The Fourth Estate and How I Could Kill Them Right Now — Mahendra Singh Dhoni

Heartbreak House — Yet another anonymous Indian Fan

Dhoni’s Last Sigh? — Yet another anonymous sports TV reporter

Everybody Loves a Good Defeat (or How to Create Controversies and Make TRP Ratings Soar) — Anonymous

Decline and Fall of the Indian Empire — Ravi Shastri

Three Mediamen and the new Apocalypse — Ajay Jadeja

Circle of UnReason — Navjot Singh Sidhu

Nice Guys Finish Second — Tillakaratne Dilshan

IPL2 Special…

The Devil Wears Baggy Greens — Sourav Ganguly

The World is Flat: I Can Host the IPL Anywhere I Like — Lalit Modi

Letters from the Field — An anonymous KKR blogger

The Diary of a Frank Blogger — The very same anonymous KKR blogger

Spycatcher: How I Caught The Anonymous Blogger, Kicked Him Out and Still Finished Last in the Table — John Buchanan

Midnight’s Children: The T20 Generation — Lalit Modi

The Prince Becomes the Pauper — Sourav Ganguly

The State of Pakistan Series…

No Passage to India — Ijaz Butt

No Train to Pakistan — Sharad Pawar

100 Months of Solitude: The Future of Pakistan Cricket — Imran Khan

All’s Well That Ends Well — Shahid Afridi

The Waste Land: A Story of Stadiums Around Pakistan — Javed Miandad

Apocalypse Not Now (I Hope!) — Imran Khan

Arms and the Cricketer — Anonymous Taliban soldier

Asian Drama — ICC

All of Us in Terrorland — Mahela Jayawardene

Man of Destiny — Younis Khan

Pakistan: The Gathering Storm — Imran Khan

The Lost World (and How Pakistan May Become It) — Ijaz Butt

General Reading

Mother — Geoffrey Boycott

Red Earth and Pouring Rain — Frank Duckworth & Tony Lewis

Cricketers are from Mars, Fans are from Venus — Rahul Dravid

Such a Long Journey — Sachin Tendulkar

Far from the Madding Crowd — Rahul Dravid

Heat and Dust and Bombs: My India Tour Story — Kevin Pietersen

Heir Not So Apparent — Yuvraj Singh and Virendra Sehwag

The Affluent Society: How the BCCI is Choking Cricket — ICC

The Far Pavilions — Sourav Ganguly

The Merchant of Mumbai — Jagmohan Dalmiya

The Moon and SixSixes — Stuart Broad

The Way to Dusty Death: How To Spin on Indian Soil — Harbhajan Singh

Lord of the Singhs — Yuvraj Singh

The Real Lord of the Singhs — Harbhajan Singh

The Real Lord of the Singhs Slapped Me! — Sreesanth

Pride and Prejudice — Mike Denness

1983 A Cricket Odyssey — Kapil Dev

Odyssey Two: 2007 — Mahendra Singh Dhoni

Odyssey Three:___—Coming soon…

© Sunil Rajguru

The Thriller is now History (and probably Heavenwalking)

All hail to the King of Pop and listen to HisStory
Most of it’s legendary and some simply gory
Of his parents Michael was the magical child Number 7
and he became a singing pro at the young age of 11
As part of the soon to go kaput Jackson 5
He was destined to go solo and rock and jive
He broke into the scene in the late 1970s with Off the Wall
How many 21-year-olds can stand so tall?
Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough
He never did stop and we never did get enough
Then Thriller sold nearly 50 million units and all the rest Beat It
Billie Jean
is still on my mind and the all-time great list
8 Grammies in his hand on a single night
Never did any modern music star shine so bright
We are the World sent aid right into the heart of Africa
Even as his music stock was rising and rising in America
The going was still good with the rise of Bad
(Today he’s not around and the feeling’s simply Sad)
The way he made us feel: We just couldn’t stop loving him
The Man in the Mirror
: You gotta just stand up and applaud him
His form continued to be Dangerous right into the 1990s
His music surrounded the world like a cool breeze
Remember the Time we were all humming to Black or White
You could dance to his tunes all day and night
Then came HIStory and Invincible and he was on the decline
Try telling that to his fans and he still sold millions and drew many a long line

MJ claimed that his father whipped him, beat him and called him names,
Did that affect all his future mind games?
He fought abuse allegations on many a day
He was made fun of and ridiculed in every way
He started off as a black and ended a white
That was attributed to a disease called vitiligo and made his skin go bright
In his twenties, he broke his nose while dancing like a demon
Lifelong breathing problems he had and multiple surgeries he had to rely on
The press called him Wacko Jacko and hounded him with delight
Sample some of the stories that gave his fans a fright
“He was about to dump his baby to his doom”
“His pet chimpanzee Bubbles shares his toilet and cleans his bedroom”
“He’s sleeping in an oxygen chamber to remain forever young”
“He’s bought the bones of The Elephant Man, how dumb!”
Said MJ himself throwing his hands up in the air
OK, call me a Martian, say I do voodoo, I don’t care…

At the end of it he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice
And his dances defied the laws of gravity and puzzled even the wise
Who can forget the legendary Moonwalk and the snazzy Robot
He left all the greatest dancers way behind in one single shot
Did you know that MTV initially didn’t want to air his videos
Today you can’t imagine a music channel without an MJ dose
We’ll never forget his live shows, pelvic thrusts and clenched fists
His quantum jumps and mesmerizing twists
After Elvis and the Beatles it’s MJ all the way
His music and beats and lyrics will forever stay
Elizabeth Taylor was right, he is the King of Pop
From the beginning to the end his music remains on top
Where is he now, I keep wondering and wondering
Maybe he’s jiving with the angels and now Heavenwalking

© Sunil Rajguru

7 ways to get famous in India…

alphabet-word-images-1294992_6401. Pick up any group of people: Say “left-handed traders on the right side of the street of the main market who sell imported goods from China and happen to be from the southeast central region of the country”. Then pick up any vague and arbitrary quality about them and note it down. Hire a dozen goons to get them beaten up. After the TV channels have repeated the images ad nauseam, give a press conference stating why you were “forced” to take such action based on the note you just made.
Bonus: You get to become a celebrity if you get arrested.

2. Start a new series of “Indian Tarot”. Print a book claiming how you got predictions right in the past. Advertise yourself and before you know it, you will be making predictions for celebrities and your face will appear regularly on Page 3.
Note: Have a sound backup explanation for whatever prediction goes wrong.

3. Keep a stock of effigies in your house and wait for any prominent personality to be attacked by the media. Then go to the streets and burn it. Before you know it, hundreds of people will surround you, as will half a dozen TV cameras. Works best with Indian cricketers when we’ve lost a major tournament or series.
Tip: For maximum impact, call the police in advance. If there’s a lathi-charge, the number of clips that appear on TV will increase tenfold.

4. Choose movies as you domain. Now follow the films that are about to be released very closely. Check all the stories, titles, lyrics… for even a whiff of controversy. When you find anything that may remotely offend any community or group, take it up and stage a dharna in front of your nearest multiplex. By the very next day, it’ll become a national issue.
Note: Works better it there’s a superstar involved.

5. Pick up any morality topic. There is no shortage of them in India. Kissing. Smoking. Drinking. Then form a group that has Anti- as the prefix, the morality issue you are fighting for at the middle and the word Sena/Morcha/Lok/… at the end. Now make calls, lead agitations… a movement will automatically begin and spread.
Tip: Having a website in advance to explain the cause serves as an easy reference.

6. Follow celebrity couples with a mobicam. When they come together, take a vague picture and send it to a newspaper, saying that they were kissing in public! The vaguer the picture, the greater the controversy.
Note: Go to the tabloids first.

7. Start a hate group on Facebook or Orkut. Lodge an anonymous complaint. The subsequent coverage will ensure that thousands of people join your group and lakhs view it.

Disclaimer: The author does not in any way recommend any of the above steps. This is a feeble attempt at humour that should not to be taken seriously. These are mostly a compilation of events that have already happened in India and they serve as more of a historical record. On hindsight, they should actually be “7 ways you shouldn’t get famous in India…”

© Sunil Rajguru

How I got hooked to cricket…

New Delhi 1971. The whole neighbourhood had gathered for my naming ceremony. My father’s side seemed to have a great fascination for Ps. My grandfather’s name was Pundlikrao. My father’s is Pralhad and sister Pratibha. I was to be called Prakash, but the God of Cricket had other ideas.

While the pandit was busy chanting shlokas, one neighbour was in a faraway land. In England, to be precise. India’s new star was batting. Suddenly the neighbour put his transistor down and yelled, “Gavaskar has scored a half-century! Gavaskar has scored a half-century!” Soon the baby was forgotten and there was an atmosphere of jubilation all around. My neighbour walked to my mother and said, “Bhabhiji, now you have to name your son Sunil. Who knows, he might open the batting for the Indian team one day.” Protests were useless and my parents relented. My father is a great cricket fanatic, but little could he have guessed that my skills would be so rock bottom that I wouldn’t even make it to the B team of my hostel dormitory (which had only 26 inmates in the first place). But then a man lives on hope. At any rate, I was saved from having the same initials as my father.

At the age of six, my father got transferred to London. England is a country whose national game is cricket, but national craze football. Cricket was alien to me. Football was home and it seemed the easiest, simplest and greatest of all games.

One Sunday, I saw my father glued to the TV for hours. It was an India-England Test match. I decided to sit down and watch, much to the delight of my father. I sat and sat and sat and sat… Nothing seemed to be happening. A man would throw the ball. Another would block it with the bat. A third would pick it up and give it back to the first. After six balls they would change ends (sometimes you do need an ad break to make things exciting) and repeat the monotony. An occasional “run” would bring about some action. Could this actually be a game? This seemed more like a brilliant cure for insomnia. I kept asking my father for details, but he kept saying, “Sshhk, don’t disturb!” “Disturb!” I muttered to myself, “What is there to disturb? There’s nothing happening in the first place!” I got up and went. My father didn’t even notice.

“What a weird game! Give me a football any day,” I thought to myself, “And I always thought my father was such a sane man!”

Then we returned to India: A country whose national game is hockey, but national craze cricket. So I said, “Let me give a good shot at this game.” I found that I couldn’t bat (even touching the ball was a monumental task), couldn’t bowl (the wide is my all-time favourite delivery) and couldn’t field (falling was much easier than stopping the ball). My friends found the whole story of my naming ceremony hilarious. So I slowly lost interest.

Then India won the World Cup in 1983. Everything changed forever.

I thought everyone had gone mad. This seemed to be India’s greatest event of the year, maybe even the decade. There must be something to it. And we were World Champions after all! So I decided to find out what it was all about. (Off the field this time) I started reading books on rules and followed newspaper reports. I watched matches and discussed them. The complexity of the game started fascinating me. Like millions of others, I became hooked.

I think two things attracted me to cricket. The first is my fascination for numbers, statistics and co-incidences. I think you’ll agree that no other game in the world can offer such a rich scope for figures. Secondly, at my heart I am a chauvinist. For me it’s either India or bust. The Indian football team doesn’t even participate in world cups. I can’t even remotely imagine an Indian challenging Roger Federer and winning Wimbledon. We don’t even exist in the scheme of things of most games on the planet. Where does that leave you? Abinav Bindra’s feat was great, but watching shooting doesn’t take too much of your time. Cricket is the only game where you feel you can rule the world and kill all your spare time to boot.

It affects even those people who don’t watch. My classmate gave one such example. It was Reliance Cup 1987 time. My friend and his father were going through a crowded market. Suddenly the whole place went berserk. There was clapping, shouting and cheering all around. A man came out of the shop screaming, “Chetan Sharma’s got a hat-trick! Chetan Sharma’s got a hat-trick!” Much to my friend’s surprise, his father got carried away and joined the group of revelers. He shouted “A hat-trick for Chetan Sharma,” and danced with the crowd (even on one leg at times, much to the shock of my friend.)

When the din died down, my friend’s father left everyone speechless when he asked, “Who is Chetan Sharma? What’s a hat-trick? And what’s going on?”

***

The only negative was that by the time I reached college, cricket began to rule my moods. A match day was greater than my birthday. A Test match rest day was unresting. (Thank God they abolished those) If India lost, I was in the pits. A victory and the world suddenly seemed a beautiful place. When we lost to Pakistan for the umpteenth time in Sharjah days, I punched the wall so hard that I fractured my knuckles. I stopped watching cricket for a few years. (Javed Miandad’s last ball six was still vivid in my mind) When I started watching again, match fixing happened. So I stopped watching for a few more years. Actually this trend started when Gavaskar retired and I didn’t watch the subsequent Test matches played by India.

Then I realized that such an extreme approach doesn’t work, especially when one is working and has a wife and kid. The difference in time zones of various cricket playing countries doesn’t help sleep and moods either. So my mantra is: As long as India is winning, enjoy it to the maximum while it lasts. When India is losing, shut off. Totally. Don’t watch the matches or news channels. Don’t read reports and don’t waste your breath discussing it all the time. It’s not worth it and there’s so much to do in our lives today, use the spare time wisely. After all Ganguly, Dravid and Kumble all gave it their best shots. And despite everything, Dhoni is still the best man for the job. But his life depends on cricket while mine doesn’t. That puts a lot of things in perspective.

Thanks to this philosophy, I must say that I enjoy cricket more nowadays than in the past.

T20 World Cup? What T20 World Cup? All I know is that the India-West Indies series begins on June 26. If we lose that, then there’s always the ICC Champions Trophy in September. If we lose that, then there’s always…

Much like that famous line in Casablanca: We’ll always have Lord’s, 1983 and Johannesburg, 2007.

© Sunil Rajguru

5 reasons why India exited T20 WC 2009 early…

1. Face it guys, we were outmaneuvered

Opposition teams have always been trying to find chinks in our armour and this time they succeeded with the short ball.
a. Their bowlers (West Indies and England) bounced our batsmen out of the tournament.
b. Our bowlers couldn’t do the same.
We couldn’t adjust to the English conditions despite the fact that there were four games played before the Super 8s. In the batting in the two crucial matches of the Super 8s, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja were the biggest failures and they also happen to be the most inexperienced. We have to give credit to West Indies and England bowlers. They did a good job, with these three in particular.
On this count, Kirstein and Dhoni take the blame.

2. The captain is going through a bad patch

Dhoni will always be remembered as the man who won the inaugural T20 World Cup. He has played against and won one-day series with 5 of the Top 8 countries (South Africa aur Windies baaki hain). Cut him some slack. He got it wrong this time.
a. His poor batting form affected the team.
b. He made strategic errors vis a vis team selection and batting orders. But he had the grace to admit his mistakes in public. It takes a lot of courage to do that. It also means you’re willing to change.
Great captains Ganguly, Dravid and Kumble could not get out of their slumps and had to let go of the captaincy. Lovers of Indian cricket should pray that Dhoni gets his devastating form back fast, or else we’re in real trouble.

3. IPL fatigued our top players

Dhoni, Sehwag and Zaheer looked totally jaded after IPL2. And this showed in the World Cup. IPL2 was too close to WC for comfort. A stopover in South Africa on the way to England doesn’t exactly freshen matters. For this the BCCI and Modi should take the blame. If you try to kill the Golden Goose to get all the Golden Eggs in one day, then you’ll be left with absolutely nothing. As it is, the international schedule is getting more and more grueling and now this IPL comes along (no matter how great it is).

4. The relentless media badgering affected team morale

Sehwag was injured and couldn’t participate in the whole tournament. It should have ended there. Non-stop harping of a captain-vice captain rift will never help matters. Think over it. No international team could rock Captain Cool, but the Indian media finally succeeded angering the Indian captain and that too in the middle of a World Cup!
Team morale was down, there’s no doubt about that. We lost to England by 3 runs. With South Africa, we crashed from 55-1 to 118-8. That’s the sign of a team extremely low on confidence.

5. Periodic crashes are a way of life in Indian cricket

From 1968-71 we won on the foreign soils of World Champions West Indies, tough New Zealand and (at that time world beaters) England. But we had to wait 15 years for a repeat.
From 1983-85 we won all the major ODI tournaments with ease: the World Cup, mini World Cup, inaugural Sharjah Cup and the Asia Cup. But we totally lost steam after that for no rhyme or reason.
In the nineties, we were invincible in home Tests. We won the Hero Cup, kicked the Aussies in Sharjah in 1998 and chased 300 plus in a final with Pakistan. Then along came the match fixing scandal.
Ganguly proved to be the best captain ever, but he still went down in a quagmire. Dravid won foreign series in West Indies and England, did some record chasing and thrashed opponents. Even he couldn’t last.
Dhoni was going through too much of a dream run and like a crash in the booming economy, the Indian cricket team also came down to earth.
Now is the phase of rebuilding again. What do you do? Give the captaincy to Yuvraj or Sehwag? Somehow I don’t think that’s going to work. Dhoni is still the best man for the job. He has handled pressure well for two years (this tournament was definitely a blip) and he’s still innovative and captain courageous.

Parting Shot

By the 2007 ODI World Cup, international teams had figured out Dhoni the six-hitting batsman and he fell. Coincidentally the team also crashed out. But he reinvented himself and became the world’s number one batsmen.
In the 2009 T20 World Cup, international teams figured out Dhoni the Mr Cool captain and he fell. Coincidentally the team crashed again. Now he has to reinvent himself again and become the world’s number one captain.
In the last 3-4 years, the centre of gravity of the team has shifted from Tendulkar to Dhoni. Our fortunes depend on him now. He needs all the support to reinvent Team India. Knowing the fighter that Dhoni is, he’ll definitely do it, if left alone and given the freedom. 2011 will be a big year for India. Forget 2007 T20 WC. It’s dead.

© Sunil Rajguru

7 areas where science and technology failed…

Well, not exactly, maybe the headline is a bit dramatic, but these are the areas where we could have done a little better in life…

Science has made great advances and has cracked some of the world’s biggest problems in the past. We have gone to the moon, linked the entire planet in seconds and created devices of all shapes and sizes. Here are some trivial (and not so trivial) issues that still continue to irritate:

1. Cutting Onions: No matter how modernized the kitchen gets and how sharper the knife becomes, the housewife or cook still cries when onions are cut. Many devices were tried out in the early half of the twentieth century. Creating elaborate gas masks, using smoke to nullify the gas… it all proved too cumbersome. The solution was to cut them in water! But the taste went flat, so we went back to square one. (You can also freeze the onions and then cut them. That’s effective but unpopular) Now they’ve stopped trying as the crying continues…
How it happens: 1. You cut an onion. 2. Onion cells break. 3. Enzymes break down amino acid sulphoxides… 4. …become sulphenic acid. 5. Volatile sulphenic acid becomes gas. 6. Gas irritates the eye. 7. Tear glands activate to flush the gas out. (Can’t they find a simple way to break any of these steps?)

2. Eradicating cockroaches: There are various sprays, repellents and their kind, but none of them really rid cockroaches for good. They continue to be the scourge of homes all over. Keep spraying and they’ll keep building up resistance and come back. Cockroaches have been known to withstand freezing temperatures. They have survived without food and water for three months. It’s been found that they can withstand a nuclear holocaust. Think over it. After WW3, cockroaches may rule the Earth. Man succeeds the dinosaur. Cockroach succeeds man.
In Nature, the most effective anti-cockroach devices are wasps and centipedes. But you can’t exactly keep these creatures in your home can you? Gabriela Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude has a lengthy discourse on how history has combated the menace of cockroaches. The conclusion is that the only effective weapon is a person’s footwear.

3. Daily Shaving: So much has been done to make shaving easier and easier. And we men really appreciate that. In ancient times, they used stones to rub stubbles, then shells to pull out the hair. Then they used knives, the razor, the safety razor and the electric razor (which never really took off). Today twin blades are popular. (Did you know that the Gillette Fusion razor has 5 blades?)
But we still have to shave every day don’t we? Why? Why? Why? Thousands and thousands of times in your life you have to get up in the morning and do this ritual. Why?

I have a very simple question: As a man goes bald in his head, why can’t he go bald in his chin?

In Arthur C Clarke’s The Deep Range, the hero shaves just once a month. To think, so many of Clarke’s predictions have come true (think satellite TV) and not a simple one like this! I tell you… (If it weren’t for my wife, I would have just grown a beard)

4. The common cold: There is no cure for the common cold. That’s what I learnt in school. That’s still valid today. While we have eradicated small pox and countered tuberculosis, we are still powerless vis a vis the common cold. Medicines and home remedies just relieve and not “cure”. In all probability we’ll find a cure for cancer and AIDS but this simple disease will keep striking millions of people every year, costing millions in revenue and man hours.

5. Free Time: The more inventions, gadgets and techniques that are invented to save time, the lesser and lesser free time we seem to be getting in life. Packed working days. Packed weekends. Packed holidays. We are always fighting a losing race against Time. Regular Meaningful Rest and Relaxation remains a dream…

6. Peaceful Sleep: Another malaise that is afflicting mankind is sleep: Both the quantity and quality is going down. Sleeping pills. Sleep inducing music. Sophisticated mattresses. Scientists devoted to the science of sleep. It’s all happening. But ask your parents and their friends how soundly they slept when they were small. I think the progress of science and technology is inversely proportional to the beauty of sleep. (I’d rather be sleeping than writing this article, but then I’m addicted to the laptop, PC, Internet, TV… there’s no hope for me)

7. Calling Waiters: OK, what has science & technology got to do with this? Well, cooking has become high-tech. Restaurants are more swank. You can pay bills by credit cards. Cool gadgets and mechanisms power the fast food industry. But just try getting hold of a waiter in the best of restaurants on a Saturday night. It’s really tough. Eye contact? Excuse me? Hello! Shukshuk! Ahem Ahem. Which is the magic word? I mean can’t they have touch screen menus embedded in the table or buttons to hail waiters or something? How difficult is that?

Staying one step ahead: Crime and Disease…

No matter how far we progress, two things manage to stay ahead. Some disease. Some criminal.

1. War was a great killer. Then life saving first aid, antiseptics and nursing came along. So the weapons just got more lethal. Guns, bombs, unsmart missiles, smart missiles… There’s no cure if you get radiated and survive a nuclear blast, is there? Just when the twentieth century cured many a disease, cancer upped its ante and AIDS came along. We are all living longer right? But healthier? I don’t think so!

2. The better the lock—the better the thief. The better the safe—the better the plan. The stronger the safe—the greater the explosive. Computers and cyberspace made life easier for us—but it made it even easier for the criminals. Interestingly when the technique of fingerprinting was cracked, it was thought that no criminal could escape. In the US after DNA fingerprinting was introduced and many old cases were reopened. More than a hundred “fingerprint matched” people were found to be innocent. Why? While the chance fingerprints matching may be one in a billion, the chances of “partial fingerprints” matching are a mere one in hundreds. And partial fingerprints are what police usually get at the scene of a crime. It takes a newer technology to point out the pitfalls of the old ones.

Passing thoughts… Can science & technology ever solve the following riddles…?

1. What women want: Ha ha! I don’t think I have to explain this one. This it something totally out of the realm of science, technology, progress (and logic?).

2. Does God Exist: God may exist or he may not. Either way, science should offer us proof. Instead, science just dismisses all miracles, coincidences and the “illogical” faith and belief that billions of people have about God.

3. Why the hell are we all here in the first place? As a journalist, I was taught the importance of the 5Ws and H. Who? (OK, we are homo sapiens in a universe). What? (We know all about our chemical composition along with that of the Earth and universe) When? (We know the age of the universe and man and where we stand on the timeline today) Where? (We know our location on Earth and the Earth’s rough location in the universe) How? (The Big Bang. Laws. Chemical reactions. We have it all nearly figured out.) But Why? Why does the universe exist? Why do we exist? Why are we here? Who knows!

4. OK, here’s one up science’s alley. What is Nature’s fundamental particle? The Greeks called it the atom and lo behold scientists actually discovered it! Then there was an electron and proton inside the atom. OK, one’s negative and one’s positive. Wait there’s a neutron too! Oh God, now these three are nothing but fermions which can be hadrons or leptons… Fundamental particles number in the dozens! (From The Fundamental Particle to this!) But wait! Actually the proton is made of quarks… and it continues. The more we unravel matter, the tinier it gets. Ad infinitum?

5. What you really want: Can science peek into your soul and see your inner longing and help you find out what you really want? In fact I think gadgets and devices and processes are just addictive agents that will surround you and help you but take you away from what you really want deep inside.

© Sunil Rajguru

God Bless Them…

Once I was reading an article in a magazine which had a round up of the year’s major events. There was a collage of achievers. Out of all the varied images, the face of a famous beauty queen was blocked by the magazine’s logo. “Look what they’ve done to her face,” I said to my flat-mate. He looked at the mutilated figure wearily and exclaimed, “God bless them! I’m sick and tired of that face.”

I stopped and thought for a moment. I found that I agreed with him. Though this face was beautiful and gorgeous (declared the most symmetric face in the world by one magazine) even I was weary of it. I guess a lot of other people felt that way too. And to think I was so ecstatic when she won an international beauty pageant. Go India go! So I guess today a celebrity, or a hero or an idol is like a tube of toothpaste. You have to keep changing it every now and then.

I wonder. Did the same thing happen thousands of years ago? Were men who won the ancient Olympics treated like stale cakes a few years after they won their laurel wreaths? Did the Romans get tired of talking about the greatness of Caesar? When Shakespeare was mentioned in the 17th century England, did someone say, “Oh, no! Not him again!” Probably not!

Historians may disagree. But considering the conditions, population and developments of the present century, the achievements of many current greats rank next to, if not greater than, those in the past. Both shared the same strengths and weaknesses. Both fought against the same type of odds. Both changed lives. Yet our present day heroes fall from grace much too easily. In contrast their counterparts in the ancient world carried an aura of invincibility right up to (and much after) their deaths.

Things have been changing for centuries, but perhaps the advent of the daily newspaper drastically altered equations. The media plays the biggest role in snatching away a person’s aura. A man and his achievements are two separate things. In the good old days, the public saw only the cloak of achievements and the actual man, who might be very weak in his personal life.

In contrast, today the media puts a person’s cloak of achievement in front of the public giving a massive overdose, which leads to the overkill. Then paradoxically at the same time it slowly pulls down the cloak showing the world what an ordinary mortal he actually is. This “double action” seems to be a great favourite of the media.

Imagine Emperor Ashok being scrutinized by the world’s press thousands of years ago. He might have read headlines like, Ashok massacres the Kalingans, Thousands killed in Kalinga conflict, Why did Ashok commit Genocide?… Then there would have been the hounding of the reporters, the analyses, investigative reports… I can’t even imagine what our 24-hour news channels would make out of events like that. The pressure would have been far too much for Ashok and he would have renounced warfare (earlier than he did in real life) Now that would have been viewed as the victory of the free press and not his greatness. Such a scenario would have unfolded with every great event and every great person. Think over it. There would be a hundredfold history books and most of them would not have been in favourable light about our greats. You wouldn’t view history the same. In fact you would be viewing history with the same glasses that the media puts in front of your eyes today.

This is the essential difference. While ancients looked at their greats from afar, we look at ours from too close a distance. While Old Greats are read only in academic history books (which are treated with great respect), New Greats are seen in cheap newspapers and even cheaper news channels, which put everything in the light of the mundane.

The further in the past you look, the greater the men appear. But that may not hold true in the future with the way things are going.

© Sunil Rajguru

You know you’re in Bangalore when…

  • The temperature touches 37.5 degrees and everyone starts panicking and journalists start yelling, “Lead story” “Lead story” “Lead story”…
  • The shopkeeper shakes his head when you ask for cold drinks and he shows you “cool drinks” instead.
  • In the evening, the temperature drops a few degrees below normal and suddenly everyone is armed with sweaters and jackets.
  • You go from one one-way road to another, then another, then yet another…
  • After you return from a trip to Mumbai, you wonder why everything is suddenly in slow motion.
  • You drive up a busy flyover and have to suddenly screech your brakes. There’s a red light at the very top! What the…
  • In the apartment where you live, there isn’t a single floor, which doesn’t have at least one ITwallah.
  • You boast that you live right next door to the airport: Just 20kms from my house saar!
  • Every second article in the local pages of your newspaper has the word “infrastructure” in it.
  • When you go out for lunch, the sun is shining and the sky is blue with not a fleck of cloud. And yet by the time you’re leaving office, there’s a massive traffic jam because the roads are flooded after a torrential downpour and the sky is clear again!
  • Your neighbour has been transferred to Delhi and you go to offer your condolences.
  • You have a swank fine dining restaurant buffet and think it’s incomplete because there’s no curd rice.
  • You keep telling everyone that your city is the fastest growing in Asia (or India) though you’ve never ever seen any statistics in support of that.
  • No matter how many malls, arcades and shopping complexes open in your area; you still end up going to MG Road every now and then.
  • You are told that your city’s Metro will be ready in 2011 and you just can’t stop laughing.
  • When you return from Delhi, you think the autowallahs are sweet. When you return from Mumbai, you think the autowallahs are thugs.
  • One day you’re traveling in a crowded stinking bus and the very next day you’re in a high-tech AC Volvo at the very same time on the very same route.
  • You try to imagine your city without pubs and… you just can’t!

© Sunil Rajguru

How India went from Dictatorship to Democracy

I have this viewpoint that when we got Independence, we were actually a Benevolent Socialist Dictatorship and over the years we have graduated to a flourishing democracy. Why do I say that? Look at the scenario from 1947 onwards. Did we have any choice but to support the Congress? Sounds a bit like the Communist Party of Russia/China to me. Did we have any choice but to support Nehru till death? Sounds a bit like Lenin and Stalin to me. Could you become a politician? A big no. (Even today most of politics is reserved for Muscle,  Money and Dynasty) If an average citizen wanted to be an entrepreneur, could he? A bigger no. When the whole world had colour TVs, could you buy them? Think imported. Think big bucks. Think TV license. And what about those years of waits for gas connections and scooters? That doesn’t sound like a healthy democracy to me.

Everything begins with choice—Morpheus, The Matrix Reloaded

While democracy has dozens of elements, to me one of the biggest components is Choice. The power to choose your leader, party, life, job… And choice is something most Indian citizens didn’t have many decades ago. However all that has changed drastically. Today we are spoiled for choices in every sphere of life.

It’s been a slow and steady journey and I’m listing below the key events that shaped our journey from Dictatorship to Democracy:

The Death of Nehru, 1964

For 17 years we had no choice but to follow Nehru’s fancies, Nehru’s vision and Nehrunomics. He was seen as foreign policy genius. But the unresolved seeds of the Kashmir dispute were planted during his tenure, the fruits of which we are still eating today. We limped through the China war and his brainchild NAM is dead and forgotten. So much for being a world statesman. But I probably have more grouses with his brand of economics, which got us nowhere and kept the country in poverty for decades. While in the West the poor have clothes and makeshift homes and are short of food, in India they don’t even have clothes and shelter, and are starving to death. Mahatma Gandhi was spot on when he called for the disbanding the Congress party after Independence. That would have given us a wider choice in life from 1947 itself.

Indira Challenged, 1966

While most people think Indira Gandhi was dictatorial and ruled her party with an iron fist, the truth is that she was challenged from the beginning of her reign to the end. She faced a revolt in 1966, the Congress split in 1969 and she had to take the help of the Communists and Socialists after that. Despite the victory in the 1971 war and the subsequent landslide, she faced a nationwide revolt and had to enforce Emergency. Even then, Sanjay Gandhi was the real power behind the throne. She also had to sit in the opposition from 1977-80. Post-Nehru, no PM could take the party or people for granted. A lesson Rajiv learnt very bitterly when his party’s seat share was halved in Parliament in 1989.

A State Bastion Falls, 1967

DMK stormed to power in 1967 and the states slowly started finding their voices after that. One reason why this was a landmark was that more than 40 years later, we are yet to see a Congress Chief Minister in Tamil Nadu. In fact, the second choice turned out to be AIADMK. After that, we had the CPM in West Bengal in 1977, TDP in 1982… Federalization was complete when Uttar Pradesh fell in 1989. At the regional level atleast, for better or worse, the voters are spoiled for choice.

Change at the Centre, 1977

In 1977, India became a two-party system. Well almost. The only difference was that the second party was Janata Party in 1977, Janata Dal in 1989 and BJP in 1998.

The Public Interest Litigation and Judicial Activism, Eighties onwards

While politicians all over the country started asserting themselves, it was now the turn of the judges. The concept of PILs was unheard of till the Emergency and it picked up steam after that. Sometimes a letter or a telegram has been enough to initiate court action. A Gujarati advocate was felicitated recently for filing as many as 200 PILs, many of which yielded concrete results. The high point was probably in 1996 when courts effectively prevented Prime Minister Narasimha Rao from interfering too much with the CBI in the St Kitt’s Forgery Case.

The Rise of the Bureaucrat, 1990

Till 1990, the Chief Election Commissioner was a mere statistic. By the time TN Seshan left office in 1996, it was a powerful body that made politicians quiver. Seshan took on the high and mighty, forged ahead with electoral reforms and proposed something as basic as a voter-ID card, which has almost become a must today.
Probably taking cue from Seshan, GR Khairnar, Deputy Commissioner of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, took on then Chief Minister Sharad Pawar during the same period. An important lesson was that any minister or bureaucrat could shake up the process and bring about a change if he or she really wanted to.

The Second Independence, 1991

While all the above examples gave power to people outside the Prime Minister’s office and the Congress Party, liberalization firmly put power into the hands of the people. This was probably the biggest economic event post-1947 and I would go so far as to call it our Second Independence. Finally the average Indian citizen was free to choose what he or she wanted. Fridges and TVs became common even in the lowest strata of society. Professions opened up beyond the regular medicine and engineering. One could become an entrepreneur if he or she wanted to. Wonder what would have happened had we liberalized in 1947 itself and had not gone on the path of socialism leaning towards communism.

Coalitions (and non-Congress ones to boot) Can Last, 1998-2004

While you can be cynical of coalitions and call them weak and ineffective, the other side of the coin is that they spell co-operation and a distribution of power at all levels. While the Congress has been a perennial choice, no one could have thought that coalitions like the NDA and UPA would actually last. Even today the BJP isn’t marginalized. 120 seats are enough of a platform to bounce back and give the voters another chance and choice. One mustn’t forget that Congress had even lesser seats in 1999. And look where they are today.

Relevance of the President’s Post, 2002

While we’ve had able presidents like Rajendra Prasad, philosophers like S Radhakrishnan and others like Zail Singh (who almost set in motion events to put a Prime Minister out of office), there has been none like Abdul Kalam. An energetic non-politician professional who inspired thousands of school children all over the country. Today all sorts of people are running the nation and anyone can become a hero from any field.

It’s Crowded at the Top, 2009

2009 was the year of Manmohan Singh the government head, Sonia the power behind the throne and Rahul the organizer. Rarely have so many run the Congress party together. Indira became a minister after Nehru died. Rajiv took over the reigns fully only after Indira was assassinated. Narasimha Rao worked free of the dynasty. But this is probably the first time when a troika is building the party together. The more the merrier.

We’ve come a long way from One Leader, One Party, One Life, One Choice… I believe that an Indian citizen who steps out in 2009 has a greater political and personal choice; greater choice of career; greater choice to pick his city of residence; greater choice to pick up various services… and that’s true democracy.

Now all these changes may not be necessarily be good, but atleast we only have ourselves to blame if things go wrong.

© Sunil Rajguru

10 Status messages you’re unlikely to see on Facebook…

What’s on your mind?

…thoughts on how to murder my boss

…visions from the porn link that I got that shows exceedingly clear pictures

…dilemmas on why the hell I got married in the first place and why I have kids

…why has nobody has been responding to my FB comments recently?

…ideas on how to make money dishonestly

…the headache that my kids’ screaming has given me

…dirty dirty thoughts, fully censored

…did I leave the gas on when I left the house today?

…nothing really, I rarely think, let alone get ideas that I can share

…depression, anxiety, worthlessness, uselessness… the usual

© Sunil Rajguru

We don’t need no Obama

An old thought. When Obama became President of America, I was astounded by calls of a similar Obama for India, some even referring to Mayawati being that Obama. Yikes! Get real! Which world are you living in? India has done this, done that, long before America despite the fact that it’s more than 150 years older than us as an Independent nation and much more mature. We don’t need an Obama (in terms of the minority issue) though we may need one in on the issues front.

First things first. Why a Dalit PM? Why not a Muslim PM? A Christian PM? A Sikh PM? Or a PM from the North-East? Well the answer is that all of them should happen in time, but then it takes time. As long as people from minority groups—any minority group—keep making it big in public life, it’s enough. That’s why 2002 was a watershed year. We had a Muslim President, a Hindu Prime Minister and a Christian head of the Congress party. Then in 2004, we had a Sikh PM. So we are definitely on the right track.

Difference in perception in Obama’s and Rajiv’s parentage

Another quick question. Is Obama African American or is he White? If most point to the former, then what about his mother, who’s a white? Why this discrimination? Aren’t parents equal, which would make it 50:50. And what if you applied the same yardstick to Rajiv Gandhi? Wouldn’t that make him a Parsi, as his father was a Parsi? Then we had a minority PM in 1984 itself! The truth is that Obama looks like an African American and Rajiv is known as Indira’s son, so that has led to this perception. That’s the point I am making: It is nothing but a perception. In this world, I represent my mother as much as my father and I think the same applies to both Obama and Rajiv, no matter what the world thinks.

Equality in All walks of life

If you look at India then atleast someone from the minority community has been President, Prime Minister, Chief Minister, Bollywood superstar, cricket team captain, Army chief… We even had a woman head of state just 20 years after our Independence while America, after centuries, is still waiting to do so.
Another tidbit. When America completed 200 years, the President and his team and all the Governors were white males. Think over it. White males took up 100% of the top posts. And look at India just 60 years after Independence. Apart from the above mentioned examples, even the most populous state in India, Uttar Pradesh, is ruled by a Dalit woman. What more can one ask for?

Rahul Gandhi and the Future

The best bet for the future is Rahul Gandhi as Prime Minister. If you look at his lineage, then at least one of his great grandfathers is a Hindu, a Christian and a Parsi. He is the perfect melting pot.
But what would you call him once he became PM, as his most common association is with his mother Sonia, who happens to be a Christian?

© Sunil Rajguru

12 differences between Western and Indian politicians…

Western: Change their needs to suit the party
Indian: Change their party (or alliance) to suit their needs

Western: Know the power of Development and go ahead with it
Indian: Pray that Development is just a passing fad

Western: Believe in politics of issues (before the people)
Indian: Believe in politics of issues (their children)

Western: Portfolios taken by subject matter experts. Professionals reach the pinnacle of their career with the portfolio.
Indian: Indian Roulette. The portfolio depends on who’s in line, tired of traveling, which ally has to be pacified in which way—subject matter expertise be damned!

Western: Film stars actively participate and endorse their choice of politicians
Indian: Film stars become politicians in large numbers (and promptly spend more time in front of the camera than in Parliament). In the South, you get to be Chief Minister.

Western: Number of politicians increase in Arithmetic Progression
Indian: Number of parties increase in Geometric Progression

Western: Know that they are below the law and try to circumvent it
Indian: Are the law

Western: Embarrassments and scandalmongers are kicked out or eased out
Indian: Embarrassments and scandalmongers are given plum ceremonial posts

Western: Dress to the occasion
Indian: Dress desi, think swadesi

Western: Forget past leaders, but practice their doctrines
Indian: Worship past leaders and damn their dreams

Western: Plan for the future
Indian: Live in India’s glorious and ancient past. What future?

Western: Try to capture the mind of the voters
Indian: Try to capture the booths of the constituencies

© Sunil Rajguru