Friday, May 15, 2009

We Pass

I was an avid quizzer back home in Hyderabad in the late eighties. That was the era when quizzing was very a popular sport but was devoid of all the hype, showgiri and moolah that accompany it now. At that time I was part of teams that were among the best in business. Whether it was my school team or junior college one, we were the team to beat. In fact SPHS and LFJC were, in those days, synonymous with real high quality quizzing and my team and I merely continued the tradition. And boy did we continue it or what. I considered myself a real hot quizzer in those days but my team-mates were way better than I was. And as a team we constantly finished in the top three in most quizzes we competed in.

The usual format of quizzes was unlike the ones witnessed in other centres then. As in, we did not have written eliminations. Instead we would have about 70+ teams taking part in the oral quiz.

In this quiz the Quiz Master would be on stage and the teams seated in the hall. And the questions would pass from team to team. Some questions would pass all the way through the 70+ teams and still remain un-answered. Since this was a very time consuming process there was a policy of team members, of the teams that thought they knew the answers, raising their hands so that the mike would be passed on only to them.

Given that there were 70+ teams (each team having 3 members each) the hall (usually YMCA halls in Secunderabad or Narayanguda) would be littered with teams and even the passing of the mike was a time consuming one at times.

That was when we would, at times, get naughty. (such was the definition of naughty in those innocent times) We would raise our hands and pretend we had nailed the answer and since we were SPHS/LFJC, people would generally accept that we might indeed have the answer. And when the mike would ultimately be brought to us by the long suffering volunteer, we would very pompously say, "We pass the question." Basically kidagiri. Some people (read girls from NASR/St. Francis etc.) would giggle, the quiz master would look angry and the volunteer would glare at us. But we would be tremendously pleased with ourselves. This was a bigger achievement for us than winning the quiz. Fun times.

But why am I talking about all this now? Well, all this came back to me as I read a piece in TOI today about elections 2009 which read:
It was a painstaking exercise that left out nobody — not even the solitary voter in the Gir forest. Guru Bharatdasji Maharaj was the only voter there, but three poll officials went to collect his vote.

I just thought to myself that if Guru Bharatdasji is anything like what we were, he would probably have welcomed all the poll officials and then told them, "I pass. Me no vote."

Now wouldn't that have been fun?

Saturday, May 09, 2009

IPL and National Loyalties

I find the IPL "clashes" particularly interesting because they seems to pit an intriguing set of players against each other. Take for instance day before yesterday's clash between Hayden and Sreesanth.

Hayden tonked Sree for a few sixes and then got out to him. That was when Sree let loose a volley of endearments at the Aussie. Hayden seemed rather angry at the activity by Sree and in the post-match conference had this to say, "Yeah, I think he is a particularly over-rated bowler. And so he was a great target for us to go at. He always loses his cool under pressure and I think it was a good example of that."

Haydos went on to add, "You don't want to know. It's just so meaningless. Mate ... I am a Test veteran and a one-day international veteran, I have got nothing to answer to him that's for certain,"

I will ignore the fact that a champion sledger cum bully like Hayden found someone sledging an opponent meaningless, unless of course he felt that it was not up to the mark set by the foul mouthed Aussies under Steve Waugh and then under Ricky Ponting. I will also ignore the fact that he seemed to be asking for respect by saying I am a veteran and so on...

I would rather focus on how team mates are going to react to the same. For instance if this incident had led to an altercation, whose side would Dhoni be on? Would Yuvi and Dhoni spar for their respective "boys"? I noticed Fidel Edwards and Gayle eye-balling each other in an earlier match. Would that lead to bad blood on the English tour? Not that I have seen too many matches but I have not seen too many Aussies going at each other. I wonder why?

I don't have any answers but I really am curious about how it will all pan out in the seasons to come. Would all of these alignments lead to any change in the way national teams interact with each other on the playing field? Or would the IPL stint be quickly forgotten once the cheque is in the bank and it is going to be business as usual when players don their respective national colours? Like I said, no answers but the thought is definitely intriguing.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

The Economist and the Antiquated Dynastic Machine

How oh how did I miss this one? Must be age catching up with me or maybe it was just that work got in the way. But I missed out on something that was so obvious that I am ashamed to write about it a day after Times of India published it. What I mean is, I have due respect for TOI as an organisation and its ability to garner breaking news and all that but, how could I not see what a TOI journo saw as a newsworthy item.

I am referring to this article in The Economist - - which was quoted by Digvijay Singh and then used by Abhishek Manu Singhvi. They very proudly spoke about this piddly little line in the article that goes, "For this reason, The Economist, if it had a vote, would plump for Mr Singh’s Congress."

If only they took the trouble of reading the entire article... Let me share with you a few nuggets in the article, in case you decide not to read the entire thing.

Nugget No. 1:
Congress, despite able technocrats, like Mr Singh, remains an antiquated dynastic machine.
Good for Dr. Singh but what a line about the Congress party. Antiquated. Dynastic. But then I guess Diggy Raja would not mind these one bit. After all we know about all these don't we?

Nugget No. 2:
The prime ministership was bestowed on Mr Singh by Sonia Gandhi, the party’s Italian-born leader.
Now this one is not so complimentary to Dr. Singh is it? Hey wait. There is more to come...

Nugget No. 3:
He seems to be keeping the seat warm for her son, Rahul, a pleasant-seeming but unconvincing chap apparently destined to represent the fifth generation of his family to lead Congress.
So Dr. Singh is keeping the seat warm for Rahul baba is he? Now how is it different from what the BJP keeps talking about? Nightwatchman. Weakest Prime Minister et al. And Rahul baba is not the messiah that the Congress has made him out to be. He is an "unconvincing chap". Ouch.

Nugget No. 4:
Nor is the economically liberal Mr Singh a typical Congress-man. Much of the party is still nostalgic for the Nehruvian socialism that for so long impeded India’s growth.
This is not as damaging, but still, the talk about Neruvian socialism and how it was responsible for shackling India should be embarrassing to the Cong party.

Finally Nugget No. 5:
In power, the BJP also had a creditable record of economic management.
The article has not exactly been nice to the BJP but it definitely has given a thumbs up to the BJP's economic track record.

My suggestion to the Cong. spokespersons:
Just as I tell my students to read the entire passage before they start answering questions in CAT/CET, my advice to the Congress-wallahs is read the entire article before you start waving it in front of the public and media. Especially in this day and age when access to information is not restricted just to the power elite.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Kolkata Knight Riders - Seedhi Baat. All Bakwas.

It is hilarious watching the Sprite ad featuring Shah Rukh Khan and the KKR team. And viewing it during a KKR match just doubles the pleasure because of the sheer ineptness of the KKR team and the "aptness" of the commercial.

Take a look at the commercial...

In it the chubby character who is the butt of the joke decides that the best way for KKR to win is by getting well built hatta katta log into the team. His reasoning: We need to scare the opposition if we want to win.

Enter Cool Dude Shah Rukh (incidentally the Fake IPL Player calls him the "Badshah Dildo") who takes a look at the team lined up by Chubby and then with his patented patronising curled lip smirk asks him to take a look at the team that HE, the Badshah, has assembled. There we see Dada, Murali Karthik and Agarkar etc. And then the denouement. Badshah Dildo then tells Chubby that it has to be Seedhi Baat No Bakwas...

Now here is the catch. That team selected by the Badshah is the only team that does not have any chance of getting into the Semi-final. Wonder if they should have taken Chubby's advice and played the team that he selected. Would have won them a couple of matched at least.
The display in the field yesterday was pathetic to say the least. They managed a decent score. - their highest in this IPL season and I thought that they would at least put up a good fight. But naah. Such things just don't seem to happen to the Kolkata Knight Riders. This time it was the fielding that was woeful. Gautam Gambhir, out of form for most part of this season, was thankfully escorted back into it by the very generous KKR fielders. And after the explosive Warner was dismissed the duo of Gambhir and Dilshan strolled home comfortably, with an over to spare. And most importantly they also spared SRK another pointless trip to South Africa. I am sure SRK is going to text them a Thank you message.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The IPL comedy show

I have not commented at all about the Indian Premier League, not because I have not seen any matches but because I have completely lost interest in the whole circus. It is not the change in venue that has impacted me, I would not have gone to any of the stadia in any case. It is just the ... I don't know how to put it... er... the artificiality of it all.
I dunno if it makes sense to you folks but somehow the entire atmosphere, at least in the initial stages, seemed extremely contrived. The commentators yelling about DLF sixes and Citi moments of success and Nano fours and Kamasutra twos and so on was off-putting to say the least. I thought such commercialisation kind of took something away from the game itself. I understand sponsors are important and they have every right to be treated well and should be able to get the maximum bang for their buck but I had a feeling that the DLFs and the Citis probably ought to see if they were not overdoing the sponsorship bit.
But that was not the only thing phony I thought. For some reason I felt that the crowd reaction to the camera focusing on them was also a shade phony. I know I know I am getting a bit too critical and all that but surely you guys have felt it too? No? Well, what can I say? The way I saw it was: No crowd in vast sections of the stadium, densely populated in a small section and that section reluctantly (at least to me) putting on a show for the camera. It was almost as if the producer went and gave each one of them a chocolate and said, "Guys, when the camera pans on you look enthu."
And these along with my general loss of interest in cricket combined to keep me away from IPL watching. Not any more.
What I witnessed yesterday in the Chennai Super Kings v/s Deccan Chargers was total paisa vasool. Not the entire match mind you. Just some portions of it. Boy oh boy was it hilarious or what.
This happened in the Deccan Chargers innings. First up Dwayne Smith smashed a ball which looped up with three fielders running towards it. Three, mind you. And who took the catch? Simple answer. None of them. Each one expecting the other to take it. Simple calling was not adhered to and the ball fell right between them. Never mind. Hota hai. Funny but not uproariously so. Then what does Smith bhai do? Oh! He hits an almost same shot which goes to the almost same spot and now it has not three but only two players converging on it. I presume the third player was hiding somewhere from acute embarrassment. And after converging on it the Chennai Super Clowns dropped it. Yeah sure, one way to look at it is that the effort was one better than the previous delivery. Boss, Tyagi got a hand to it did he not? Funny but not the funniest of the lot. That was reserved for when the Super Clowns attempted to run out Smith.
Smith smashed the ball to the off and the return was not collected cleanly by the bowler (Jatayu, Jataka, Jakati or something). Theekh hai happens all the time in cricket but hey what is that? Badrinath was backing up and threw the ball back to Jatayu who did not bother to collect the ball but broke the stumps with his elbow. Reprieve no. 2 for Smith and for Suman at the other end. But the S & S jodi along with Jatayu managed another moment of DLF madness (rather the DLF moment of madness). Badri ran to the wicket so that he could uproot the stumps but Jatayu was a looong way off, almost 10 feet away, and could only send the ball wide of Badri, who then promptly burst into an infuriated jig.
Trust me this kind of madness did not even occur when as a kid I used to play cork ball cricket at the Gagan Mahal grounds in Hyderabad. Not that our matches were short of craziness of any kind.
So now I am a born again fan of IPL and cricket and will surely tune in diligently for my daily dose of action and comedy. Not to mention superb dialogue delivery from the commentary box. Way to go Lalit Modi ji.
Er... By the way did I mention the Chennai Super Clowns.... oops The Chennai Super Kings won?

Friday, May 01, 2009

Sukhoi-30 crashes

In all the hullabaloo of the third phase of the election people seem to have missed out on a "minor" but important accident. An IAF Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter jet crashed at Rajmathai village, 170km from Jaisalmer town of Rajasthan on Thursday, killing one of its pilots.

We have gotten used to reading reports of the MIG-21 crashing almost regularly but this is the first time that a Sukhoi-30 MKI, which was inducted into IAF in 2002, has crashed.

A technical snag was what was behind the crash. While I have no much idea of fighter aircraft and their technical issues, I am just worried that the Su-30 does not become another series of "Flying Coffins" that the IAF flies.

Angry Mumbaikars vote - All 42% of them!!!

“Angry Mumbai wants answers” “Mumbai simmers with anger post terror attacks” and other angry headlines dominated newspapers and websites and Blogs immediately after 26/11.

Once the shock wore off started another set of headlines. This time they read “Thousands participate in candlelight vigils” and other variants of the same. (Incidentally I mentioned in class that all the candle light vigils seemed to be at the Taj and at the Gateway and none at the CST station. I suggested that participants in these activities seemed to be a very South Mumbai specific crowd that was shocked that their Taj was attacked as opposed to ordinary people who travel by train and BEST buses. Most students, surprisingly, agreed with my thinking.)

Then started the next phase where Facebook groups were started. Campaigns were initiated on how we need a CEO for Mumbai and about how it was high time politicians were held accountable for their actions.

I sat back bemused and wondered through all this if the average middle class/upper middle class Mumbaikar had suddenly become such a politically aware citizen. The other thought that I had was that this was, as usual, a result of a total disconnect between the English language media plus the Blogosphere – the two sources that I get my information from – and the Mumbaikar. My initial reaction was – balls, no middle/upper-middle/rich Mumbaikar can possibly be interested in politics. And that it is all a hype created by the media. I felt that all this would last till maybe December 26th 2008 and no further.
That is when I had a change of heart. I thought that I was increasingly becoming cynical in my dotage and that I should be willing to give the Cuffe Parade wallahs and the Bandra-ites their due. Maybe they had awakened to the fact that vigilance is indeed the eternal price of democracy.

Then came today (yesterday now). The first election post 26/11 and what do I see? A voter turnout of 42% - 45%. Well well well so much for citizen activism. So much for young voters who wanted to change the system. Where were they? Earning a well deserved break because we have 4 holidays in a row? Seriously where the hell is the middle class Mumbaikar? Or has the passage of five months completely driven the issue out of her mind?

For once I am terribly sad that I was right. I was right when I said that the Mumbaikar is not going to care beyond a month or two. I was right when I felt that creating Facebook groups will not translate into active participation in issues concerning the city/state/country. I was also right, unfortunately, that participation in candle light vigils will not translate into people walking out of their houses on a “holiday” and voting.

Damn when will the middle class Mumbaikar prove me wrong?

Ps: The Facebook group “In Remembrance of the 11/26 Mumbai Bombings & All Those Affected Discussions” has 9057 members and 13 discussion topics. The last Discussion Topic on 26/11 was on December 7th 2008. The latest one is on Greenpeace (April 28th 2009). So much for political and social activism.