Vantage point

Friday, January 28, 2005

Hate Poverty, not the Poor

A cheesy Hindi movie Ishq, had a dialogue that went - Yeh hai Seth Harbanslal. Log kehte hain gareebi hatao, inka kehna hai gareebo ko hatao".

Blame it on the widespread poverty in the country, but I feel most Indians tend to hate the poor people than the concept of poverty. The way in which we treat the poor people on the streets is appalling. The ad hoc manner in which the Maharashtra government and the Mumbai administration are destroying slums is an excellent example of this.

There seems to be absolutely no planning, no thought about what is to happen to the poor people living in those slums. They left their hometowns or villages and came to Mumbai to earn a livelihood, so you can't expect them to just pack up and go back. Their needs to be some roadmap for resettlement, some answers to the questions about their lives.

The root lies in poverty. And the answer lies in liberalisation. WQe all think the license-permit-quota raj has been abolished, but it has been abolished only for big businesses. The tiny-service-sector still reels under it. Even today, a person wanting to drive a rickshaw, or to run a tea shop, suffers the same horrors of the license-permit-quota raj.

Leftist politicians and intellectuals will feed the poor nonsense saying that liberalisation has impoverished them even further. But the reality is that greater liberalisation will free the poor from socialist shackles, the way the reforms of 1991 freed the middle class and the upper class.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Does TOI really deserve all this bashing?

Does Times of India really deserve all this bashing that it gets at the hands of us bloggers? Does Times of India really care, is another question, but let us handle one question at a time.

Over the past few years, a vast majority of the english-speaking Indian upper class has been lambasting the Times of India for "dumbing down". We have been saddened by the transformation of a respected media institution into an elaborate tabloid.

But take a peek within the Times family. Today the Times group employs more people than ever before, with its activities spanning newspapers, magazines, radio stations, music production, and also a TV channel. It has grown into a behemoth which makes money.

And as someone who swears by the "Money Speech", I think this is a sign that the company is doing something right. Because it is not looting, pillaging, stealing, or defrauding anyone to earn this money. All its wealth has been earned by legal means.

A company can earn so much money consistently only if it is treating its employees, business partners properly, and if it is listening to what its customers want.

In the light of all that, the cribs against TOI(and I have been one of those cribbing) seem like they are missing something. So TOI no longer fulfils our expectations of what a proper newspaper should be. So what? It is surely fulfilling the expectations of lakhs who outnumber us vastly.

Most of us will bandy terms like "journalistic responsibility", but in the long run, they are just words, aren't they? In a free market, a company can survive only if its customers happy. And Times is not just surviving, it is flourishing.

So calling it the "Slimes of India" may be a nice way to vent our frustration at our erstwhile favourite respectable newspaper turning into a flippant publication. but it is not productive.

Let us take our business elsewhere, and read other newspapers that satisfy us. And let us admire the great strides this company is making. If you look at it from a vision not clouded by irritation at its plunging editorial standards, you will see a very successful business case, one which should be taught in all the B-schools.

So let us not waste our time just lambasting TOI. Because it seems as churlish as kids throwing pebbles at an elephant because they hate the fact that the baby elephant they adored has now become a big ugly hulk. Instead let us go and find another baby elephant, or let us find an animal which will stay adorable forever and ever.

Chinese Laptops?

This joke was recently told to me by a colleague of mine and is spreading like wildfire within the IBM circles-

Q - Now that IBM has sold off its PC Division to a Chinese company named Lenovo, what will ThinkPads be known as?
A - ChinkPads.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

A culprit-shielding society

It is serendipitous that this post coincides with Republic Day. I am writing about an aspect of Indian society which bugs me no end, and is very detrimental to our progress.

The cliched "chalta hai" attitude that we are said to possess makes us what is a culprit shielding society. Whether it is our politco-legal setup, the over-dependence on the government machinery, or our cultural legacy, but we tend to be very lenient towards culprits or wrong doers. And this extends from the top to the bottom, from the macro to the mini level.

In other countries, as person is innocent until proven guilty. In our country, a person is innocent after being proven guilty. And in some cases, guilty despite being innocent.

Of course, at the top are our politicians like Indira Gandhi, George Fernandes, Narsimha Rao, L K Advani, Um Bharti, Laloo Yadav, Sukh Ram, Jagdish Tytler..... all of whom have been proven to be guilty, either by the court, or by irrefutable evidence which is being dragged in courts. We will turn a blind eye towards them. It does not seem to bother us that these folks are tainted, or culprits.

Then you have celebrities like Sanjay Dutt and Kapil Dev. Sanjay Dutt has been caught possessing an illgeal firearm, spent years in jail, has been caught chatting up underworld dons, everything! And yet, we have no qualms embracing him as a beloved star. Kapil Dev, a match fixer, still continue to enjoy status in our country.

And coming to a micro level, you have instances like that of Rohan Pinto. Now here you have a guy who copied content, without attributing it to the creators. Not only that, he back-dated entries on his blog. Surely, you do not need a law degree to know that it is at least morally, if not legally wrong to do that just to increase your page hits?

The fellow also had online a site which tells you false info about the availability of domain names, and collects your credit card number. Whether it was a demo site, and whether the credit card numbers collected were used for malicious purposes is besides the point. The fact is, it does not take a law degree to know that this is wrong too.

What Amit, Shanti and others did was to expose this wrong. The fellow himself reacts with impunity, which is only expected in a society like ours.

What makes me sad is other bloggers attack Amit!!

A year back when Satyendra Dubey was murdered, everyone wondered why India did not have a Whistleblower Act. The reactions of Dilip and Dina towards Amit are a case study about why such an act would not work in India anyway. In other countries, whistleblowing is a natural thing to do, the right thing to do. In India, whistleblowing will be judged by each person "relatively". Oh so, relatively speaking, what Rohan Pinto did was a tiny wrong. He does not deserve all this, does he? So lambast Amit, the whistleblower.

Everyone wants to sit in judgement about what is a relatively major and relatively minor offence. Everyone wants to be the Chief Justice. So Sanjay Dutt is innocent, because relative to other terrorists, his crimes are minor. And Kapil Dev is innocent, because relative to Azharuddin, he was innocent. And of course, Advani is innocent, because relative to Mohd Shahabuddin, what he's done is minor.

We Indians need to realise that we are not judges. Our job is not to sit in judgement. Our job, as alert citizens, is to report some wrong if we see it. Let the process produce the judgement.

Amit merely blew the whistle on a wrong.
Dilip and Dina choose to sit and pass judgements.

It is very clear who I think is right.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Let's write a story together. I'll start off giving the name of the story - and the opening passages. You continue and leave it at a point you see fit. Then someone else will continue.

Bunty reached for his mobile and saw the SMS. Not very far away, just ten by rickshaw he thought. He shut down his laptop, picked up his sword and left the house. Life is so much easier now, he thought to himself.

Bunty got into a rickshaw. The sword was hidden in a cover that looked like a curtain rod, so the rickshaw driver did not start shivering. Bunty told him where to go, but the rickshaw driver refused. Too near, was the excuse. It never even crossed Bunty's mind to threaten the driver. he simply got out, and looked for another rickshaw.

If you are picturing Bunty using his name, then its a mistake. Bunty is well over 6 feet tall, and weighs in the excess of 120 kilos. His looks resemble those of a pro wrestler.

He managed to get another rickshaw and reached the spot. There were three more men standing there, with other concealed weapons in their hands. With Bunty, the quartet was complete. Bunty did not know any one of those men. But then he didn't have to. he did not have to go whoring or drinking with them after the job was done. He could come home, put on some light classical music and try his hand at Italian food.

The four men knocked on the door. It was open. They got in, and the first thing Bunty felt on his forehead was the cold barrel of a gun. The last thing Bunty felt on his forehead was searing hot metal of a bullet, as it tore in beyond his forehead.

Continue this story......

Monday, January 24, 2005

Sania - The Next Big Thing?

Will Sania Mirza be the next big thing in Indian sport?

I don't know, but she will surely be the next big thing in the media coverage of Indian sports. She has got all it takes. She is talented, has been consistently successful, and last, but definitely not the least, is easy on the eyes.

Getting to the third round of your first ever grand slam is a commendable achievement by any standards, not just by the dwarfed-Indian-standards-for-all-sports-barring cricket. It remains to be seen if Sania can keep this up, and scale greater heights in women's tennis. She is said to have the talent to be in the top 30. Along with the Uberoi sisters, it looks like she can herald in a genertaion of female tennis stars from India, and in the process open the doors for many young girls to pick up the sport.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Bucknor haunts others too!

One of the stories that I missed while I was in the US is about Steve Bucknor spreading his web of sins beyond India.
Vaughan fined match fee

It is time for the West Indian gentleman to hang up his boots. It has been time for about two years now.

Bucknor is ageing, and has become very incompetent of late. What makes incompetence worse is a huge ego which does not allow you to own up to the incompetence, and this compounds matters. Today, umpiring in test matches is an extremely lucrative profession. But there is no accountability and no meaningful system of review or appraisal for the umpires. The only way for the game to be rid of an umpire who is losing the full efficiency of his faculties, is if the umpire in question has enough sense to step down himself. Dickie Bird did so, as did Venkatraghavan. Bucknow, however chooses to keep sullying his own name by making a flurry of horrendous decisions.

Revitalise ODIs

I have often written on this blog about how boring the one day game has become, even as test cricket scales new heights of excitement.

Sambit Bal has some ideas to pump life back into the shorter version of the game -

Twelve-man XIs and quartering the game

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Puneri signs in USA

Sign at the San Diego airport - "Questions about guns and weapons are to be taken seriously. Please do not joke while answering". Or something to that effect. It reminded me of the much maligned "Puneri signs". I can almost imagine this sign in Puneri marathi -

Bandook aaNi itar hatyaaraanbaabat prashNa gaambhiryaane ghyaave. Krupayaa uttar detaana vinod karu naye.

Ignore him? I think not!

I guess by now everyone in Indian blogworld knows about Rohan Pinto(, the weirdo who copy pastes others' blogposts and even comments on his blog. In case you don't, read the following -

Plagiarism in the Indian blogosphere by Amit Varma
Copy Cat by Shanti Mangala
Stealing content for your web site - The Rohan Pinto way by MadMan

Most of these people have already covered the build up of events, and why it is so wrong to plagiarise, so I won't repeat it all.

I however will write a pre-emptive article aimed at people saying "Oh but you have given the jerk just what he wanted, attention. Ignore him yaar."

Why? If this sort of attention is what he wanted, then he has got it. His name has become synonymous with plagiarism, and it serves as a good example to someone might wanting to do it in the future, for any weird reason.

Indians as a society, hold scant respect for intellectual property rights. Whether it is shamelessly cheating in exams, copying project reports, or copying movies frame by frame, plagiarism is not considered to be a big deal. Plagiarism has almost become mainstream in India now, with even a Times of India journalist indulging in the shameful act.

If a hue and cry were created every time something was plagiarised, it will probably help restore the respect that originality should have in the entire scheme of things. Rohan Pinto has done something wrong, and he deserves the ill attention we are giving him.

Are we "playing into his hands" by giving him publicity? I don't think so. If he gets off to negative publicity, well, lucky him. But what we are doing is certainly bound to have some consequences that will deter some other plagiarists. And we should keep doing it, regardless of whether he enjoys it or not. It is not what Rohan Pinto wants that is of our concern. It is what he did. And we need to expose it to everyone.


When my flight landed in Minneapolis, I saw for the first time in my life, that it was snowing outside. It was snowing cats and dogs.....or maybe I should say.... penguins and elks!

Of course I did not have much time to admire it. The flight from San Diego that i was on, had landed late because of the snow, but the next flight to Amsterdam was going to leave on time. So I admired the snow from the glass walls as I was running to the other end of the Minneapolis terminal, hoping to make the flight in time.

Why should an airline have its hub in a place which has such major snowfall capable to disrupting flights, is beyond me! I hope that the Indian airline companies planning on going global don't keep their hubs in North India, where fog is a major problem in winters.

Love and let love

In the flight from San Diego to Minneapolis, I was seated next to a 70-plus couple. The overhead luggage compartments were full, and they helped me stow my stuff away under their seats. That's how we got talking, and then the conversation lasted for almost two hours, and was delightful.

I told them they worked for IBM and the husband(Paul) got very happy. He said he was a loyal IBM user because he knew that his Thinkpad was the best goddamned laptop in the market. He said some of his friends owned Dell and they repented going for Dell just looking at the prices. "You tell the folks making Thinkpads they're doing a fine job.", Paul said. But then he stopped and said "Of course, you fellas aren't gonna make Thinkpads anymore. Why is that?".

So I gave him the standard IBMer's answer for why we sold off the PC Division to a Chinese company.

Then the wife, Loraine, told me that they had visited India in the mid-nineties and they had a wonderful time. At one point of time the husband started complaining about some long queue for some customs formality, but Loraine shushhed him saying "That could happen anywhere."

Next Paul asked me a question that I always love to answer. He said - "When America was a very young country, India used to be very rich. How is it that India is so poor now, even though all the Indians we see are so brilliant and hard working?"

After that for about fifteen minutes, I gave him gyaan about what I thought were the reasons for India's poverty. To make him understand my points, I often gave him references to the American story. As i was speaking, it was also an educational experience for me, articulating in words the miracle of Indian poverty. I am going to write it down and post it on my blog in a couple of days.

Then Loraine told me something that I had read in Indian papers a lot. She said she thought Indians were the "best immigrants ever". Explaining further she said - "The Chinese, well, they just want to beat us economically. The Muslims, some of them are terrorist sleeper cells. The Mexicans and all, they refuse to learn English, and want us to start speaking Spanish. The Indians however are smart, speak english, and don't commit any crimes. You are the nicest people."

What she said was ridden with cliches, but since none of the bad cliches was directed at Indians, I accepted the compliments on behalf of the billion of us.

But the most striking part about meeting this couple was the affection they showed for each other. In India, we have this weird illogical hang up against PDA - Public Display of Affection. Everyone and his uncle becomes a moral police. Here I saw Paul and Loraine displaying their affection in such cute ways. They kept holding each others' hands, gave each other pecks on cheeks, and were very expressive about their love. It was amazing, not just because this affection was alive even after 53 years of marriage, but also because how freely and openly they were doing this. I can't imagine a 70-plus couple doing this in India. If there is one thing I hate about India, it is how we just get too sanctimonious about what others should and should not do.

Love and let love, I say.

Pehle aap!

This happened quite a few times during the whole trip. The road would be comparitively empty. I would walk up to the footpath, see a car coming, and wait for it to pass. The car would slow down, waiting for me to cross the street. At first I didn't get that the car was actually waiting for me, and I stood in my place waiting for the car to pass, creating a Lucknow-ke-Nawaab kinda situation. :)

Must say though, it is cool to be in a place where traffic discipline is soo deeply ingrained in the public psyche. Even the traffic jams in LA were orderly lane-by-lane jams, and not "Fill-in-the-blanks" jams like we see in India.


Had Sushi for the first time yesterday, and I loved it to the core. It was totally different from anything I have ever eaten before.

A friend of mine had warned me that it is something which needs an acquired taste, but I was in love with it from the first bite. I am gonna lobby for lots of sushi restaurants in India.

How about adding Sushi to the menu at Shiok, Madhu?

P.S - Call it the F.R.I.E.N.D.S bias, but I found the Unagi Roll to be the yummiest of them all. :P

Thursday, January 20, 2005


It would be great if they had a funda of TDS in America. Not Tax Deducted at Source, but Tip Deducted at Source.

A lot of Indians visiting USA are not aware about the extravagant tips you are supposed to leave here. As a result a lot of them don't get great service. I was warned about this by some friends. So usually I stock to the 15% thing. But there are some occasions where you are at a loss. For instance the bell boy who carried my luggage to my room.... or the housekeeping staff.... what on earth should one tip them? One dollar.... five dollars? Should I tip those people everyday, or should I just tip them on the last day before I leave?

All this confusion would be cleared if all Hotels and Restaurants just billed us for the tip as well.

Hats off, NRIs

One week in America has increased my respect for Indians living a great deal. Just one week has made me miss Indian food so much. How can you guys go an entire year, and at times even more, without having yummy desi food? I would go nuts. And I am not even a vegetarian. In fact i eat everything, including beef and pork. And still the sheer blandness and unimaginativeness of the food here is driving me nuts.

You know, a lot of times my relatives ask me why i never took the GRE and why I am not in the US. The next time, instead of giving them the proper answer, I am just gonna say "I can;t live without Indian food". :P

I'm Hispanic!!

As I was exiting the Westgate Hotel where I am saying, I heard an old white lady walking her dog, saying to her husband, "These Hispanics are everywhere now".

And she was pointing to me!!

STD Booths in USA

There is a need to have STD booths in USA. No no, I am not talking about cubicles where prostitutes have unprotected sex with their clients. I am talking about the telephone booths we have in India.

A lot of convenience of having humans do a job is lost in the highly automated West. So you install phones with menus, and come out with calling cards so that you don't need to have a guy manning public phones. But it makes things darned inconvenient for a visitor.

I for instance, came here armed with a calling card number with a balance of $3, given to me by Satyen. At 5 cents a minute for local calls, I thought it should suffice for a few days. But I ran out of the balance in just 2 calls! Turns out the charges are different if you call from a public phone.

Now if I have to call India, again I need a calling card. The normal ones cost like $1 a minute. The Reliance ones are cheao but getting them is a bit of a pain sincde they ask you your phone number.

I miss the convenience of STD booths in India, where you walk into one anywhere in the country, make a call, the meter shows you the charges you are incurring and the operator answers any questions you have about rates.

Monday, January 17, 2005

First Impressions

Amsterdam from the sky - Gorgeous, like a painting.

Amsterdam airport - Like a huge mall. But not as great as made out to be.

Minneapolis - Colllllllllllllllllllllld! Nice immigration people. I was waved through after just 3 questions. Guess I dont have the Al-Qaida-ish look.

San Diego - Probably the second prettiest city I have ever been to (Jaisalmer is tough to dislodge).

Los Angeles - Big, crowded, garish. Very much Bombay-like

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Hep Bhikari!

If you have any doubts about the fact that America is a rich country, they'll vanish after you see American beggars.

This one beggar looked more like a parking attendant when I first saw him. He was standing outside a Starbucks at Sunset Boulevard, unnecessarily guiding people parking their cars. Unnecessary because the parking lot was half empty anyway. Even my four year old cousin could have parked the car with a blindfold on. This guy was wearing good clothes, a jacket and rimless glasses.

So anyway this guy "guides" us, and when we step out of the car, he shakes a cup below my nose. The cup reads "Vietnam War Hero", a highly dubious claim considering the guy looks just about forty or so. I nod my refusal and start walking away. My friends had told me I was to tip waiters in America heavily, but they had said nothing about well dressed beggars.

This bloke doesn't take my refusal stoically. He follows me and says,

"When I took bullets for you in Saigon, I didn't know you'd be so ungrateful."

I felt tempted to point out that he should talk to a fellow named L. B. Johnson, but my experiences with beggars in Mumbai have taught me that "onward march" is the best tactic to employ when faced by senti stuff from beggars.

The next type of beggars were some people walking around with stacks of CDs in their hands on the Walk of Fame. One guy shoved a CD in my hand and said "Here, sir!". I thought it was a complimentary CD or something so I walked on, examining its cover. The guy followed me saying "That'll be two dollars, sir!". Promptly I handed the CD back to him and kept walking. Now it was his turn to pull some senti.

"Oh so you have no qualms paying hundreds of dollars to Spielberg and Nicole Kidman, but you can't spare two bucks for an independent artist!"

The most formidable "independent artists" I have seen are those who sing "pardesi pardesi jaana nahiiiiiiiiii" in Mumbai locals. I'd rather give them two bucks.

But all said and done, these American beggars lack the tenacity of the Mumbai beggars, and these American street peddlers lack the sheer indefatigibility of the Delhi peddlers.

I suggest an Exchange Program, under which these 40 year old Vietnam war veterans will beg on the traffic signals in Andheri, and the independent artists will hawk their stuff in Palika Bazaar.

The East really has so much knowledge to share with the West!

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Fearful Coincidence!

Till two days back, I had not even heard of Crichton's latest book, State of Fear. Reading it on the flight, I was struck by the chilling coincidence that the tsunami disaster happened just a few weeks after the book was released.

The book takes a stand much closer to my heart, questioning global warming, and the motives and scientific temperament of environmentalists the world over. It is refreshing to see this approach from a mainstream author.

The book itself, is not one of Crichton's best, and spends too much time in describing chases. It has the usual "tall-smart-athletic" heroine, who was now become a cliche in Crichton's books. However it conveys the message quite clearly, using proper references.

By the way, in case you haven't, read this article of Swami's - Tsunami, the road to Extinction

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Amrika, Main Aa Raha Hoon

I will be travelling to California this Friday. It is a short trip, and the purpose is to attend the IBM Server and Technology Group University at the San Diego Convention Centre from 16-19th january. Before that I will be spending the weekend with my aunt in Los Angeles. I'll be back in India on the 22nd.

I will try to make updates while I am travelling, but in case I'm not able to, then this flurry of posts made today should suffice until then.

And yes, Happy Makar Sankranti. Tilgul ghya, god god bola.

My Resolution

My New Year's Resolution is... no, don;t worry, I'm not gonna say 600 X 800.... oops, I just did.

Anyway, my New Year's resolution is to meticulously provide refernce links in my blog posts, something that I have been too lazy to do until now.

Blogroll Update Part 1

Some long overdue additions to my blogroll.

Hazel's Poems - It took a lot of prodding to get Sarika to try her hand at poetry. The result, as we have seen on her blog over the past year or so, has been lovely. Deservedly, she has started a blog solely for her poetry. Of course, the lazy bum hasn't updated it in 2 months. ;)

Madhura's Mad World - The blog of Madhura Sane, a friend of mine from Pune who is currently studying in Minneapolis. The blog is "typically Sane".

Next we have two blogs run by Madhu. Not be to be confused with Madhura. They both differ vastly in gender, profession, beliefs, size.... everything.

Madhu "Madman" Menon - Perhaps the longest overdue addition. Software-pro-turned-restaurateur from Bangalore, and a fellow member of the Libertarian Cartel. Passionate about technology, capitalism, atheism, logic and of course food.

Shiok Blog - Also a blog run by Madhu, dedicated solely to the Far-eastern Cuisine that his restaurant Shiok specialises in. A delectable mix of recipes and food-related essays. And of course, there are the pictures, each one of which you could devour (except maybe the one of Madhu himself).

Then we have three blogs run by Amit Varma....the Amit Varma Triblogy, if you will.

23 Yards - The first cricket blog on Wisden Cricinfo, it talks about cricket beyond just the obvious numbers and personalities that every cricket writer dwells upon. Be it passionate posts advocating greater technology in cricket, be it a thoughtful musing on the cliched "choking" phenomenon, or be it poetic prose about the rhythm of cricket, every single post is enough to anoint him as India's answer to Peter Roebuck (though Amit would modestly protest on reading this).

India Uncut - The fellow is not all about cricket. India Uncut is Amit's blog about India. Here he gives a commentary on the issues facing our country. Of late though, the highlight of this blog has been the 50-plus posts made by Amit while travelling through the tsunami-affected regions of India. If you haven't chanced upon this blog yet, I recommend you save his archives, and devote an hour to reading them on top priority.

The Middle Stage - His third blog. He also promises a fourth blog dedicated to cows!

Notes and Stones - A blog about quizzing, but not one which carries questions. Started by Ramanand, it also has me in its list of contributors. I must admit though that I haven't written much for the blog, a fact I intend to correct soon.

More updates soon.


Had a blogger meetup after ages yesterday. Met Dilip D'souza for the first time, Amit Varma for the second time, Ravikiran for the third time, and Yazad for the umpteenth time. Was a wonderful evening spent talking about cricket, politics, religion, literature, evolutionary biology(!), and a lot of other stuff. Yazad and Amit have described the meet-up very well on their blogs, so I won't unnecessarily trouble too many electrons and end this post here.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Oh please!

Yesterday the Times of India carried an article about how we react to those displaced by the tsunami with compassion, but those displaced by slum demolition drives, with indifference.

While it made a decent point, the weird thing was, it claimed that children of the slum dwellers have started dying because of the cold weather!

Of the Cold??
In Mumbai??????

Oh please!

A few good men

These are a few of my favourite non-Indian cricketers.


Shane Warne - The Sultan of Tweak is one of my favourite cricketers for all time, because of the sheer swagger in the way he plays his cricket. He is the bowling equivalent of
Vivian Richards. The imperfections in his character hold no importance for me. The only imperfection in his cricketing skills is the mental block he has while playing India. As this year's excuse-free failure showed, that mental block persists.

Adam Gilchrist - Destructive batsman, superb keeper, a captain's dream come true. However his recent evangelist ways about walking remind you of a Jehovah's Witness.

Damien Martyn - Great technique combined with good controlled aggression. He's started using his brains more in the last season or so, and is reaping dividends. Martyn is no longer a guy you can snag on some percentage field setting.


Inzamam-ul-Haq - After the retirement of Michael Bevan, I would say Inzy is the best one-day batsman in the world today. Someone day batsmen pace their innings very well, like Tendulkar, Dravid, Jaysuriya, etc. What makes Inzy the best is that he can pace the team's innings brilliantly. If Inzy was in the Asia XI team, I daresay he and Dravid together would have chased that 344. Of course Inzy is great in tests as well, but being a shaky started sometimes leads to runs of poor score. But if you look at test innings with reference to their importance in the game, I claim most of his hundreds would be counted.

Salman Butt - I liked his technique, and his temperament. When people were cursing the Indian team for losing the Kolkatta ODI, I was of the opinion that it was Butt's brilliance that had snatched victory. His century against the mighty Aussies shows the stern stuff he's made off. A guy to watch out for, and destined for great things, if he can keep up his success even 2 seasons later.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Best Method of Population Control

What is the best method to convince a person to have as few kids as possible, maybe no kids at all?

Do what fate/destiny has been consistently doing to me since time immemorial. Make the person travel alongside children all the time.

It is uncanny, the frequency with which my co-travellers end up being kids! It all started when I was a kid. In those days, this trend was a welcome one, for I would always get other kids to play with in the train or bus. The trend became unwelcome, when i kept growing up, but the co-travellers remained in the 0-10 age bracket.

It is a very meaningful fact that so many scary movies use kids as the means to scare. Travel like I have and you will come across specimens scarier than the kids from Exorcist, The Ring, and Omen combined. I can't recount all the incidents. It would be just too traumatic. But here's a sample.

Once when I was travelling alone from Mumbai to Delhi in AC 3 Tier, I was unfortunate enough to share the compartment with a Gujarathi couple with 4 kids! One was obviously a baby with what was definitely a bad case of colic. This is a common feature in almost all my journeys - a baby with a definitely bad case of colic, for how else would you explain the constant bawling at the top of its tiny but formidable lungs? So one was a baby that kept expressing its dissent at the general state of the world in paranormal decibel levels. Another was the rottenly spoilt Indian boy.

The Spoilt Indian Boy (SIB) is one of the topmost annoying species in the universe, with only Kirsten Dunst and Justin Langer as competition. The SIB thinks he is the king of all he surveys. He will yell at the top of his voice, and will not think twice about invading anyone's privacy or ownership rights. What makes these occurences recurrent is that the parents look on dotingly and approvingly, with a benign smile on their faces, as the kid proceeds to tear up someone else's magazine, or dance on someone else's luggage. This species owes its existence to the unhealthy obsession that Indians have for the male child.

Others kids were two girls with extremely high pitched nasal voices. These four children combined to make my existence in the train hell. I will spare you the lurid details and let my description of the four tykes suffice.

Then there was the time I was coming from Bombay to Pune in a Volvo bus, and having booked the tickets at the last moment, was stuck with an aisle seat at the back of the bus. At this point I faced a kiddy-attack from the remaining three sides. The fellow in the window seat next to me was carrying on his lap a boy of about 2 or 3. The kid kept fidgeting, crying, and yelling at the slightest possible reason. In front of me, there was a boy who kept playing with the pushback seat, pushing it back, and pulling it every two minutes, bruising my knees in the process. And on my right was seated a couple with their 8 year old daughter who fancied herself as the next one in the line of those Remix Rambhas that infest TV screen nowadays.

The bus was playing songs, and this girl, as soon as a song would start, would jump to the aisle, and start doing what she thought was a dance. And that for her constitued keeping her hands on my arm rest and jumping up and down, rocking my chair at an unpleasant frequency. With the left armrest already commandeered by the yelling kid, it left me with no space to rest my elbows. And the parents of this girl kept looking, yes, you guessed it, dotingly and approvingly, at times even adding "Uncle ne uu doosra waala step dikha ne". The topic of grown up people referring to one-self as "uncle" is a touchy one which one shall not go into due to lack of time. But anyone who has been referred to by a 40-something as "Uncle" will understand my pain.

This misfortune has followed me up in the air on some occasions. I remember looking on with horror as children of various sizes proliferated the seats all around me on a Pune-Bangalore flight. The kid next to me kept insisting throughout the flight that the plane was not going fast enough, and was flying at 60 kmph tops. He was sure we would not reach bangalore before at least 15 hours had passed. His cousins and siblings around us made the journey livelier by spilling everything the stewardess brought them, and crying in horror both at take-off and at landing.

These are just three instances in a long past chequered with tales of horror wrought by children. As a result, I am convinced of the hum-do-humara-ek adage.

Of course there are times when i am feeling vengeful and sadistic, and so I decide to have as many kids as possible and take them on as many trips as possible to get back at the society for what I have been put through. But then by and large, I am not sadistic.

Movies in Buses

Movies shown in video coach buses are a subject of research. As someone who travels a lot by Volvo buses between Pune and Mumbai, I have noticed that there are certain trends that are difficult to ignore.

One is the overwhelming preference of the bus companies for the Yashraj films (including the Dharma Productions too). 75% of the time, the movie being shows has a Chopra or a Johar, or both, involved in it. The sheer frequency if mind boggling. The last Yashraj movie that I proactively went and watched in the theatres (or rented a video) is Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. The scars still persist and hence there has been no attempt from my end in the last 7 years or so to go and catch a Yashraj movie.

Inspite of that, I have watched the following movie....and multiple times!!

KKHH - 5 times
K3G - 3 times
Mohabbatein - 4 times
Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai(!!!) - 3 times
Kal Ho Na Ho - 6 times
Hum Tum - 2 times
Dhoom - 4 times

If I have missed listing any Yashraj movie released in the past 7 years, rest assured, I have not missed watching it. Of course, I use the term "watch" very loosely. Usually a yashraj movie is an excellent lullaby and I sleep like a baby through the whole journey.

Last night I was returning from Pune to Bombay, and was hoping to take a good nap, when the TV in the bus came alive, and the name flashed "Hera Pheri". I groaned... it being a good movie, I would have to watch it, and thus would not get any sleep. But thankfully the guy changed the CD and put on "Mohabbatein" instead. And I slept peacefully through that mushfest.