Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Taming the likes of Varun Gandhi

Varun Gandhi has been in the news these past few weeks for all the wrong reasons. First his speech that he delivered at an election rally was criticized by all and sundry. The Election Commission(EC) even asked his party, the BJP, to drop him as their candidte from the Pilbhit Lok Sabha constituency.
The BJP ignored the EC and continues to back Varun Gandhi. Top leaders from the BJP condemned the speech, but the party leadership has so far failed to back their words with action.
Later the UP Govt launched cases against Mr Gandhi. He was denied bail and he made a great media circus of his arrest. To be fair he was only doing what any politician in his situation would do.
So far people have criticized Mr Gandhi's speech for being against the constitution, for trying to polarize the voters in Pilbhit, for going against the very nature of India's secular credentials etc. However, so far, things seem to have gone exactly the way Mr Gandhi would have wanted them to. He's become the new poster boy of Hindutva. From being in the side-lines, he's been catapulted right in to the centre of the national political scene. If he wins this election, he will no doubt be a central figure in the BJP's central/state committees.
I don't have much knowledge in Law or the Constitution. However, I see that in cases like Varun Gandhi and Raj Thackeray, the use of Law has actually back-fired and society is worse off than it was before they made their speeches/comments. There are countless others from all regions/religions/castes who use the same means to get political mileage.
These hate- politicians derive their political capital by going against the establishment. They criticize others belonging to different castes/race/region/religion and feed on the anger and resentment that the general population feel.
I might not be popular for suggesting this, but I'm going to anyway. We need to let these politicians speak freely. Not make it a criminal offense every time they spew their venom. The idea behind this being that when they are doing nothing illegal they cannot be heroes. People who have resentment should be allowed to voice their frustrations.
We need to be more confident in our people, in our democracy. I believe that initially these people will make the most of the situation. But later on the voter will become smarter and more experienced and will make a more informed and intelligent choice. We have seen this happen in different parts of the country already. In the heat of the moment some elections will go to these fanatics. However, in the long term, elections are always won on performance, and that's when people will realize the true value of each candidate.
Now giving these people freedom comes with riders. If Mr Varun Gandhi claims that Muslims do so and so... it should be within the rights of every citizen to ask him to prove his claims in a court of law. If he's not able to he should face the consequences. This idea might seem extreme. But it's based on my belief that the truth is supreme. Sometimes the truth gets muddled up in all the politicking that goes on. When each person is held to whatever he says then we will be able to separate the actual from the factual, the real from the fake/make-believe.
Now we will need to go more in depth and be more specific on the right to freedom of speech and it's many interpretations. I'm not going to go there. All I wanted to do through this post is to get my readers thinking along these lines. I hope I've done that.

Monday, March 30, 2009

India vs NZ- 2nd Test

The second test ended in a draw today. India have managed to retain their lead in the series despite the horrifc first three days of this test match.
The Indian batsmen, led by Gambhir, showed great character and class in batting out two full days in the second innings. The poor Kiwis were on the field for almost the entire length of three days. There will no doubt be a few sore muscles tonight that will need some nursing.
It was uncharactersitic of the Indian batsmen to play the way they did in the second innings. Known more for their flair, with the expception of Dravid ofcourse, the Indians showed bull-dog spirit, determination and great concentration in batting out the last 2 days.
VVS Laxman also came good with a fantastic century. Dravid, Sachin and Yuvraj all gained valuable batting practise with half centuries before the start of the 3rd test.
India's bowling was impotent on this wicket. That is one area that they will have to focus on. Of particular concern has been Jesse Ryder. This man has been in awesome form right through the series. The Indians still look clueless against him. The think-tank will have to work out some new strategy for this dashing southpaw.
Though on paper the game looks like a moral victory for the Kiwis, the Indian will be pleased with the way the last 2 days went for them. Dhoni looks like he will be returning for the last test. India will be back to full strength and that means an interesting final test is on the cards.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Old Man on the Train

This post is about an unusal incident that happened to me on the train yesterday. I've been travelling by the trains now for 7 years. But I've never witnessed what I did yesterday.
I was travelling by train to college in the morning. In Kodambakkam, an old man got on the train and sat on the seat opposite me. He wore a muslim skull cap. He was thin and very weak. He wore dark glasses that were too big for him and clothes that suggested that life was a struggle for him. It was clear that he had some vision problem.
A beggar got on in one the following stops. I've seen this beggar quite often on the trains. This beggar also a muslim, plays a stringed instrument and plays it well. He doesn't speak. He just plays a melodiuos tune and lets the music convince people to drop him some money.
The man opposite me instantly recognized the beggar and called to him. "Hassan! Hassan!" he said. It was quite obvious that the old beggar was taken aback. The man extended his greetings to the old beggar and enquired after him. It was nice to see. He then dropped a few coins in to the beggar's bowl. The beggar smiled and went on.
In one of the next stops a beggar woman and a girl got on. The girl performed some acrobatic stunts in front of us. The old man called after her and told her to stop. She didn't but he went on trying. He told the little girl that she shouldn't be doing this, that she should go to school and try to come up in life. The girl finally finsihed her act and came around with her plate to gather coins. He stopped the little girl when she came to him, looked in to her eyes, and repeated what he had said earlier. He also added that if she couldn't go to school she should atleast try the circus, there was atleast more dignity there. The girl looked a little worn by this. It was as if the little one knew the truth in what the old man said and the little eyes had the look of hurt that comes with the knowledge that there's nothing that can be done about it. The old man looked at the little one, reached in to his pocket, and dropped a few coins in to her plate.
I admire the old man's courage to say and do the things he did in front of everyone. How many of us would recongize and enquire after a beggar? How many of us would speak to the little ones who come begging? There is much courage in that. More than courage there is empathy.
If we are to come up as a great nation there are two qualities that we as a society would need to imbibe. One is tolerance and the other is empathy.
Bless you old man, wherever you are.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Impotence of Bowlers

India managed to win the 3rd ODI of the series and have ensured that they will not lose the series from now on. In what was a run feast the Indians managed to score a record breaking 392 runs. The Kiwis managed a spirited chase and in the end fell short only by some 50 odd runs.
Tendulkar was in his elements today. It was an innings that oozed class. 200 was within sight till the injury forced him to retire.
It was entertainment today with the most number of sixes ever hit in an ODI. But spare a thought for the bowlers. They toil through fifty overs of back breaking work. The least they expect is a good sporting wicket. It's time the authorities woke up to the reality that quality bowlers are actually a rare and endangered species and unless something is done quickly we could lose them forever.
Most wickets, including ones prepared for Test matches, are turning out to be belters. As a result most innings are one-sided, with the batsmen dominating, and the bowlers brought to their knees. This just isn't cricket. I don't mind seeing good batting wickets for 20-20 games. But in limited overs and in Test mathches you want to see good competition between bat and ball. That is the real thrill in cricket. That is where the passion in cricket stems from.
It's high time that the ICC and the National cricket boards intervened. If things stay they way they are right now most kids will become disillusioned with bowling and cricket as a game will suffer. It is in the spirit of the game to see good competition between bat and ball. Entertainment must take a back seat and cricket must remain the focus.
I hope the authorities will look urgently in to these issues.

A Toast to Mr Mallya

Just a day after I'd published my previous post the Indian Govt did a complete U-turn and started negotiations with Mr Otis. On the other side the Govt was trying to do everything in it's power to get the auction stalled. Both efforts failed miserably. And the Govt ended up looking real silly.
In the end it was up to a consortium of Indian Businessmen to save the day for India. Just how successful they were reflects in tha fact that the two highest bids were Indians. In the end it was Mr Mallya who collected the articles for a whopping $ 1.8 million.
Lots has been written and said about Mr Mallya's larger than life image. The high flying liquor baron and airline magnate is a regular in the gossip columns of most newspapers and magazines. He is an A-list celebrity in his own right.
There are bound to be controversies raised with a liquor baron possesing the sacred Mahatma's items. I don't wish to get in to that part in too much detail. Personally I have no problem with the liquor industry and people drinking in general, as long as it in moderation, and people know their limits.
Coming back to Mr Mallya- he's been raising the flag for India for a long time now. I wish to salute him for his patriotism. Today Sir you have won my heart with your actions. Thank you very much. Consider this post a toast to your(our) victory. Cheers!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Auction of Gandhi's items

The proposed auction of Gandhi's items in the US has generated quite a bit of media interest here in India. There's a feeling that the Indian Government should not allow the auction to take place. The Delhi High court has even issued orders for the Government to act on stating the same.
What came to my attention was the proposal from the current owner of the articles- 'Mr James Otis'. Mr Otis has said that he is willing to donate the items to India if India is willing to set aside 5% of our GDP to the development of our slums.
It is indeed a noble suggestion by Mr Otis. However, I would like to tell Mr Otis and others like him, that the budget prepared by the Government of India is for "all the people of India". Our government is a democratically elected one and it is we who will set our priorities. We don't need any noble and moral foreigner to tell us what to be doing with our budget and policies.
The Indian Government has rightly ignored Mr Otis. It is heartening to hear that some Indian Americans have got together and have decided that they are going to bid for the articles. I'm sure they will collect them and deliver them to the Indian Goverment as they have promised.
If Mr Otis is as noble as he seems let him donate the proceeds of the auction towards the slums in India. Let us see the true motives of Mr Otis.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Cricket's Black Day

The day's cricket activities have been sadly over shadowed by the terror strikes in Pakistan. It's fortunate that all the Sri Lankan players have escaped with their lives.
We live in tough times. No one is spared. No amount of vigil and precaution is enough.
The events are a sad reflection of the political scenario inside Pakistan. The signs coming out from Pakistan these past few months are of a nation that is slipping slowly and surely in to chaos. The authorities don't seem to be in control. More over they seem to be willing to cede control to radical figures in the hope of buying peace. That seems to me an exercise in futility.
These are not normal people we are dealing with. Most of them are psychotic cases. They have become blinded by faith and have lost the ability to distinguish between right and wrong. For these people it's always going to be 'them' and 'us'. And leaving them, or rather giving them power only delays the inevitable show down and does not really solve the problem.
It is time for Pakistan to wake up and realize that these are indeed precarious times for them. A stable and peaceful Pakistan is in the interest of the entire world.
Cricket in Pakistan is undoubtedly going to suffer. I don't see any international crciket happening in that country for atleast the next 5 years. The repercussions of today's attacks are bound to be felt through the rest of the sub-continent. If rumour is to be believed there is even talk of postponing the IPL. This season's IPL coincides with the recently announced general elections and there's a general understanding that it will be difficult for the security forces to police both the cricket and the elections.
One can only hope that events such as today's attacks are never repeated in the future. I hope and pray for a better tomorrow.