Thursday, October 30, 2008

He Just Did It

I just did it. And with that cryptic comment Viswanathan Anand announced to his wife that he had won the World Championship. Anand won the World championship a few hours back with a comprehensive victory over Vladimir Kramnik. Beating Kramnik three times in a series is quite remarkable because as Anand himself pointed out Kramnik hardly loses three times in a year. Such was the superiority of Anand on the board.

And this was a superiority gained by hard labour. In fact so intense has been his preparation for the title defence that he stayed ignorant of all the goings on in the world around him. Not for him the financial turmoil engulfing the world or the US Presidential elections, it was just the World Championship and nothing else.

With this victory Anand has won the World Championship in three different formats – the 128 player knockout format in 2000, the eight-player double round-robin field last year and now Match-Play format. This triumph also means that he is only the second player in history, after Bobby Fischer, to have scored over the Soviets/Russians in the Match-Play format.

Now what I want to see is what his reception is going to be when he gets back home. When our cricket brats won the T20 World Cup there was an open bus parade for them all the way from the Mumbai airport to the Wankhede stadium. Will Anand get that kind of reception or will he just be met by a few officials at the Chennai airport?

I wonder what the reason is for the lack of popularity of Anand among the masses. Is it that Chess is a more cerebral game than cricket and therefore not something that would excite the masses? Or is it personality based? I mean Anand after all is the nicest, quietest most self-deprecating guy around. Could that be the reason? Would he have been more top of the mind if he had an affair or two with starlets or had drunken orgies in Chennai/Mumbai/Delhi etc.?

But hey I am digressing. These musings are probably for another day, another time. Right now it is time to celebrate a true World Champion in our midst. You “Just did it” dude.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Welcome to the real world kids

I thought I would share with all of you a letter that I wrote to my favourite nephew, Mr. Sacked Jet Employee Who Has Now Been Rehired a.k.a. Sajet, and his friends.

Dear Sajet,

I know that this is as good a time to write to you as any and I thought why delay doing something that has to be done. After all, all of you have been re-hired after an emotion packed tear jerker played out on national TV.

However guys, while others have looked at this issue with a fair degree of concern I have only felt a degree of faint amusement. Amusement not at your plight for 48 hours but at the fact that you guys felt the good times would always roll.

Hey welcome to the real world kiddos. That is not how the world operates and contrary to what you think, it does not even owe you a livelihood. Forget a posh one.

In the recent past it was almost de rigueur for all you fresh graduates, MBAs, engineers to jump from one ship to another. Almost as if the companies were going out of fashion. You belong to a generation that has not seen any pain on the professional front. All you knew was that you were earning salaries at the start of your careers, that your parents might have been earning after 25/30 yrs of service. And you saw no point in exercising restraint. Either in conspicuous consumption or in splurging on credit. Or in any activity in the social sphere. It was almost as if it was your birth right. You have bought yourselves bikes, cars, holidays and houses in up-market areas. Good for you. But did you for a moment think about the commitment that you were making to the financial institutions you were borrowing from? For time frames ranging from 2 years to 25 years? Or did you think that these commitments were also like the relationships you guys are allegedly getting into – a month or so and then move in with someone else?

It was a nightmare for the HR departments to keep the attrition levels down. Why? Simply because if you were in any way irked by the service conditions in the organisation or if someone down the road gave you a 10% hike you would take that and to hell with the process and the team and the organisation that you were leaving behind. The gods were there for all you kids who felt that the world was created according to your dictates. All this is very well till it lasts but then the gods spat on you or at least are beginning to.

And what have you, the first lot done? Gone whining to the local political leadership and the media. Why is that? Did you go to the local leadership or did the Company go to such leaders when you kept jumping from one job to the other? You did that because you considered it your privilege. Boss now the shoe is on the other foot.

Now I don’t think you can jump so blithely from one job to the other. Primarily because I don’t think there is another job waiting for you. Not in the BPO sector, not for the engineering grads, not for the IIMs guys who until recently were under the impression that it was only losers who did their summers here in India. (ok this one might be a bit of an exaggeration from my side) Now you are screwed because you believed the myth that everyone of the idiot commentators on TV were feeding you. That is, this level of prosperity will continue for ever and ever, amen.
Well I have news for you. It will not. Wake up and smell the coffee.
And when you do get the shove as some of you will definitely get as this recession gets uglier, take it on the chin like grown ups and get your act together. You might have got back your jobs for now, based on god knows what behind-the-scene wheeling and dealing. But take it from me, your well-wisher, that good times do not roll for ever. See, you guys enjoyed yourself when the going was good. Now it is not. Toughen up and don’t go crying to the media and/or politicians. If you did not want this uncertainty then you should not have taken up this profession. You should have gone into …. maybe govt. jobs. Or the academia or some such stable profession where you would have got safety of tenure. No, you did not do that because you wanted to have the fun ride provided by the private sector.

Nothing wrong in that. Only thing is that if you wanted the upside of higher salaries, better perks, hotter chicks/dudes etc. then you should be ready for the downside too. As they say if you can’t take the heat get out of the kitchen.

Have fun beta. And don’t forget to update your resume. Just in case.

Yours lovingly,
Concerned Uncle

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Yechury and the Tatas

I can understand the frustration of the Marxists with the loss of the Tata Nano project to Gujarat but surely even such acute disappointment does not warrant the asinine statement that Mr. Sitaram Yechury supposedly made on the telly yesterday.

For those who are not in the know Yechury said, “You cannot go into an area and say I will build my house only if everyone gives the assurance that it will not be burgled.”
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Seriously Yechury garu, is that what the Tatas were saying? Or were they saying that we will build a house only if we are sure that there is no goon in the area attempting to intimidate us, only if we are sure our family members won’t get beaten up, only if we are sure that our house won’t be gheraoed, only if we are sure that all movement will be allowed from the main road to our house and a general environment of ‘these guys are not welcome in the neighbourhood’ changed?

Very clearly the Tatas were not saying what Yechury is suggesting and therefore to blame the Tatas by twisting the reasons does not behove a senior and respected politician like him.

Like I have written before, the entire issue of land acquisition needs to be looked at in greater depth but I definitely feel that it is the responsibility of the government concerned to manage the politics of it. And here the Marxists failed miserably. It cannot be anyone’s case that the company that has acquired land should be left to fend for itself in the event of any political agitation. And a political agitation that was launched against an action the West Bengal government was involved in. If the agitation was against some actions by the Tatas or if there was an agitation because of misgivings regarding the cost to the environment then very clearly it is the company itself that has to sort out that mess. But land acquisition – now that is entirely the state government’s responsibility.

Therefore, Yechury garu, I suggest you speak to Comrades Bhattacharya and Sen and check with them as to why they were not able to contain the agitation and not attack the Tatas pointlessly.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

From Singur to Sanand & from a Bad M to a Good M

The Nano has found a new home – Gujarat. According to an announcement made earlier today the Tatas will set up the plant in an 1100 acre plot at Sanand, close to Ahmedabad. The planned capacity of the plant is 5 lakh cars a year, up from the Singur plant's proposed capacity of 3 lakh cars. Finally Tata can get going on his pet project.

I believe that the entire Nano saga raises a couple of issues.

The first one is very clearly that of land acquisition for industrial production. I believe that the entire process of acquiring land should be dealt with in a much more transparent and humane manner. I do not want to go into the specifics of the agitation at Singur but on a broader scale, when people are being asked to give up their land for industrialisation, the social and cultural costs need to be evaluated along with the economic costs. I suspect we are not doing that at the moment.
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The second is whether Modi is now beginning to cast off the opprobrium of 2002. The Sangh Parivar and large sections of Gujarat always saw him as a dynamic and result oriented CM. But after this coup of his will the corporate sector and India at large also buy into the Modi story? Or as Tata put it, “the Good M” theory?

The issue with Modi was always his acceptability among people outside Gujarat. But with this very clear demonstration of seriousness of intent in working for the development of the state and the speed with which he made the government machinery move Modi, I suspect, will begin to acquire a halo even outside the state. The “From a Bad M to a Good M” comment of Ratan Tata could well be the tipping point as far as Modi’s career on the national stage is concerned. After all it does signal a high level of acceptability for the man from one of the most respected names in corporate India.

Sourav to retire after the Oz series

The curtain is beginning to fall on the Fab Four with Sourav Ganguly announcing his retirement from international cricket at the end of the Australian tour. Of course the immediate question on peoples mind would be whether there was any “compromise formula” that was arrived at with the new Selection Panel for a dignified send off. Whatever be it I think he has chosen to go at the appropriate time.

When I look back at Sourav’s career it is not his silken grace on the off-side that immediately comes to mind, not the ease with which he took on spinners, not the imperiousness in captaincy or the lethargic running between the wickets and not even the impromptu jig on the balcony of Lord’s. It very clearly is the 2001 Test Series against the Australians.
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The 2001 Test series was definitely the crowning glory of his career primarily because of the way in which it was won. I particularly liked the way in which he got under the skin of Steve “oh I am ice cool” Waugh.

Was it proper to keep Waugh waiting for the toss? Was it proper to not give him the list of the final eleven on time? Not really. But was it (is it) proper for the Aussies to sledge in the middle? According to them it was mental disintegration. So was this. Just that it was a different kind of mental disintegration. It was a gutsy, in your face, devil may care attitude that India had not seen from her cricketers in a long time or maybe never at all. No wonder people were surprised to see that. And it worked. (Of course assisted by Messrs VVS, The Wall and Bhajji.)

The satisfying part was that Steve Waugh was made to eat humble pie. I remember all that talk of the “Final Frontier” was really beginning to grate. It was almost as if, on the back of their 15 test winning streak, they just had to turn up and they would achieve it. But boy were they in for a surprise. To me, more than the victory itself it was the humbling of the Aussie pride that was satisfying.

Just for achieving that one series victory, in my book, Ganguly deserves his place in the pantheon of Indian greats.

Monday, September 15, 2008

One Night Stand

One of the interesting aspects of any language especially English, is the way certain words and phrases evolve. More so with English than with other languages because of the sheer diversity of people who speak the language.

The other day I was in class taking an introductory session on Group Discussions for the CAT 2008 aspirants. As part of the lecture I checked with the students about their reading habits and whether they read anything other than the recommended text books. There were sheepish grins all round and then a few talked about their newspaper reading habits and some spoke of a novel or two that they had read and so on.

One of the students was very honest and very categorical. He confessed that he did absolutely no reading and when I asked him about his coursework he said, “Well, I do a one night stand before the exam and I find that it helps me crack the paper.” I was rather taken aback but quickly gathered my wits and checked with him as to how a one-night stand helped him crack the exam!!! I probably should not have … it being a class and all that but still…..

He further flummoxed me by saying that, “You know all of us in the hostel get together and we have a one night stand and all of us ace the exam.” This really set my mind racing… and I was about to go into it a bit more thoroughly when some other student came to my rescue and defined a One night stand in today’s engineering colleges. It simply means studying for the semester exams just the night before each paper.
Well well well. From meaning:
“a single performance in one locale, as by a touring theatrical company, before moving on to the next engagement.”
“a single, unrepeated sexual encounter, as one lasting for just one night.”
“studying for the exam just the night before”
Quite a journey that. All in 200 years. Not bad at all.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Akhil Kumar outboxed

Damn man! Akhil Kumar has lost in the quarter finals of the 54kg bantamweight class. He was beaten by Republic of Moldova's Veaceslav Gojan 10-3. I am no boxer but as early as the end of Round One I had the feeling that Akhil would lose.

The reason was quite obvious - the Moldovan was fighting a very tactical fight. Not allowing any of Akhil's punches to get through his defences and though our man tried valiantly to pierce it, it was to no avail. While the first two rounds were even-stevens the last two were almost boxing lessons for the young Indian boxer. It was not that he was punished by the referees, though the Indian coach did mention that a few of Akhil's punches were not registered. It was just that he lost to the boxer who was more prepared for the fight.

I do not know what kind of preparation is done in boxing but I wonder if the kind of analysis that is done in cricket these days is attempted. I mean in terms of studying the opponent and coming up with tactics to beat him. I say this because I feel that is what the Moldovan did. Figured out the way Akhil boxes and prepared a game plan accordingly.

Well anyway there still are another two boxers in contention. Hope we can get some medal from those two guys.

Oh! And talking of our heroes in Blue, they were yet again handed an abject lesson in cricket. The analysis etc that happens in cricket do not seem to have helped. They were pummeled by the Lankans. I have a feeling that this is going to be the trend in the entire series.

Chiranjeevi enters Politics - Finally

So Chiru has decided to enter politics…. Finally!!! I watched the entire press conference over and over again on TV. Not that I had much of a choice…. all Telugu channels were beaming nothing but Chiru annaiya and his press conference.
And he did not disappoint. He got all his lines down pat and also did not forget to turn on the charm.
I for one am certainly looking forward to his party shaking up the established political duopoly in AP. He has the fan following across the state to make a serious bid for power and I do think he is right when he says that there is a political vacuum and therefore space for another political party. Chiranjeevi also has the credentials in that he has established a Blood Bank and has involved himself with other social service activities. Shows he has his heart in the right place.
Having said that, I have a few observations about Chiru’s new party.
For starters I am less than impressed by the fact that in some regions of Andhra Pradesh, particularly Rayalaseema, there have been quite a few defections from the Telugu Desam into the yet to be named party. The general feeling is that people from the Congress will begin to migrate to his party once the elections are announced. Congressmen who perceive a brighter chance of getting elected if they join him will definitely do so. Nothing wrong in people migrating to other parties, the best of politicians have done it: Chandrababu Naidu, V.P. Singh etc etc. Chiru himself defended it stoutly by saying that there was nothing wrong in having people who believe in him and his ideology join him. True. No doubt about that one. But still for a party that has come about because they believe that there is a political vacuum and that they should bring about change I think this is a bit strange.
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I mean what change are they going to bring about if all the key party functionaries are people who have been in politics for a long time? And especially those who have been part and parcel of the rough and tumble of factional politics in Rayalaseema.
The other issue is that Chiru kept talking about Youth. Looking at the kind of celebrations that accompanied the announcements and also the general attitude of the ‘youth’ I have a feeling that it is nothing more than just hero-worshipping youngsters who are taken in by his glamour.
A few months back there was the ugly incident where another Telugu film star Dr. Rajasekhar when asked if he would join Chiranjeevi’s party replied in the negative and also questioned Chiru’s political experience. This was enough to set off the Chiru fan association. They physically attacked Rajashekar and his family and it took the intervention of Chiranjeevi to cool tempers. This just goes to show the kind of people who are supporting him. All very well if he is trying to get together a bunch of storm troopers but since that does not seem to be his objective he very clearly needs to control these elements in his party. The question is, can he?
The other thing is that it is not very clear who he means by Youth. The unemployed youth? The rural youth? College going youth? I am slightly confused about it all.
While there is no doubt that he can mobilize the crowds the question is can he keep them with him for another year till the elections? These are people who are very clearly high on adrenalin. Just the right sort to generate enthusiasm when a party is being launched but are they the sort who will stay the course when it comes to organisation building? Building and sustaining an organisation is completely different from riding on the streets on bikes, waving flags and bursting crackers. But then maybe I am wrong, only time will tell.
The other thing that he very clearly needs to spell out is his views on Telangana. There already are people who are quitting the TRS to join Chiru’s new party. And they are of the view that Chiru will support the breaking away of the Telangana region from AP. If Chiru decides otherwise then there will be a lot of malcontents in his party. He hails from coastal Andhra and has a very strong following in the Rayalseema region. I am not too sure if supporting Telangana will go down well in those parts, esp. in coastal Andhra. Not a great situation either way. He avoided responding to any question regarding this issue but unlikely that he can duck this one for much longer. If he does not make his stance clear on the 26th then there is bound to be disappointment.
When NTR launched the Telugu Desam and was cris-crossing Andhra Pradesh on his Chaitanya Ratham in 1983/84, he called the Naxals Freedom Fighters when he crossed into Khammam district - then the hotbed of Naxal violence. Now this is not something Chiru can afford to say or do. How he deals with the Naxal issue is another thing that will be interesting to say the least.
I am also slightly uncomfortable about people who talk about Mother Teresa as their role model. I know I know. It is irrational, disrespectful and totally unfair but there it is. I guess everyone is allowed their idiosyncrasies and this is mine. I mean the moment anyone talks about Mother Teresa being their role model I am reminded of all the Beauty Queens who used to dutifully trot out her name during various pageants. But then let me give Chiru the benefit of doubt. Maybe he really is inspired by Mother Teresa! After all he has proved that with his various associations with Charitable organisations.
Anyway I am glad that Chiru has taken the first step. I now look forward to the 26th to see what he has to say in terms of the agenda for his party and what his plans for the future are. Until then I will keep my euphoria on hold.
All the VERY BEST Chiru.
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