World of India!: April 2007 e

World of India!

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National Anthem in Multiplexes in India - Teacher, leave us kids alone !

Saturday, April 28, 2007 Digg! Add to Technorati Favorites
Since a few years now, I have noticed a new trend when I go to watch the movies. Just before the movie starts the Mngt. "requests'" you to stand and pay your respects while they play the national anthem in the movie hall, just before the movie starts. This trend is true in almost all multiplexes in Mumbai and a few in Pune.

Now, no one will shy away from singing his own national anthem, but surely there is a time and a place for everything? What this drive amounts to is forcing people (since there is no choice but to stand up once a anthem is played, without that action signifying a dis-respect to the anthem, although Vikram Chauhan would dispute that) into displaying their love for their nation, when they have come to enjoy a movie. More importantly why do we as a nation feel the urge that our citizens have to repeatedly publicly proclaim and display the respect to the nation? Why can't our minders let us decide when we want to pay our respects to the nation and in what form? Its as if the powers that be have decided that the masses are a idiotic lot who don't have the heart & brains to decide this and therefore come up with this silly diktat.

At a broader level, nationalism and its jingoistic display is something that is becoming a feature of India and Indians. While at one end we have a whole bunch of people who have a massive inferiority complex about all things Indian, on the other side we have a equally idiotic bunch who see India as the be all and end all in everything on this planet ("ah, planes? we discovered it thousands of years ago! Nuclear bombs? Cmon, India discovered the Brahmstra as early as in the age of Mahabharata!). In the past decade or so, the much lauded 9% growth rate and the emergence of India in the mind space of the world at large, has given much ammunition to a display of nationalistic sentiment which is more often than not crass, rather than a genuine display of affection and respect for India and its culture. In reality, it stems from an inferiority complex about India and is an attempt to conquer this feeling of inadequacy with a desire to distinguish oneself through the concrete achievements of other fellow Indians on the world stage or even the much more abstract- 9% growth rate.

There is a thin line between being patriotic and being nationalistic. Charles De Gaulle defined this rather well when he said " Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first. "

So when people pay respects to the nation and its culture of their own accord, it can be safely described as positive love. But when some one in the political leadership forces people to display such a respect, invading and not taking into consideration the context of time and space in which these people are, surely this is nothing but nationalism?

Einstein once famously castigated nationalism as an infantile disease and a measles of mankind.Going by recent evidence, it seems that the authorities, have decided that they want more of this disease shoved down our throats.

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BCCI: The story of shifting blames and scapegoats

Thursday, April 12, 2007 Digg! Add to Technorati Favorites
Reason, fairness and willingness to take a loss sportingly are already absent from the Indian cricket fan’s dictionary. Add to that the post mortem masala being cooked up by an incompetent board – and I sometimes wonder if the World Cup debacle is not something we thoroughly deserved.

Fact is that team leadership and management was an utter failure, as evident from the first round exit in the World Cup. But how can we accept that the high and mighty have failed. So it’s time to play spin doctor. Let’s try to create false causes to hide the real reasons for failure – by highlighting rifts among seniors, trying to single out individuals like Tendulkar and Ganguly and so on. The first question anyone should ask is – why was there a rift in the team? Isn’t it the leadership’s failure if there is a rift? It’s the leadership’s responsibility to foster team spirit so that it doesn’t affect performance. Rift or not, you got to win some matches.

Another thing that’s being heard on and off is Ganguly’s performance. This kind of a farce probably can only happen in India, when a performing player is questioned in order to cover up the mess of the stakeholders trying to protect their rattling positions. A number of naïve fans are trying to blame his strike rate for the loss. These arguments have absolutely no basis. Without Ganguly, the losses would have been more embarrassing. The loss to Bangladesh wasn’t because of his run rate. India was reeling at 50 with 4 down. You don’t expect a player to hit at that time in a seaming wicket. One can similarly argue that India lost because Dravid failed to score against BD. He should have played a captains knock when much needed. If he could contribute would have posted a bigger total and have a much better chance of victory. That crucial loss to Bangladesh was what cost the berth to Super 8. Such reasoning however is as illogical as questioning Ganguly’s strike rate. Cricket is a team sport. Trying to single out individuals is a sign of foolishness, and doesn’t deserve any attention. Individuals sure carry their teams but at the end of the day, it’s teamwork that matters. And teamwork doesn’t happen in just one match or because of the performance of one player on a particular day. It’s something that gels over time, out of the team’s character, out of capable leadership. Rahul Dravid is a top class cricketer but an inept captain. And this is in no offense to the great player. But a captain needs to be a better man manager. If you can’t bond your team together you’re not fit to lead. And what does BCCI do? Reward a failed captain with another term. And besides, did we ever acknowledge that BD played superbly that day and thoroughly deserved to win?

Chappell should have been released right away, instead of giving him an opportunity to resign, which the wily old fox was clever enough to do anyway. Not only is he a bad mentor, he’s also an incompetent coach, trying to save his skin after the debacle. Now Chappell’s worthless post mortem is being glorified like a gift from above. Not only that, BCCI is sucking up to him to be some kind of counselor to India’s cricket. Who wants a losers’ opinion? You had your chance. You failed. Just leave. We don’t want excuses or reasons.

Then — the great Senior/Junior nonsense: This is another BS being cooked up to cover up the real causes for failure. What senior/junior? You perform – you play. Just as you inspire — you lead. You win as a team and also lose sometimes. When we win, no one says that we won because seniors played well. It’s just as stupid as it sounds. And all that hoopla about bringing in fresh blood is a pack of rubbish as well. Just take a look at the other seniors in the World Cup – Ponting, Jayasuria, Muralitharan and so on. Perhaps their boards don’t care about such political classifications as much.

And now BCCI is treating cricketers like school kids. Cutting down on endorsements, questioning players about talking to the media, deducting match fees for farting aloud in Chappell’s presence (okay, I made that up). Does anyone think that it will boost their morale and help them play better? If anyone’s questionable, it’s the captain and the coach.

BCCI needs to address the real causes in order to improve performance. The team is fine. There’s already great talent and potential. What’s missing is the teamwork to bring it forth. And what’s needed is a change in leadership. Not shifting the blame on scapegoats. I, for one, am looking forward to the breakaway league being proposed by Zee TV boss Subhash Chandra – if that forces the corrupt bureaucrats of BCCI out of their high and mighty horses.

Rufee

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Iraq War collateral damage: Bush, Blair, Wolfowitz,Karl Rove and Scooter Libby

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Skeletons are tumbling out of the cupboard when it comes to people who played a key role in bringing about the Iraq war on, as it turned out, trumped up charges of attempting to manufacture weapons of mass destruction and collision with Al-Qaida.

First it was Dick Cheney's chief aide-Lewis 'Scooter' Libby - who went so far ahead to obstruct justice and make false statements to a CIA operative's identity leak. Kaarl Rove, Bush's closest advisor has been accused of initiating the leak, angered by the fact that the operative's (Valerie Plame) husband- a Congressman- had wrote a report indicting USA's involvement into the Iraq War. He was found guilty of obstruction of justice and is now firmly in the dock.

Then it was Dick Cheney himself, who although dis-credited for his hawkish role in the Iraq War, went on to be lampooned nationally and a favourite target to take jibes at (even by his own President) for shooting a friend (accidently) during a hunting expedition.

The President is also wounded mortally as far as his approval ratings are concerned. No President has had ratings this low for such a long time and who is reviled so widely internationally.

His friend across the Atlantic,Tony Blair, is nursing his wounds for not realizing his life ambition for leaving a legacy and a place in the history books as a man who brought about a lasting change in the U.K's political climate and thinking. A few weeks ago, he got a taste of how unpopular he has become , after he was fiercely attacked for preaching about the effects of Global warming while enjoying a 'carbon saturated' vacation across the Atlantic himself.

And now we have Paul Wolfowitz, the current head of the World Bank,who is caught with his pants down, after ordering a huge pay hike to his own girl friend in the World Bank.

Hmmm...collateral damage, wat?

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Iraq War collateral damage: Bush, Blair, Wolfowitz,Karl Rove and Scooter Libby

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Skeletons are tumbling out of the cupboard when it comes to people who played a key role in bringing about the Iraq war on, as it turned out, trumped up charges of attempting to manufacture weapons of mass destruction and collision with Al-Qaida.

First it was Dick Cheney's chief aide-Lewis 'Scooter' Libby - who went so far ahead to obstruct justice and make false statements to a CIA operative's identity leak. Kaarl Rove, Bush's closest advisor has been accused of initiating the leak, angered by the fact that the operative's (Valerie Plame) husband- a Congressman- had wrote a report indicting USA's involvement into the Iraq War. He was found guilty of obstruction of justice and is now firmly in the dock.

Then it was Dick Cheney himself, who although dis-credited for his hawkish role in the Iraq War, went on to be lampooned nationally and a favourite target to take jibes at (even by his own President) for shooting a friend (accidently) during a hunting expedition.

The President is also wounded mortally as far as his approval ratings are concerned. No President has had ratings this low for such a long time and who is reviled so widely internationally.

His friend across the Atlantic is nursing his wounds for not realizing his life ambition for leaving a legacy and a place in the history books as a man who brought about a lasting change in the U.K's political climate and thinking. A few weeks ago, he got a taste of how unpopular he has become , after he was fiercely attacked for preaching about the effects of Global warming while enjoying a 'carbon saturated' vacation across the Atlantic himself.

And now we have Paul Wolfowitz, the current head of the World Bank,who is caught with his pants down, after ordering a huge pay hike to his own girl friend in the World Bank.

Hmmm...collateral damage, wat?

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Pay for performance for the Board of Cricket Control for India (BCCI)?

Saturday, April 07, 2007 Digg! Add to Technorati Favorites
The BCCI's press conference could have passed off for comedy today were it not such a tragedy. Mr. Srinivasan, the boss of India Cements, who is also a Board member held the conference. The gist of his conference was as follows, although the bulk of the conference was him saying "you seeeee"....all comments in the brackets are mine.

1. Cricket is just a game and winning or loosing is part of the game. (Thanks - we never could have guessed.)

2. No- cricketers endorsing brand has got nothing to do with our defeat in the ICC World Cup, but yes, we want them to reduce the number of endorsements still. (Don't ask me by what logic. Srinivasan could have answered this with a minute long "You seee"......plus Srinivasan's India Cements employs Mr. Rahul Dravid- so one assumes that this endorsement would also stand cancelled , of Dravid decides not to keep it in his list of 3 endorsements?)

3. Sweeping changes in pitches, selection, ex-captains consultative committee, domestic cricket to be strengthened - blah blah blah ( ok, the Guiness book of records has just been shattered for some one making announcements without implementing the decision.Congrats Mr. Srinivasan)

4. No groupism found in West Indies. Everything wass hunky dory and players were in good nick (then why did u loose? You seeeeeeee , cricket is JUST a game, stupido)

So the BCCI has come down heavily on the income of players while retaining the right to make obscene sums of money, while displaying no commitment to its OWN performance.

How about 'Pay per Performance' for the BCCI instead and also limit on the max. number of endorsements/ sponsorships for the BCCI, since they are the biggest cause of our failure?

" You seeeeeee........"

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BVP,AFMC,VIT, Trees on Fire - Rock on !

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Yesterday a friend of mine invited me to join him to watch a Rock Music competition at ABC farms, Pune. The contest was organized by a newly launched print Youth Magazine called 'Poora Poona'. Me and my friend chatted with Sameer Agarwal, the live wire behind the effort, who lamented that Rock Music in general is very purely supported by corporates and finding sponsors had been a very tough job indeed.

Be as it may, Sameer and his team put up a fantastic show to conduct 'Dhwani'07' they way they did. This is going to be a bi-annual event. So watch out guys.

To the contest itself- there were 4 bands who played. Teams from VIT college of Engineering, Bharati Vidyapeeth, Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC) and one of Pune's most famous rock bands- Trees on Fire participated in the contest. I was surprised by the depth of talent in almost all the bands. While the teams from VIT and AFMC did well, the BVP band stood apart by the way they were able to play as a single unit. 'Trees on Fire' of course was of course leagues ahead of them all...Randheer Dange on drums, Robin and Sundar on the Guitar, Sharad on the vocals were all outstanding. When it comes to Rock bands the other bands should learn that its not just about how you sing and play- but also about how you perform these creative acts as a 'group'. Most importantly, a band needs to have that very undefinable of qualities which ' Tees on Fire' had in loads and that was the single most important thing all the other bands lacked, by an equal measure. For Chris sakes, AFMC and BVP appeared on stage wearing loosened up ties...! This is the 21st century folks, pl throw the ties out : )

After 7 good years I was in a place with so many youngsters and watching them all deliriously happy- flirting, dancing, drinking, smoking and abusing each other playfully- it was easy to go back in time, when we roughly did the same old things, in the same old way. There was something truly beautiful about the way these people were enjoying themselves so naturally and just watching it, made me feel good about many things.

After the concert me and my friend decided to check out Pune's most authentic Iranian restaurant -Nunoz- but that's a tale for some other time.
Poona '.

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Subhash Chandra's India Cricket League - prepare your janampatri's : )

Tuesday, April 03, 2007 Digg! Add to Technorati Favorites
Subhash Chandra of Zee Television in India has just announced a parallel DOMESTIC cricket league. I was watching the press conference, on T.V., where he announced the formation of the new'India Cricket League' as it will be called.

If the press conference is anything to go by, things are going to be entertaining in the India Cricket League. Chandra's rambling speech began by reciting a couple of jokes on the performance of the Indian Cricket team, one of which was slightly risque' but none got any laughs from the audience. Chandra then went on to narrate how the players in his team would be "scientifically" trained. "Sports Medicine would be introduced for the first time in the country"....hmmm......first time? He even explained what sports medicine is to the hapless journos ,who had no option but to nod. More initiatives? Every detail about the player would be maintained in a database....his performance record, his medical record...yoga, vipasana...psychologists, mentors....bhah bhahbhah, you get the idea.

All of which sounds great. Although Chandra made it clear that he won't challenge the BCCI's authority when it comes to who will represent the country abroad (as if he has a choice! The BCCI is the only body accredited with the ICC and right now, the ICC won't let Chandra knock on their HQ doors in Dubai much less discuss anything with him, right now) and even said that the BCCI is free to draw from his pool of players for international matches- its clear that he won't hesitate to slowly take over this privilege that the BCCI enjoys, if he can help it. This is sweet news to the average Indian fan, since the BCCI is a body that desperately needs to be challenged, so that the fatcats in the BCCI are kept on their toes. For much too long they have enjoyed a unchallenged sway over vast resources and influence with no accountability to the sport and performance.

Chandra;s own record at managing his company professionally though, is not very good. He is known to be a swashbuckling
entrepreneur who has gone as far as he could , but reluctant to climb the next ladder in terms of professionalizing the group and its management and has consequently never attracted the right talent to manage his companies. If its one of Chandra's umpteen relatives that is going to manage his India Cricket League- good luck! But then, given that domestic cricket in India is anyway at its lowest ever- how bad can it get?:)


The high point of this announcement for me, personally, was when a rookie CNBC TV 18 TV reporter reported with bated breath, after the conference,that Chandra even intended to keep files on even the Janampatri's of the players in his league, when Chandra had clearly meant this only metaphorically : ))

But who knows? I was laughing- but given the rate at which Chandra seems to feel "gadgets" and "technology" is the only answer to the woes of the Indian cricket team-had he heard the reporter, he might actually have approved one more innovation to this Gentleman's game.

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The Glass is half empty...

Sunday, April 01, 2007 Digg! Add to Technorati Favorites
If you were asked a simple question - What do you think of the world as it exists today? chances are that you would go into a long harangue about whatever is wrong with today's world. You would speak of a break down in law and order, destruction of moral values (whatever you mean by that) and...of course corruption...what else can you think of...hmmm..poverty, farmers committing suicide, pollution, global warming....and when you run out of problems to list, you can always complain about the traffic.

You are not alone. Reading back at some of my blog posts, I am surprised by how sarcastic and pessimistic I sound, in places.

This pessimism is not unique , of course, but rather universal. A survey conducted in the USA by the renowned National Opinion Research Center based at the University of Chicago, reports the results of interviews with more than 1,300 adults nationwide, comparing the current data with the results of the same survey taken in 1991.Among the current set of respondents to the unhappiness survey, a staggering 92% cited at least one "significant negative life event" in the past year. That number is up from 88% in 1991.

That's a lot of pessimistic people.

One reason why people are so pessimistic is that all of us have have lost a perspective into history. We tend to look at the past with a sense of romance and nostalgia- "The air was so fresh in 1952 in Mumbai" or " Everyone was so rich and happy in ancient India". Part of the reason for this nostalgia is that since we are constantly dis-satisfied with our current lives, we automatically tend to think the past was much better.

Stephen Pinker who was formerly with MIT and now at Harvard, and author of 'How Mind works' explains this beautifully. Bruno Giusanni wrote a post about it and explained it thus -

" He shows images of the Auschwitz concentration camp, which have been seared into our conscience in the XX century. During that century we witnessed a series of atrocities, from Stalin and Hitler to Mao and Rwanda. And the XXI century has not started better (Darfur, Iraq). But despite this perception of inhuman violence in the last 100 years, truth is that our ancestors were far more violent that we are, and today we are probably living in the most peaceful times in history.

The decline of violence is a fractal phenomenon, says Pinker, you can see it over millennia, centuries, decades (although there may have been a tipping point an the onset of the Age of Reason on the XVI century):

Millennium scale - Until 10'000 years ago all humans lived as hunter-gatherers, without permanent settlement or government. But recent research has revealed that the likelihood of violent death (that a man would die at the hands of another man) was of 50-60%. If we consider later civilizations such as the ones described in the Bible (about 3000 years ago), well, the Bible itself contains several passages like the one about "slewing all the males" (Numbers, 31).Century scale - Violence was common in European Middle ages and early modern times (while is rare or absent today): mutilations and torture were routine criminal punishments; death penalty was a sanction for a long list for nonviolent crimes; slavery; sadistic capital punishment (burning at the stake); cruelty as entertainment. One-on-one murder: criminologist Manuel Eisner searched historical records in Europe for homicide rates in the Middle Age, and determined a decline of at least two orders of magnitudes in homicides since then.Decade scale - Since 1945 in Europe and Americas steep decline in wars, armed conflicts, number of deaths per war per year. Since end of Cold War: similar trends.
So why are we so wrong about something so important? One of the reason is that we have better journalistic reporting which creates a cognitive illusion: memorable events are judged to be more probable (if we read every day about suicide bombers, we believe that's the norm); guilt; change in standards outpaces change in behaviour."

True, isn't it? In India, for instance, because of the recent media explosion, we are confronted with a expose' a day. Everyday we are being bombarded with news of how much violence and corruption exists in our country. Compare this to the amount of time & space that is devoted to 'positive' news and you will understand why we all feel so negatively about the world in which we live.


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