Thursday, August 28, 2008

Indian ODI team begins a new chapter

Winning against Sri Lanka at home is no easy task. They are essentially a team that has some crafty spinners who can roll their arms, in what has over a long period of time, appeared to the touring nations, as pitches tailor-made to suit the home team!

Statistics don’t lie – this is the first time an Indian ODI team has won a bilateral series in the island nation. It’s all the more remarkable given the circumstances in which the team achieved the series victory.

Crushed in the test series, appearing to have no clues to the wily turn of Mendis, one thought the team would take the road that our countrymen are so well aware of! But in a surprising turnaround, apart from wining three matches on the trot, every win was progressively decisive and for once it wasn’t individual brilliance but collective effort that did the trick.

Playing without Sachin, Saurav, Dravid, Laxman and Sehwag, when world attention was focused on the erstwhile unimaginable joy that we were witness to in Beijing where we managed to grab one gold and two bronze, when television channels and newspapers amazingly commented that Olympics is getting more viewer ship than cricket, this series victory is all the more sweet.

We can take heart from the fact that after a long time, our team has a prospective and potentially dangerous bunch of youngsters who are raring to go and who thankfully don’t find themselves limited by a captain who has to please his peers and hence finds his choices limited.

The media has also pretty much found Kirsten a difficult customer for the gossip and rumor mills. He has been allowed to focus on his job and fortunately got a young side that features almost none of his contemporaries. Hence the question of ego clashes did not arise.

Dhoni has emerged as a leader who leads by example. Indeed, but for his crucial knock of 35+ in the low scoring second one dayer, we would have lost that too after the dispirited performance from our batsmen in the first game. Raina and Kohli have risen up to the big occasion and have demonstrated that they belong in the big stage. Raina has been performing consistently well right from the IPL. Rohit Sharma after his IPL exploits has disappointed a little, but given his temperament and technique, he’ll be back among the thick of things. Only Yuvraj has let us down with this shaky footwork but again he is turning into a batting all rounder with this left arm slow bowling.

The bowlers, especially Zaheer and Munaf have shown lot of promise. The former in particular has used his experience to good effect and helped the side with early breakthroughs.

Lastly, the umpires for once did not think too much before ruling batsmen out LBW. This was much needed as cricket after IPL was turning out to be more favoring the batsmen. Bravo, Billy Doctrove!

Finally, a few words for the losing side - Jayawardene with his never-say-die attitude in the third one dayer almost took his side home after a disastrous start. Hats off to him! Sangakkara and Dilshan thankfully for the Indians did not exhibit their special liking for the Indian bowlers.

Way to go, India and Dhoni!!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Bangalore wakes up...

An old man picks flowers with unsteady hands,

Dogs stretch, yawn, scratch and doze,

A woman sees off her beloved,

Dry leaves fall on to the washed streets.

Sweepers discuss matters of heart,

Birds call out to each other in sweet tones.

A proud father smiles in joy even as his

Little girl holds his hand and looks up at him.

The sky is a clear white like a sea of milk.

A gentle breeze gathers strength and dies.

Parks wait for the young to jog around,

Bangalore wakes up to another pleasant day!!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Bachna Ae Haseeno – When every wish comes true!!

This is what one would feel after watching ‘Bachna Ae Haseeno’, indeed everything that Raj - played by Ranbir Kapoor - wants in life comes true as if life was trying to accommodate every whim and fancy of the initially babe-hungry rich Raj and later after much journeying, the mature Raj who finally learns to respect and above all ceases to see the opposite gender as Shikar!

Of the three ladies, Deepika looks ravishing as the B School student in Australia who drives a taxi and mans a grocery store; Manisha Lamba struggles to act (more than struggling to act, I feel the role demanded her to look a little dumb which was difficult for herJ) in the first half but more than compensates in the second half in a befitting costume with looks that kill; Bipasha fits her role completely and comes up with a performance that at times makes the viewer wonder at her near subservience in the first half and daring in the second!

Ranbir has a very good presence throughout and acts well too. This movie had a range of emotions to showcase and he does it with aplomb. For a second movie, he looks convincing romancing in the snow and crying after his love rejects his hand. He is a good dancer too though he reminds one of Hrithik.

The story is patchy and dragging even before intermission when Raj meets all the three ladies, rejects the courtship of two (Manisha and Bipasha) and gets snubbed by the third to whom he proposes (Deepika). The best part of the movie is the first 25 minutes post interval when realisation dawns on our hero!

The locales are excellent and two songs captivate the viewer for that simple reason. Music is just above average. The audience in the theater clapped at all the right places. When Raj is threatened by Manisha’s husband and despised as personal assistant by Bipasha, there was applause.

This movie reinforces a lot of stereotypes though it tries to salvage something by showing a successful model and an aspiring manager. No girl would write letter after letter everyday for 6 months longing for a guy she had rejected firmly. But then, this is cinema and that is how things are!

This is a good entertainer. If only conventional Bollywood cinema looks beyond the traditional woman dialogues and realizes that with movies like this, it is only perpetuating stereotypes that have to be done away with!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Amu - On the 1984 Riots

While Parzania is more famous today because it dealt with the complicity of the state machinery in Gujarat, that is still fresh in public memory thanks to the media, our politicians, the state Government in question and the terrorists who seem to draw revenge from it much similar to how a leech sucks blood, this movie “Amu” got lost somewhere amid the chaos.

I remember hearing about this movie when I was in college and making a mental note to see it. That wish got fulfilled the day after our 62nd independence day. This focuses on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, the epicenter of which was Delhi and the then central Government is widely held as aiding the abettors of genocide.

Konkona Sen Sharma playing the lead role shines throughout - be it in her American accent or the helplessness with which she struggles to come to terms with her identity. Helping her find her real parents is Kabir played by Ankur Khanna. Having grown up in America, Konkona returns to the place of her birth and chances upon a conversation about the 1984 riots and gets curious only to discover that her real parents were the victims.

Shonali Bose, the director has navigated a very delicate territory and in the end has made a beautiful movie that one would long remember. Having seen Parzania, the level of gory detail here is relatively less but the effect is the same and therein lays the impact.

The supporting cast is subtle in its roles and never goes overboard with detail. Sympathy, understanding and realization of the enormity of the crime and empathy with the lead protagonist are all essayed with subdued élan. Brinda Karat, one of the faces of the left until recently when the party made some serious miscalculation plays the mother who adopts Konkona and ultimately spills the beans about her childhood and her real parents.

The first half establishes the environment and the second half is riveting in its portrayal of suffering and Governmental negligence. I can’t help but feel that only in a democracy like ours and only because of a watchful media and a robust freedom of expression, movies like this get made by bold men and women and history, however strong, the saying “The winner writes the history books” is at least not easily forgotten!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Despite the system??

Today’s headline (13/8/2008) in Times of India puts it succinctly: “Bindra won despite the system”. This could not have come at a better time for though leaders brag about economic growth, reality is depressing to put it mildly. Inflation is shooting up, though it isn’t entirely of the Government’s making, the public is disillusioned with the politics at all levels, corruption in public sector seems to be setting new standards, blame game and lack of accountability best define our elected representatives, taxes are collected in myriad ways to fund corrupt schemes and supposedly affirmative actions…the list is endless.

61 years after India’s independence, traffic in India’s premier IT destination moves at 10-15 km/hr during peak hours. It just takes one hour of rain for the streets to get waterlogged and traffic to grind to a halt.

To take a scenario, consider the condition of roads and public transport system in Bangalore. The state government wants to encourage the public to use BMTC buses, yet even the boards are not in English in a city nearly half of whose working population is drawn from non-native background. BMTC plans to expand its fleet. Where are the roads to run the buses?

Soon after the BJP assumed office, routes within the city have become increasingly confusing. IPS officers are transferred by the dozen; a please-all budget is announced. Is the Junta pleased? Not at all! There is a pathetic shortage of traffic policemen. 2 in 10 drivers openly flout traffic rules. Some cops stand mute witness; some get busy with their collections. BMTC needs to recruit more people if it is to avoid drivers issuing tickets with the bus right in the middle of the road. The government is not focusing on the basics. We instead have photo of the transport minister using the Volvo to travel to BIA. As if that is what we want to see!!!

We want to see regulated traffic and more taxes on people buying cars and two wheelers. I hate it when people speak about getting a second car or two-wheeler. Aren’t they part of the system?

How long can we progress “despite” the system? Will it ever be with the aid of the system? Can it ever be?

Friday, August 8, 2008

A call for action!

A cry of anguish

Soon we will be celebrating 61 years of our independence. But are we really independent? Are we free in the sense that, do we experience the sense of freedom? Aren’t we feeling insecure when we think of the political class of this country? Don’t we shudder when we contemplate where our politicians will lead us to? Are we able to exercise our choice properly?

These are some questions that strike me when I think of the recent events. Somewhere, I feel that the urban educated youth or for that matter, the average educated citizen of this country is constrained and helpless when faced with the political situation in this country. He is always asked to choose between the worse and the worst, between the devil and the deep sea, between despair and misery. He feels that he has chosen the lesser devil but soon discovers that his choice is no better in the long run.

Ideology is probably the most misused word in our country today. Tossed about carelessly, the word has shred its real meaning and people no longer remember if it had one in the first place.

Who would have thought that the left would vote with the right?

Who would have thought that political compulsions would force Mayawati and Prakash Karat to come together and discuss ways to topple a “secular” Government at the centre?

If anybody had said that, the BJP would oppose the nuclear deal and vote against it 5-6 years earlier, it would have passed off as a good joke!

When J&K is struggling to limp to normalcy and when terrorist attacks are on the rise indiscriminately, we have our politicians discussing the veracity of a sting operation.

There is a discord between the voter and the voted. How should it be bridged? Are we getting the politicians we deserve? Are we failing to see the real face behind the mask? Are we fools really to be deceived very convincingly election after election? Is the behavior of the politician symbolic of the urge for power and authority that is inherent in all of us? Is it an omen of darker times? Is there any hope after the new lows to which we are continually witness?

Time alone can answer these questions. But, deep down, I flinch when I think of the future of this country in the hands of leaders who have no concern for anything that doesn’t propel them towards that step that would lead them a shade closer to the throne!!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

An evening with Ramachandra Guha

Life in Bangalore continues to offer new experiences that more often than not turn out to be surprisingly rewarding to the spirit. So, when I got a mail from Ram about a project that he is involved in that aims at creating intellectual capital of experts in arts, culture and history of India, I read it with interest. The mail went on to say that, as part of this project, a group of twenty five attendees will be getting an opportunity to interact with Dr. Ramachandra Guha in a discussion, the theme of which would be the esteemed historian’s recent essay ‘Will India become a superpower?' This discussion would be later available as part of course material so that the masses would be benefiting directly from an acclaimed expert with the help of media and technology. This leverages Group collaborative learning technique so that the physical presence of the expert isn’t always necessary.

We went to the venue and came across a mixed group in the audience – some entrepreneurs to youngsters curious to know Mr. Guha’s perspective on a wide range of issues. “Biographer. Cricket-writer. Essayist. Historian. Guha likes working in several genres” – writes Anita Nair in her profile of Ramachandra Guha. As he started talking about his essay that was the theme for the evening, we listened in rapt attention. One by one, he listed out the reasons that would make India’s superpower dream a tall order and elaborated on them. When he was done, the discussion was open for Q and A.

I list here some of the questions from the group of attendees and his responses to them, not produced verbatim.

He made a very pointed observation that when bomb blasts like the recent ones happen, some people in the fringes of fundamentalism view it as justification of their ideology and violence. For example, when Bangalore and Ahmedabad happened, some extreme right Hindu elements view it as justification of their ideology and violence and similarly, the Islamic jehadists think the same way when Iraq is bombed.

On the origin of the essay: I got a chance to be part of a meet in March 2008 in Bangalore where there were a lot of Indian entrepreneurs and a foreign diplomat. There was so much hope and expectation then that we’d one day become a superpower. Being a historian, I went back to March 1948 when Gandhi had just been assassinated and made myself a part of imaginary conversation in such a group as had assembled in 2008. Then, the mood would have been somber, our existence was in question…but thinking hard, I felt that the situation now is not any different. We are facing the same threats from the extreme left wing naxalites and the right wing fundamentalists. That is how the essay formed itself…

Q: Have you come across a similar debate in the US?

Guha: Yes, people in the US are pretty much sure that they belong there.

Q: What do you think of Barack Obama?

Guha: I don’t think he’ll win. But if he does, it will give a boost to the world’s opinion of America as a land of dreams.

Q: There are some parts in India that by virtue of being geographically close form part of India. For example, the Nicobar…

Guha: Yes. In fact, TN and Punjab shared very little with the rest of the territories when they became a part of India. We are diverse and we should be celebrating that. A large number of princely states were integrated during independence. No nation was born in such extraordinary circumstances as ours.

Q: Do you see any relation between the Dalit movement and the Mandal movement? Your thoughts on how TN is cited as an example for how rich the benefits of affirmative action are?

Guha: Affirmative actions benefiting dalits was because they have been oppressed in the past and deserve it to climb the social ladder but the reservation for OBCs is because of balance of power. As we became independent, there was a need for a unifying force to hold the diverse sections of people together. But as we entered the 70s and 80s, regional, caste based parties began to assert themselves. In some cases, their evolution was desirable and necessary too. I am not an opponent of affirmative action but it is overdone. 30 – 35% is acceptable but 50% is certainly not.

Q: What will the young minds think when they get to learn this from you. Shouldn’t we let them have their fantasy that we can become a superpower?

Guha: Let them have! I am saying that “Let us celebrate what we have done. Let us not celebrate the wrong things”.

Q: Why do you expect that the rich man be philanthropic? He is paying his taxes. Doesn’t he have the right to spend his money as he sees fit. Why shouldn’t he build a super large house and gift a jet to his wife?

Guha: To you, it may be “ok”. My view is that such display of wealth is vulgar.

Q: On the AFSPA, the opposition to it in the north east?

Guha: I feel that the AFSPA should not be used. When the PM traveled there, he didn’t make that announcement. I feel that when one loves someone, one should love them whole heartedly.

Q: When India is doing so well on the economic front, when we are extremely competent in many areas, when the youth see the potential for us to become a superpower, why can’t…

Guha: The youth of today are characterized by a quick impatience. Unless we are vigilant, we’d not be able to feel the hope…

Q: What do you think we should take away when we leave this room? This meeting has given a lot of food for thought. We can’t affect corruption in the centre, but surely, we can do some change to impact these issues?

Guha: You can affect your immediate vicinity – personally, professionally, the people and society in which you are in…

Q: Can’t the market address the disparity between the rich and the poor, the inequality?

Guha: The market can only do so much. It can’t address this…

Q: You say that the middle class is to some extent responsible for the trivialization of the media. When did this happen?

Guha: The media is giving too much attention to entertainment and glamour. It always pits the extremes against the extremes and thereby the middle ground doesn’t merit much thought especially when a lot of Indians would fall in that space.

By way of conclusion, Mr. Guha said, we should be setting our own terms and be proud of what we have done. Then it was time for the organizers to thank Mr. Guha for giving so much of his time.

This being our first exposure to such a personality and such a coming together of diverse people and thoughts, we came away excited, with a lot of food for thought thinking that the evening would shape and mold our perceptions of this vast nation and the various issues it faces.

Also read my post on the essay...