Vantage point

Friday, September 30, 2005

Vaishnodevi Chal, Ghalib

Q - Why did Mirza Ghalib like going to Vaishnodevi?
A - Because she is the sherawaali maa.N

Thursday, September 29, 2005


If Pune's DNA was to be mapped, it would have to be done on the "tekdi". No other place will offer such a perfect cross-section of the city's cultural and sociological make-up, as one of the tekdis that dot the entire city.

"Tekdi" is the marathi word a small hill. And if Bangalore is the city of gardens and Delhi is the city of forts and tombs, then Pune is a city of tekdis. I guess it all started with the original 'tekdi' right in the heart of the city, which is referred to as 'parvati'. The Peshwas built a small temple and a palace on top of it. It was a great place for them to pray and hang out.

After that, as if by some accidental design, whenever the city grew and a new "locality" came into being, it had a tekdi of its own. These tekdis might not house palaces and museums, but they give a very accurate reading of the changing mores of the city.

It starts a few weeks after a child's birth. In other cities, kids are taken to parks. In Pune, they are taken more to a tekdi. You will see mothers and fathers, carrying a neatly-dressed-and-powdered baby, walking up the "easier" route, with the minimum gradient. The baby will be taking in the surroundings with its huge eyes. The denuded trees, the light brown soil, the yellow grass, and the expanse of the city as seen from the top of the hill, will all be novel sights for the little one. This will also be a place where a lot of unknown pretty young girls will shower the baby with a lot of attention with little squeals of "kitttttti gondassssss".

Soon the kid starts walking, and then starts running. For a few years, his energy knows no bounds, and his mother thinks that finally there is a perpetual motion machine, disproving what Newton's laws taught her. Now when he visits the tekdi, he tries to bound up it in half a milli-second. His mother still wants to take the easy route, but he will not be pinned to that boring slope. It is on the tekdi that he will get his first knee scrape, his first thorn prick, his first splinter-in-the-finger and possibly his first nose bleed.

A few years later, in his pre-teens, as he forms friendships that will stay with him for life, he discovers the tekdi in a completely new light - the dawn light. Until now his parents always took him to the tekdi in the evenings. But now, he and his friends wake up before sunrise to play cricket. The cricket ground is near the tekdi so of course, a trip up the tekdi for "warm up" is but natural. Since it is still pre-teens, and the official party line is still "Girls are stupid!", no one will admit that the visits to the tekdis also offer a chance to observe, from the corner of the eye, some pretty college going girls, who come to the tekdi for a morning walk. The tekdi also offers opportunities to assert the alpha-male-ness that some guys are gradually discovering. A race up the tekdi, which will always be won by this athletic fellow who is good at all sports, becomes a norm.

Over the next few years, the tekdi will be visited mainly early in the morning. But there will be visits in the late afternoons as well. Of course, these visits will have nothing to do with sport. His friend who managed to somehow procure a pack of cigarettes and a bottle of beer, also knows this great portion of the tekdi, where no one ever comes during the day. His first fit of coughing after the first drag of smoke and the first wince at the bitter taste of beer will also happen at this very tekdi.

Around the same time, he might be one of the lucky few guys who not only manages to bag a girl friend, but also convinces her to accompany him to the tekdi before 4 p.m. when the evening crowd starts trickling in. If he isn't the one who has his first kiss on the tekdi, he is at least friends with someone who has, and is hiding behind the trees getting a peek.

Of course, a few visits later, the girl is not amused at the tekdi as being a location for all this, especially since a watchman was prowling around the last time they were at it.

As he enters his late teens, he wants to work further on his fitness. He wants to be taller, have stronger legs, and tighter abs. Now the tekdi is like a gym equipment for him, and he will sprint up and down it. The girls who are also there, some of them in shorts, are a fringe benefit which motivate him to stick to his routine.

Later coaching classes, early morning practicals, CAT/GRE preparations begin to take their toll and the visits to the tekdi decrease. Now he almost exclusively goes there only in a group of at least half a dozen friends. They will discuss girls, sports, studies, and, after 10 sit-ups near the hanuman mandir to dispel any fears of girliness, a bit of gossip.

In a few years, the visits will become even more rare. Every visit will start with the comment "Wow, the tekdi has gotten so crowded these days", and then "Man, the quality of the crowd (ahem) has improved since our days". If he has moved out of Pune, then on every visit back to the city, a few evenings will be spent on the tekdi, reminiscing about the good old days.

A few years later, he gets married. He and his wife will go to the tekdi for a few days, but the crowd will put them off. Soon he has kids of his own, he starts taking them to the tekdi in the afternoons. The morning visits are "moring walks", either to shed the flabby beer belly, or to network with some other morning walkers. Once every couple of years, when the doctor warns about blood pressure and cholesterol, he will buy new shoes, and will be seen huffing and puffing up the tekdi, after he has driven to its base in his car. As youngsters sprint past him, he will curse himself for not taking good care of his once-fit body.

Soon his kids themselves have grown up and flown the coop. His retirement is nearing, and a few serious health problems have cropped up. He wants to visit the tekdi with his son, but the son would rather go there with his own friends. So he will wear the "University of Pennsylvania/Maryland/California/(insert suitable American state here)" sweatshirt his son bought for him, and go to the tekdi with his friend, who is also sporting a similar sweatshirt of another American university. Both of them will sit talk about their children, swap stories about their latest visit to America, and shamelessly gossip about that "loose" daughter of a common acquaintance whose revealing pic was published in yesterday's Pune Times on page 3.

Romances start and end on the tekdi, friendships are formed on the tekdi. Even photographs and "biodatas" for arranged marriages are exchanged on the tekdi. Flab is shed on the tekdi, and new things are tried on the tekdi. Profound debates happen on the tekdi and fierce fights happen on the tekdi. Poems are composed and paintings are conecptualised on the tekdi. Anything and everything of importance in a Punekar's life happens on the tekdi.

The next time you are in Pune, visit my favourite tekdi, the one behind the ILS Law College, and you will see every stage of Pune life. Every slice of the Punekar's existence and evolution is displayed, like a Darwinian exhibit. And no links are missing.

Update: Ashutosh writes his own tekdi post. We went to the same school, so I am personally aware of his attachment for the tekdis. I remember accompanying him for a few entomological expeditions after playing hookey from the school PT periods.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Dinosaurs Stomping

The voices of social illiberals in India are getting stronger by the day. First there was the uproar in Tamilnadu over actress Khushboo's comments that pre-marital sex is OK. Then came the Haryana government's decision banning women from working night shifts in call centres. And now there is more medieval stuff happening in Tamilnadu.

Principals of colleges, politicians, and several "senior" citizens have made a habit of claping down on any so-called loosening of the cultural norms whenever an incident of sexual molestation has hit the headlines. Several colleges have attempted dress-codes and tried to gag any expression of the most natural of human instincts.

Like most freedom-loving people, I too am distressed by this big-brotherly attitude that our society is displaying. But think about it carefully and you will realise that all such incidents are the pointers towards the impending extinction of the moral dinosaurs.

The values related to sex, intimacy, relationships etc are rapidly changing in India. The change is rapid, and almost irreversible. These incidents of moral policing are nothing but a vain attempt at venting frustration at the inability to cope with the new values. They are empty gestures by self-styled status-quoists aimed at consoling themselves that they are doing something to preserve the great "Bhaarateeya sanskriti".

Take dress code and inter-mingling among sexes for instance. Today, a lot of women are more confident about their identity, and more assertive about their right to shape their own careers and chalk out their personal lives. When a moral dinosaur sees a woman wearing a tank top and a short skirt, walking confidently, instead of wearing something traditional and walking demurely, his/her concepts of what things were or should be are shattered. After all, the change is not only in the clothing. The change is in attitude. And this new attitude makes the dinosaur uncomfortable. This "new" woman is nothing like what his mother and sister were, nothing like what his wife was, and nothing like what he wants his daughter to be.

But he can't change the attitude, the way of thinking. So he seeks solace in something cosmetic that he can actually change. Ban those tank tops and skirts. Make the girl wear a salwaar kameez. Next day, when he sees the girl in a salwaar kameez, the dinosaur deludes himself thinking that suddenly, the girl has become the docile "bhaarateeya naari" that he so admires.

Be it dress code, or forcing Khushboo to apologise about her statements, they are hollow self-comforting gestures that will make the dinosaur believe that his kind will never be extinct. As if Khushboo apologising will suddenly make all girls take a vow of staying a virgin until they marry.

Some people!

Where did they go?

Where did they go?

Where did those actors go? Such fine men, with so much promise.....not to excel in films but to generate enough ham to solve India's malnutrition problems.

Where did they go?

Every year, dozens of actors play the lead in a hindi movie, sign a few movies more, and then disappear forever into the abyss of anonymity. This post was inspired on spotting one such admirable citizen of our country - Armaan Kohli.

Some TV channel was playing the movie 'Virodhi', which I am sure must have been produced by his pop, Rajkumar Kohli. This movie, presumably sponsored by Mani Shankar Aiyyar's Ministry, considering the propensity of its characters to douse oil over people and set them alight, stars an ageing Dharmendra as Armaan's elder brother. Now Dharmedra is no Olivier-meets-Deniro when it comes to acting. But he comes across as the epitome of good acting when you compare him to Armaan Kohli's performance in the movie.

So where did this fine once-young man go? Why isn't he starring in movies any more? Has his dad run out of money?

We must make it a collective mission to hunt out these forgotten heroes and make fun of them. We must watch their movies, pausing the CDs after every scene and guffaw with laughter at their pathetic attempts at acting.

Acting standards are lax in Bollywood. But shouldn't these folks at least be decently good-looking?

It's not just that they are ugly..... they are SO ugly that the producers of the movies should display a notice saying - "No mirrors self-destructed during the making of this film".

Thursday, September 22, 2005

My Secret Corner

up on the hill
beyond that bend
behind those shrubs
was my secret corner
which showed me everyday
the prettiest sunset
yesterday i went there
and found a few
chocolate wrappers
and broken beer bottles
the sunset was still the prettiest

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Tiny Bit of Freaknonomics

I had my own tiny Freakonomics-ish experience a few days back. It was fun to resolve a puzzle and discover that the answer too, like so many answers in life, and as pointed out by Levitt and Dubner, had to do entirely with incentives.

If you work in IL&FS Building in Bandra Kurla Complex, you will be aware of the 'Third Floor Elevator Summoning Ghost'. It is a name I have given to the phenomenon of the elevator mysteriously stopping at the Third Floor, the doors opening, and more often than not, there being nobody at the third floor waiting to get in. It's mildly irritating when this happens on a regular basis. Everyone in my office gets bugged whenever it happens and almost everyone laid the blame on some prankster security guard who gets his jollies making the lift stop without any reason.

I know fetishes can get as weird as possible, but this seemed very lame to me. Plus the fact that this happened at any time of the day, early mornings, afternoons, evenings and night. Surely no guard would have a shift that long. For a few months I kept promising myself I would "investigate" the ghostly phenomenon and nail the suspect, but never got down to it for some reason or the other.

Then one day when the elevator stopped at the third floor and there was no one outside, I ventured out, and for the first time ever set foot on the third floor. It seemed very similar to our floor. There were walls with a cream finish and 4 elevator doors. No ghosts yet.

The security guard looked questioningly at me, as if to ask whether I intended to enter the third floor office. Beofre I could answer, three women came out. And I noticed that they pressed the knobs for two different elevators.

And then, there was light!

You see, like most multi-storeyed office buildings, IL&FS Building also has different elevators going to different floors to share the load. So every morning when I come to work, I press the knob next to the lift labelled "-1 to 6th floors", and not the other one.

I discovered that the 3rd floor was on both elevator routes. I guess the reason 3rd floor got this "special" treatment was that it housed an organisation run by IL&FS. Even though the lift was on both routes, the chips which run the two routes are apparently not connected. So both of them send the lift to the third floor, if both the knobs are pressed.

Since people on the third floor had an option of using either lift route, they had the incentive to press both the knobs, because they could benefit from the quicker lift. Then they would step into the lift that arrived first, while the second lift would find the third floor lobby empty.

So there was no ghost and no prankster. It was just caused, unwittingly, by people working on the third floor who wanted to go home as early as they could.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Some Short....Really Short... Stories

By now everyone and their uncle would know about the 55-word-story tag that's doing rounds of the Indian blog-world. I was tagged by Michael Higgins.

Here is my contribution -

'Ghost Carrier' his wife called him. She was convinced that numerous cruel sadistic strangulated spirits had made his body their home. He agreed. What else could explain the horror he felt doing his job years ago being replaced by gleeful enthusiasm. Of all the people, job satisfaction should not be experienced by him - A Hangman.

More "really short" stories as and when inspiration strikes.

I tag these folks -


A Delicious Trip Down the Memory Lane

Read this post - The Golden Era at Cerebral Proclivity. Makes me want to build a time machine like the kids in Indradhanush and go back to the late 80s and early 90s.
Link Courtesy: Amit

Blog Mela

This month's Bharateeya Blog Mela is up at Amit's blog. Go read it. Great way to spend a Sunday morning.

Trouble in Paradise

Pune has been one of the most non-violent cities in India. There have been no riots for as long as I have lived there, crime rate is quite low, and the crowds on Pune's streets are quite well-behaved. A lot of us who have grown up in Pune often talk, after touching a lot of wood, about how we have lived a very sheltered and safe life in the city. No natural disasters, no riots, no major acts of violence.... let me go and touch some more wood. In fact I remember that after the Babri Masjid was demolished and Mumbai burnt, Pune was remarkably peaceful. I was in school then, and apart from a "precautionary half day" on 7th December, things went about as if nothing had happened.

Don't get me wrong. I am not painting Pune as a city where violence is unheard of. Of course there are murders, fights, the occasional political clashes. Where Pune has been....or had been...untouched was with respect to the mob phenomenon. The Pune "mob" has never really done anything sinister.

That record has been tarnished today with reports of violence, stone-throwing and lathi-charge (All words never mentioned in the same byline as the name Pune) in the city during the Ganpati immersion procession. The story has not yet appeared online, so my information is limited to what I heard on TV.

Apparently, the Pune police decided to strictly enforce the Supreme Court deadline of 10 p.m. on loud-speakers. So a while after 10 p.m. at the Alka Talkies Chowk, which is the spot where all the main Ganpati routes converge, the police asked the Ganpati mandals to switch off their loudspeakers. This caused some trouble, with a lot of the mandal volunteers, almost definitely inebriated, refusing to comply, and throwing stones at the PMC tent, which regulates the procession.

What happened exactly after this is a bit sketchy, but it seems as if the police didn't take to this stoning kindly, and started lathi-charging the miscreants. Anybody who has been to Alka Talkies Chowk during visarjan will know that it is jam-packed with mandal volunteers and so the potential of something like this spiralling out of control is high. Apparently that is what happened with the violence spreading as the mob started stoning and destroying public property, and there are even reports of a police van being set on fire.

As things stand now, almost a hundred Ganpatis are still to be immersed, and the situation is returning to normal. The exact details will be known only later today.

Hope this is just a one-off incident of trouble in paradise.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Splain me this

This is funny. Inzamam-Ul-Haq is good enough to be one of the seven nominees for ICC Cricketer of the year. If you remove the Australians from the list, he is one of the 4 non-Aussie nominees. But he is not good enough to be included in the Rest of the World one day or test sides?

How bizarre!

Swine Airlines

One of the best blog posts I have read in recent days -

An Introduction to the Principles of Porcine Aviation in England by Ramanand.


More about IIPM

A few days back I linked to a JAM story about IIPM. One particular response to that blog post of mine is particularly descriptive. Do read it here -

The Truth, also mirrored here.

Thursday, September 15, 2005


This blog has been one of the most loyal and vocal supporters of Sourav Ganguly, hoping that one knock will clean the cobwebs off his cricketing mind and give us back the same elegant, aggressive and combative captain who re-invented Indian cricket over the last five years.

Ironically it is one such knock, a test century, that has brought about the biggest policy change this blog has seen. I too now join the chorus of voices asking that Sourav Ganguly contemplate retirement. After having captained the team to some of its most famous triumphs, he owes himself a graceful exit.

This was not the first time in his career that his place and his ability were under scrutiny. Neither is he the first captain to have faced such a scrutiny. In all the earlier moments of crisis, I believed he would fight back because he had so much fight left inside him. Cricket is a game that gives you lots of opportunities to redeem yourself, and often what sets great players apart from the good ones is the ability to cash in on such opportunities. Ganguly has done that so many times in his career, that it had become difficult to count him out.

Having spent four years outside international cricket after the forgettable 1992 trip down under, he was picked for the 1996 England tour. Allegations were made about nepotism having played a part in his selection, and it was said that he had been taken on the tour as a passenger, and to fill regional quotas. After all, the middle order was by and large set. Sidhu was the specialist opener and Tendulkar had already spoken about how he had great faith in Vikram Rathour to be the next big Indian batting success. Azhar was still an automatic selection. Jadeja was just riding the crest of success after having bashed Waqar Younis and co in the World Cup some months back. And Sanjay Manjrekar, with a good test record, was making a return to the side. It was unlikely Ganguly(or even Dravid) would get a game. But then Sidhu stormed home, and Manjrekar was injured. Ganguly made his debut. This was his opportunity.

And he grabbed the opportunity with both hands, scoring centuries in his first two test matches. That shut up his critics, and Ganguly settled into the team. For the next few tests, though he hit no big centuries, he kept chipping in with fifties. What seems ironic now is the fact that he was not considered an automatic selection into the ODI team and had to bat lower down the order. On a few occasions he was left out of the playing eleven to make way for the then captain's friend Vinod Kambli. For instance, in the inaugural Sahara Cup against Pakistan in Toronto, he played only three of the five matches.

However 1997 onwards, Ganguly took control of his cricketing destiny. In test matches, he hit a purple patch against Sri Lanka, cracking three centuries and a 99 in four successive tests. He also scored a century in the Hamilton test in New Zealand, and even though it was Rahul Dravid who was blazing the trail in the test team, Ganguly did pretty well and kept his average above 50.

It was the one day game where he truly stamped his authority. Starting with the 1997 Sahara Cup where he single-handedly outplayed the Pakistanis, both with the bat and the ball, he not only cemented his place in the side, but also went on to become one of the greatest one day batsmen in the world. Shortly, he was elevated to the opener's position from where he ruled the roost for the next five years or so.

The first big crisis came in the form of the Australian in 2001. Ganguly had just been made captain, and the all-conquering Aussies landed in India looking to beat the only team they hadn't beaten in its own backyard for over three decades. Following the standard norm, the Aussies, and mainly McGrath announced that they would gun for India's out of form captain, who had a suspect technique. He was out of form for sure, his test average having dropped from 50 to 45 before the start of the series. Though India won, ganguly's form remained poor, and slumped even in the one-day game where he had been doing well.

This was the first times questions were asked about his place in the side, and his abilities as a batsman. However he silenced the critics with an unbeaten knock of 98 off 152 balls at Kandy, leading a difficult chase against an attack consisting of Vass, Murali and Fernando. The chase levelled the series, and though India went on to lose the third test and the series, marred by the absence of Tendulkar, Laxman and Kumble, the knock chased away the demons. Note that even though there was a lot of time left (the match ended on the fourth day), Ganguly's runs came at a very decent strike rate. For the next couple of years, he batted decently, with fairly successful series in West Indies and England. He was also hailed as a captain under whom India started winning test matches abroad regularly. His one day form returned too, with a superbly successful series in South Africa where he hit 15 sixes, a lot of them against the fancied Shaun Pollock.

The next crisis came before the series against Australia. He was having a bad run with the bat. However he redeemed himself with back-to-back centuries. The first one, an unbeaten hundred against New Zealand at Ahmedabad, overshadowed by a Dravid double century. The second one, the famous century at Brisbane where he rescued India from a precarious position to get a psychologically vital first innings lead against the World Champs, setting the tone for the rest of the series.

In all these crises when he has fought back, it has been with the defiant spirit, evident of his a self-belief in his ability. Be it the knock at Kandy, or the one at Brisbane, he took on formidable oppositions and came out victorious. He did not lose his natural strokeplay, and watching him was a treat. Not only did he grab the opportunities offered to him, he devoured them with relish.

Which is why yesterday's century is so worrying. If the earlier opportunities were devoured with relish, this one was chewed politely, face askance and with reluctance. Gone was the infectious spark of the underdog fighting back, and the grace of the southpaw getting his touch back. He scratched and struggled against a bowling attack that was a few rungs away from being even first class level. The man who once deposited Muralitharan, Saqlain and Vettori into the stands with ridiculous ease was playing out maidens from someone named Ewing!!

It seems like the effervescent fighting spirit that made him so special has been knocked out of Ganguly. It seems to have been replaced by a bitter feeling of self-pity that has eaten into his batting like a termite. A TV channel was showing some of his early innings. people used to bowl bouncers to him even then. But in those days when he took them on, it was with conviction and the correct footwork. He swivelled, got into correct position and hit in front of square even the bouncers bowled by the great Waseem Akram. Today any bowler digs it in short, and Ganguly gets into an awkward position, and "guides" the ball behind square, often down the throat of an eager fielder. It shows the man is not thinking hard enough about the game. He seems to be thinking more about other things, about how unfair the world is being to him. He had a good run in the county season. He should now go out to bat and back himself to come good.

Sadly, that doesn't seem to be happening. He seems to be losing the will to fight it out gamely. The statement he said, spilling the beans about an internal team meeting prove it further. His heart does not seem to be in it. He had best contemplate a graceful retirement. A few months later the triumphant England team tours India. Ganguly should bat aggressively, marshall his team well, target a victory, and after ahieving it, bow out from international cricket without further clouding his legacy.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


Many of us think that our rustic looking politicians hold monopoly to stupidity, and that the suit-boot-wallah firang politicians are somehow better. Whether this generalisation is true is false, one firang politician who would fit right in with the Indian lot is Kim Beazly, the leader of opposition in Australia. Beazly has blamed the Aussie PM John Howard for the Ashes defeat!!

"You can have your rugby tests, you can have international soccer, but this is what matters and there has been a frittering away of the spirit and he (Mr Beazley) holds that weasel (Mr Howard) responsible for it," as spokesman for Beazley said. He also added

"He's (Mr Howard) lost it for us, we will never forget, it's a crime.

Hehe. Lalu would be proud.

Agreeing with the Left!

Brace yourself for a shock. This blog agrees with the Indian leftists on an issue!! And no, it is not a social issue on which libertarians and leftists often find myself agreeing. It is actually a hardcore economic issue.

I agree not because I have suddenly developed a liking for leftist policies, but because the Leftists, for a change, are talking about reducing taxes. Yes, that's right. The Leftists who are usually in favour of taxing everything but the red colour, are actually taking a stand which opposes the government hiking its own revenue collections under the excuse of global oil price hike.

The Times of India reports,

CPI-M leaders, who met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Monday to discuss an oil price rise, had suggested that the government give up an increase in customs duty and forgo an increase in excise duty due to higher global oil prices.

One of the CPM's "AC Studio Comrades" made a very good point on NDTV on the day of the price hike. The crux of his argument was this -

Obviously, there is a surge in global oil prices. So there will be an additional burden on consumers. If the cost price of petrol goes up, then the consumers will have to pay it. However the government is retaining the same tax structure on petroleum products. This means that not only is the consumer paying for the increased cost price, but he is also, for some reason, giving the government more money through customs, excise, sales tax, and various other cess amounts.

When the government presented its budget, it estimated its revenue from petroleum products assuming the price of oil as $40 per barrel. So if we assume the total tax rate for petroleum products as "x", then the government estimated a revenue of x*40 through petroleum products. Now, since the oil price has gone up from 40 to 70 dollars, there will be some increase in the prices to adjust for it.

But if the price has increased to more than 40, then to keep x*40 constant, there should be a reduction in "x", i.e the total effective tax rate. However x remains the same. So what the government is doing is, boosting its own revenues in a clandestine manner. So the government should reduce the tax rates even as it hikes global oil prices.

Good point, and I by and large agree.

I have already written on this blog about how the government milks consumers of petrol. More than 50% of what we pay for petrol goes into the government coffers. The petrol prices in India are already substantially more than the prices in our neighbouring countries. Hiking them further without keeping the tax collection constant is nothing short of highway robbery.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Pogrom Answer

A lot of responses to my quiz. Well can;t exactly call it my quiz, because half of it was thought up by Sarika. I know, aren't we just made for each other? Matching levels of corniness and all. And as I expected, almost everyone got only half the answer right. Even our favourites, Ravikiran and Ramanand got only that half of the answer. The half they missed was Sarika's contribution.

However beating overwhelming odds of 31415:1, Shom Biswas got the complete answer. He wins the right to claim a bottle of Lycil and a sachet of H&S. he says he would prefer a beer. Well Shom, all you have to do is furnish your ID and I'll buy you the beer next time you're in Bombay.

On to the answer.

A lot of you got half the answer right. In the Pogrom, jews were killed. And Lycil is a poison for lice, also called joo's in Hindi. However no one made the Head and Shoulders connection. Even our esteemed favourites did not ask themselves, if Jews is the only connection, why has this fellow mentioned the Pogrom and not the Holocaust?

Got it? Nope? Let me explain. Holocaust was carried out by the Nazis. Pogrom is a Russian word, and has its origins in the persecution of the Jews by the Russians, or the persecution of Russian jews.

Russians in Hindi are called roosi, a word which is also the Hindi word for Dandruff.

Got it? :)

Wash it away!!!

Right now, rain has stopped play on the third day of the fifth and final Ashes test at The Oval. The headline on Cricinfo sums up the two sources of my joy - "Langer falls....and so does the rain!!"

Australia are 185/1 as it pours. And I am happy. Why?

Well, firstly, Langer is gone. OK, he scored a century, but this blog is no fan of his and his back is always a pleasant sight.

The second reason I am happy, is because the sadist in me has overpowered the cricket fan. I am hoping that will will rain so bad that the match will be washed away. In fact I want a washed out match even more than an England win. In fact I would love it if Australia score 600, then reduce England to 200/9 on the last day and rain stops play and draws the match. It would be fun to see Australia frustrated at rain preventing a fight-back.


Don't worry, tomorrow I will again be my old cricket-loving self and will be rooting for an England win.

Whose phone is ringing?

The latest series of ads from India's biggest cellular service provider, Airtel, tell a very interesting story.

In one ad, a well dressed young man locks his car and starts walking. A ring-tone is heard, so he checks his phone, but it isn't ringing. A group of auto rickshaw drivers is standing nearby and one of them whips out, very Rajnikantically, a cellphone, but even that isn't ringing. Then a cycle-rickshaw driver passes by, and it is his phone. He answers it and starts talking, as the other people stare at him, presumably surprised that he has a cell phone.

Another ad has a similar theme, set in a barber shop, where first the customers check their phones, then the barber checks his phone, but the ringing phone belongs to a boy delivering tea for a road-side tea shack.

Then a voice-over says - "Jab mahiney mein mobile rehney lagey sirf 200 rupaye, to fir har koi kyun na le Airtel"(i.e When an Airtel mobile costs only 200 rupees a month, why wouldn't everyone have one?)

The ads give two messages.

The first message is not that obvious. The ads show auto rickshaw drivers, barbers, panwallahs whipping out their mobiles, but no one reacts with surpirse. This means that mobile penetration in several cities is now so high that no one feels surprised about barbers having one. Gone are the days when people used to tell each other with great amazement "You know, the driver of the auto I was travelling in actually had a mobile!!". That apparently is old news. So the class of our society which has a low but steady and constant income, like autowallahs, barbers, panwallahs, can now easily afford a mobile phone. And why should they not? These people have a fairly steady source of income though it might not be very high, and with the CPP (Calling Party Pays) policy introduced a couple of years back, it is possible to own a mobile phone and use it judiciously.

The second message is quite obvious. That mobile phone connections are now becoming so affordable that even some of the poorest people in our society can now afford one.

The first few times I saw this ad, I thought it was an exaggeration. Well, obviously, it is an exaggeration. Everyone doesn't have a cell phone even now, even in our cities. But not even the staunchest critic of liberalisation (except maybe Arundhati Roy) can deny that the privatisation of telecom has provided the poor an opportunity to better his life using a cell phone.

I had an experience like the people in the Airtel ad last week. Early morning, some kids and a woman come to collect garbage from every house. That morning they rang my bell and I woke up groggily, picked up the garbage bin, opened the door and handed it to the kids. Suddenly the phone rang. I reached for it, pressed the answer button and said "Hello". But the ring tone continued. I looked around puzzled as the kid fished out a mobile phone from his pocket, answered it and started talking. It was apparently the driver of the garbage van telling him that he would reach our building in ten minutes and he should be done with all the houses by then.

The kid finished the call, smiled at the surprise on my face and started walking down the stairs with his garbage drum.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Answer this

Here is an outrageously corny "quiz" question. Answers should be mailed to me. Explain the connection properly.

Q - Connect the word "pogrom", Lycil and Head & Shoulders

Tip: Attempt it only if you are well-versed with the Hindi language.

The first one to give the full answer will get a bottle of Lycil and a sachet of Head and Shoulders. :-)

According to my estimates, Ravikiran is a 5:4 favourite to win. But the reigning Mastermind India, Ramanand is also in serious contention at 11:8.


Yesterday was Ganeshchaturthi. Saw several processions where Ganesh idols were being pulled with a lot of fanfare. The music consisted mainly of drums and cymbals. Kids were dancing, fully enjoying the music, while the adults were either walking along, or pretending to enjoy it and dance. The innocent delight on the dancing children's faces was a lot more pure than the expression on the adults' faces.

At what age do we stop "really" enjoying simple noise and decide that henceforth our enjoyment will only be triggered by complicated "music"?

Your Own Biggest Supporter

Every sportsperson has fans, supporters, folks who believe in them. Folks who would fight for them in a coffee-break argument. Folks who will root for them even when the odds are completely stacked against them. Folks who will believe they can fight back even when the situation looks almost impossible.

There are some sportsmen who support themselves, believe in themselves, and back themselves, more than even their most ardent supporters. It is these sportspersons who often script history way beyond what a simple scoreline can narrate.

Andre Agassi is one such player. Today as I left home, the score read 6-3, 6-3 in flavour of Blake. I had watched the second set and Agassi seemed hopelessly outclassed. All indicators pointed towards a 3-set rout. At that point, not even Agassi's biggest supporters would have predicted a turn-around. Not even Steffi, not even Jaden would have realistically thought that Agassi could pull it off. But that did not matter. The only person whose belief mattered was Agassi himself. And he possessed it in full measure. It was this self-belief which floored James Blake as he crashed out of the US Open after a heart-wrenching five-set defeat.

Sania Mirza, who is being criticised by every Tom, Dick and Haribhai for her unforced errors, weak backhand and patchy serve, also possesses this very self-belief. That is the reason she has defied all expectations this year and reached where no one expected her to reach.

This self-belief is not necessarily a conscious though process. It does not mean that Agassi consciously kept saying to himself "I can still win this". It just becomes a part of their sporting DNA, and their game. Their game shows no symptoms of being bogged down or influenced by the situation.

The Australian team also typifies this self-belief. Even when they lose as we saw in this Ashes series, or in Chennai in 2001, they do so believeing they can win till the last ball.

Another person who possesses a similar self-belief is this blog's favourite sportsperson - Virender Sehwag. Some folks call it his foolhardiness. They say he is too impetuous, too rash, too impulsive. Yet they don't realise that all this comes out of a tremendous self-belief.

Last month, everyone criticised Sehwag for getting out to Vaas in the finals of the Indian Oil Cup in Sri Lanka. Everyone said, giving Sehwag an unsolicited lesson in cricketing wisdom, you had already scored 24 runs off Lokuhettige in the previous over. What was the need to attack Vaas? While Sehwag's dismissal deserves criticism, this is the wrong thing to say. the right criticism, spoken in Sehwag's language would have been - the ball was pitched at an uncomfortable length, and you had no width at all. Why did you play that particular shot?

What is the difference in the two criticisms? The second one is entirely independent of who was bowling. So what if it was Vaas? Sehwag does not look at the name of the bowler. He looks at the ball and then he plays it. Tell him "Give respect to a Vaas delivery because Vaas deserves respect" and Sehwag will snort at the suggestion. Tell him to respect the delivery because of its merits and he will do it.

This self-belief, which does not recognise extraneous factors like your opponent's reputation, the low probability of you succeeding, etc, is what makes several sportsmen perform exceeding all expectations. Remember the last over of the fourth day of the 2004 Chennai test against Australia. Last over of the day. Glenn McGrath running in to bowl. India needed 200-odd to win with a whole day remaining.

Conventional wisdom would have advised Sehwag - this is the situation, and this is the reputation of Mcgrath. Play out the over. What happened instead was Sehwag played each ball according to its merits, and ended up hitting Mcgrath for three boundaries in the last over.

As the two teams walked off the field, it was Mcgrath who looked distraught, and it was India who had their tails up.

Be it Agassi, Sehwag, Mirza, Australia, Ivanisevic, Dravid, Schumacher.... what makes all these people so special is this very self belief, which makes them their own biggest supporter.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Go Dada!!

I just checked the score of the India-New Zealand final. India are 34/0 in the 8th over. More importantly, Ganguly has just hit three fours in a single Kyle Mills over. As an avowed Dada fan, my fingers are crossed, hoping this is the innings that completes the turn-around that started with the county stint in England.

After the good run enjoyed by his female look-alike Sania Mirza, let's see if it is now his turn to set the ball rolling, literally.

Update: Dada goes! :(

Oram to Ganguly, OUT: short of a length, outside the off, Ganguly opens the face of the bat and guides the ball straight to Hamish Marshall at point, that was like giving catching practice!

Monday, September 05, 2005


Q- What do you call Mahwire at a fancy dress party?
A - A Blessing in disguise.

This joke(!) was a collaboration between Paras, Pushkar and me.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

It's like being in a Third World country

This headline, which I saw on sums up the catastrophe (or should I say, Katastrophe) in the South-Eastern United States the most aptly.

We are all used to cyclones and storms lashing Florida and the surroundings. Almost every year, we see huge waves, uprooted trees, upturned vehicles. But we are also used to hearing that there were hardly any, if any, fatalities during such cyclones. Advance warnings, mass evacuations, and good disaster management ensures that the loss is life is minimised.

Which is why it is shocking to hear the vast number of deaths caused by the Hurricane Katrina. Already the toll is in hundreds and the mayor of New Orleans fears that once the waters recede, the toll may be revealed to be in the thousands. It is difficult to imagine the intensity of the hurricane if it caused such a huge loss of human lives and breakdown of infrastructure in United States. It is almost impossible to comprehend the possible losses, had the hurricane hit a third-world country. Maybe the toll would be in lakhs, as seen during the Asian Tsunami.

As of now one can just offers sympathy to the Americans, who have been hit by a hurricane so apocalyptic that it has made parts of the country seem like the third world, as a hospital manager comments at the end of this article. No power, no water, flooded streets, battered highways, and hundreds, possibly thousands of deaths.

Here's wishing the victims a speedy recovery.