Vantage point

Monday, December 26, 2005

CCSL = Contextual Contemporarization of Sacred Lore

Or so says Aashraya, the latest storm to hit the Indian blogosphere. Though Sarika linked to her a couple of weeks back, it was only today that I really got the time to read the entire series and appreciate its genius.

Head over to Aashraya's blog - Crystal Blur, and wear old clothes, for you will be rolling on the floor laughing in a few moments anyway. Check out the Mahabharata Series link in the sidebar.

Why AIDS is Spreading in India

Last year, the World Health Organisation(WHO), alarmed by the rapid spread of AIDS in India, sent a special agent to the country. The agent believed he got to the bottom of the issue pretty fast, and submitted the 60 page report to the WHO AIds Committee. What follows is a summary of the report.

Summary of "Why AIDS is Spreading in India"

The reason behind why AIDS is spreading so fast in India is right there for everyone to see, and I am suprised that no one has done anything about it. In fact the reason was staring me in the face just a few minutes after my car drove me out of the Mumbai Airport.

Dotting the roads, and indeed the entire city of Mumbai, were "STD Booth"s!

When I spotted the first one, I put it down to jetlag. But then, I kept seeing an "STD Booth" every few metres. I asked my driver to stop the car near one and I realised that the "booth" which was a small yellow kiosk, actually boasted of being "Government Approved".

There are Government Approved STD Booths all over India, and we are wondering why AIDS is spreading so fast.

As I reached my hotel, I was greeted by an official from the Health Ministry. I immediately asked him to explain to me why there were STD booths all over the place. For some reason, he beamed, and said,

"Oh yes, that is one of your greatest achievements!"

"Excuse me? Achievements?"

"Yes. You see what happened is, our late great Prime Minister Rajeev Gandhi, in 84, realised that STD was there only in the big cities, and there too, only with rich folks. Rajeev Gandhi felt this was not fair. He wanted every Indian to have STD."

"What? Are you serious?"

"Yes, Rajeevji was a great visionary. He wanted even the poorest to be able to have STD. So he called an expert from abroad, a NonResident Indian called Sam Pitroda. Pitroda was asked to suggest how all Indians could have STD in their homes. That time, India had very low rate of STD penetration. Mr. Pitroda travelled far and wide, and suggested that the way to spread STD amongst the masses was simple. It may not be possible for everyone to get STD at home. So he suggested that he would come up with a revolutionary new method to spread STD. That was to set up STD booths so that common people, poor people, everywhere could get STD at a nominal fee."

"I am shocked!"

"Yes, that's how these STD booths were set up all over the country. So now STD has spread far and wide. Often even smallest of villages has an STD booth. What's more, it also provides employment to person running the STD booth. And it also requires very low investment."

"Employment? You're justifying this in the name of employment?"

He waxed eloquent about the success of spreading STD all over the country.

I think it is pretty obvious why AIDS has spread so much in India. I suggest the WHO demands that the Indian government immediately shut down all STD booths, and issue an arrest warrant for this Mr. Pitroda.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Not a 'New Daryll' Again?

Shane Warne has been trying since ages to find a suitable replacement for Daryll Cullinan, his "bit*h" during the nineties. This time he thinks Kemp or Prince might be possible candidates.

I love this about Warnie. He is a total entertainer, whether he is bowling, batting, smoking, not smoking, chasing women, or just mouthing off. I especially love the fact that he isn't scared of putting his foot in his mouth. The most memorable f-in-m incident is of course the 1998 tour of India when he went around town saying he would target Tendulkar, and got badly whipped.

The last time he put his foot half in his mouth was when he again went Daryll-hunting. He said before the Ashes that Strauss would be the new Daryll. Strauss scored almost 400 runs in the series, including two centuries, though he did get out to Warne an awful lot.

If getting 400 runs in 5 tests with 2 centuries is what entails becoming the "New Daryll', then i am sure Kemp and Prince would be more than eager.

Having said that, I do think the two are candidates for the position, judging by the way they handled spin in India.

Brace Yourself...

I say chickens are very good at theoretical mathematics.

On what basis, you ask?

Why else does every mathematical proof end with..."Hens(hence) proved.."

Told you, brace yourself. :)

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Value of Marketing

I met a maths teacher of mine in a book shop last month. He wasn't a school teacher, but someone who trained me and a bunch of other kids for the Indian National Maths Olympiad after I had cleared the Regional Maths Olympiad. We were meeting after almost 8 years, so he had no idea what I did beyond Class 12. He asked me to fill him him in on the various stages of my life since our last meeting. And I did.

When I told him I had taken up engineering after Class 12, there was a slight look of disapproval, because he always believed that we all should take up pure sciences. When I told him about Management, he seemed positively disappointed.

The way a lot of pure science folks feel going the Techie way is a "sell out", a lot of techies feel going the management way is a "sell out". I often get a lot of ribbing from my techie friends, especially those in the software sector, about how "management" or "marketing" are fraud lines of work. They feel that a techie does all the hard work, whereas a Marketing guy pinches the cream, so to say.

It is in this benign ignorance about Marketing that you will find the roots of the Microsoft-hate that pervades the techie community.

In my last post when I said Microsoft "deserves its success", it perhaps left room for some confusion, judging by the mails I got in response, and judging by this half-jocular post Arun made. Some thought I am implying that Bill Gates is the real-life manifestation of a Howard-Roark-John-Galt cocktail.

Far from it.

Saying that he deserves his success is not the same as saying that he is the pinnacle of human perfection. But he deserves his success because he could achieve the combination of technology and marketing in the best possible manner. It's not like others didn't try. It's just that he succeeded.

A lot of people who blast Microsoft seem to think that technology is only about technology. They forget that technology is also about marketing. And marketing itself is a vast, complex and multi-dimensional discipline. Many techies feel marketing is just about advertising. Microsoft's success shows that Marketing is about a lot more than just advertising. Marketing is about mapping the customer's needs. Marketing is about distribution. Marketing is about channel management. Marketing is a heady combination of psychology and economics.

So if you are coming up with something to win a science project contest, then computer science and electronics is all you need to know. But if you want to turn it into a product and sell it to people, you need to know marketing.

The success of any product is thus defined by the sum Tech + Marketing. In terms of Tech alone, Microsoft scores a lot less than some of its competitors. But if you look at the Tech + Marketing sum, you will see they were miles ahead. And so even in market-share they are miles ahead.

Microsoft didn't start off with an advantage as compared to its competition, did it? 25 years ago, it was a tiny company. It was competing in a level playing field. Bill Gates wasn't a millionaire who had the advantage of massive funding. He didn't use violence, or he didn't use the government to create a monopoly, did he? Microsoft came up with a product, designed a Marketing Strategy and implemented it. So did everyone else. Sun did it, IBM did it, And even the techie's darling, Apple did it. Those who think of the Gates vs Jobs battle as a Corporate Meanie vs Techie battle forget that Jobs is also a Marketing guy and not a techie. SO after thus "Great Game of the OS" was played out, Microsoft won.

Fair and square. Greg Chappell would agree.

When Greg Chappell instructed his brother Trevor to bowl that infamous under-arm delivery, it raised a lot of "ethical" questions. But the thing is, he wasn't breaking any rules. So that win was a fair and square one. It may not have been a pretty or a "tasteful" win, but it was fair and square for sure.

Some of Microsoft's tactics are similar to Chappell's under-arm delivery. They may not appeal to your taste, but they aren't wrong.

What is happening now is, the competitors are crying foul because they didn't think of the under-arm trick. But they are pretending that they are actually appalled by the trick itself, and would never have used it even if they had thought of it. Which in my books is the rank hypocrisy that IBM's competitors were guilty of, and which Microsoft's competitors are guilty of.

They go running to the Big Bro, the government, which is given the responsibility to decide what is right and what is wrong. This is changing the rules of the game. Because they did not(rightly) go to the government when the battle was on. They went to the customer. The customer decided. And they lost, Microsoft won.

What they should do is, go back to the drawing board and figure out what they did wrong, and how they were outwitted. In fact I am sure they do go back to the drawing boards. but they also send their lawyers to court to see if they can get in a low blow of their own. And they aren't wrong there either. The anti-trust law exists. So they view it as a legitimate tool in the battle. If Microsoft were losing, it would do the same.

So you see, I am not saying that Microsoft is the best, and that its competitors are evil. Microsoft did what anyone else would have done in their position. And its competitors are doing what Microsoft would have done in their position.

The problem is the anti-trust law itself. The law is not fair. The gives a bunch of folks, i.e the government the right to decide what is a "competitive" practice and what is not. It is also very unfair towards the winner. You don't get punished for trying whatever are deemed as anti-competitive measures. You get punished for winning after doing them.

As a Libertarian I believe the state has no role meddling in business, unless some contracts are broken, or fraud is committed. As a Libertarian I also believe that in absence of any coercion, governmental or violent (same difference ;)), whoever wins the battle in the market is the deserving winner. Yes, some may not find certain tactics tasteful. Some may find that the winner's actions are "bordering on" monopolistic. But remember, according to Libertarian thought, if it is not coercive as described above, it is not monopolistic. The "bordering on" is a pure judgement call.

I, as a Libertarian, don't believe in the concept of "bordering on". It is the statist's domain.

Starting with a little quiz question

Identify the "X" and "Y" in this passage -

X is a technology company. It is huge in terms of revenues, and can pump in a lot of money into development of technology. Using all this money, it has come up with a lot of advancements. X has an 80% market share. It has invested a lot and has a lot of technologies in different spheres. So obviously, to gain an advantage over its competition, it bundles these offerings together and offers them to consumers at a cheaper price than the competition. So if you had to buy technology A from Company AA and technology B from company BB, it would cost you a lot more than if you bought A and B from X. X thus is doing very well. It invested a lot of money in research and is reaping the benefits.

X's major success lay in technology Y. X did not invent Y, but it was largely because of X's innovation, research and smart marketing that the technology Y became so popular and grew so much. X thus holds a huge marketshare in the technology Y.

X's competitors have tried to steal away market share, but have failed. So they start saying that X is ruthless and anti-competitive. They raise the din of "anti-trust" laws and go to the government. The government agrees and starts anti-trust litigation. It says that X is too big and too successful and is thus stifling competition. In other words, X has reached the critical mass beyond which it is not possible for anyone else, no matter how much they innovate or research, to challenge X. Hence, in the interests of competition, X should be broken up into smaller companies, and not be allowed to bundle its different products, especially with the technology Y.

The press loves it. It's always great to see a giant under attack. The people also love it. The general opinion is that X is misusing its size and its technology, and there was no conceivable way its domination could reduce. Only government action, such as forced break-up of the company, would work. SO everyone is in favour of breaking X up.

These anti-trust lawsuits continue for years and years....

So...identify X and Y.

I don't know what answers you'll give, but I'll tell you what I had in mind when I wrote the above passage.

Y - Computers

Isn't it weird how history is being repeated?

Suppose I say

X - Microsoft
Y - Operating Systems

wouldn't the paragraph still make sense?

IBM invested a lot of money in the development of technology. In fact it is said IBM invested more money into the development of computing than the US Government did in the Moon Mission. Naturally, it got handsome returns. It developed great technology, and dominated the market, having an almost 80% marketshare.

But it was hounded by the government, motivated by its competitors accusing it of "anti-competitive" measures. Actually the measures were very competitive. But the government, the press and the competition created a huge bogey out of IBM's size and success, wanting to break the company up. The "Big Evil IBM" spiel was whipped up so much that people thought that the supercomputer in 2001:A Space Odyssey being named HAL was a left-handed tribute to the domination of IBM(since HAL is what you get by taking the next letters of IBM). Everyone wanted to stop it from bundling its products together or pricing them aggressively. IBM was being punished for being successful.

So what happened?

After IBM was hounded for over a decade, the anti-trust lawsuit was dismissed in 1982 "without merit". It had largely to do with the fact that rivals and new companies were beginning to catch up, then-young-upstarts Microsoft being one of them. IBM suddenly didn't dominate the market so much, because when others came up with brilliant ideas, others too found financial backing easily in the market. Pretty soon IBM was just one of the players.

In fact things went wrong after 1982. IBM started losing grip over the business. Technology was changing, and somehow IBM wasn't responding the way it should. It made a few bad decisions, and found itself facing ironically, a situation where everyone says the only way it could survive was by breaking up into smaller companies. From being a company which should have been broken up for the competition's surival, to being a company which should be broken up for its own survival.

This is how rapidly the free market can change.

Well, Louis Gerstner proved the world wrong, and showed that IBM could actually flourish without breaking up. IBM survives as a very successful company, though not as dominant as the 60s and 70s. Who is responsible for this increased competition? The US Government and its regulation? Hardly. It is the market, which rejected the mistakes that IBM made and embraced the right things that its competitors did in the 80s.

Today there is a similar debate going on about Microsoft. It is being portrayed as this giant evil corporation whose domination can never be shaken off by the world. And that government regulation is the best way to "protect" us from these anti-competitive measures of the the company.

I don't think so. I believe Microsoft deserves its success, and that Anti-Trust laws are unfair, anti-merit and extremely Orwellian. I also believe that Microsoft will meet its match unless it keeps satisfying its customers.

Global Inequality

I was first pointed out this article in the Telegraph - UNEQUAL GAINS as having been written by a Professor at Delhi University. Naturally I read the article without paying attention to its byline. Towards the end of the article, I was shocked that this article had been written by a Professor of Economics. SO I went to the byline and realised that I had jumped to conclusions. The author, Achin Vanaik is professor of international relations and global politics, Delhi University.

Ah Ok!

Well, I am going to give the good professor the benefit of doubt and assume that the mistakes he has made in the article are genuine.

He first quotes from the UNDP report and tells us that the gap between the richest and poorest countries has only grown. And this has happened in what he calls the neoliberal era. Hence, he commits the classic flaw of confusing correlation with causation and jumps to conclusion saying that neoliberal policies have actually caused inequality.

There are several flaws in this argument. Let's take them up one by one.

1. Calling it a Neoliberal "Era" - This implies that there is a consensus on neoliberal policies, and each and every country in the world has in fact embraced them. The reality is actually just the opposite. A majority of the world still continues to labour under interventionist policies, especially the poor ones. In fact, as the Economist says, wherever we have seen Neoliberal policies applied, such as China or India, poverty has reduced. SO let us stop this "neoliberal era" nonsense.

2. Selective data-mongering - Notice that the good Professor has mentioned that the ratio of the per capita GDP of USA and Bangladesh was 88:1 3 decades ago. Bangladesh was then the poorest country in the world, in terms of per capita GDP. Now if one were to compare the impact of the following three decades, wouldn't it be logical to compare the same two countries again? But no, the good Professor goes to Guinea Bissau, because it is the poorest country in the world right now. Doesn't anyone see anything wrong in this? WHat happened to Bangladesh?

I'll tell you what happened to Bangladesh. A little help from Wikipedia and the calculator tells me that the ratio of the per capita GDP of USA and Bangladesh is now 22.6:1.

Which means the disparity has reduced in leaps and bounds between USA and Bangladesh.

One can go on fisking the article, but the crux of the matter is this. Even if, for the sake of the argument, one assumes that the rich have gotten richer while a bulk of the poorer have gotten poorer. Is it that the rich have gotten richer at the expense of the poor? Or is it that the poor just haven't been able to grow as rapidly as the rich?

If the answer to the first question is yes, then yes, there is something majorly wrong with the way the richest countries do business.

If the answer to the first question is no, and to the second one is yes, then we need to examine which are these poor countries which are getting poorer and why?

Is it because of neoliberal policies? Do all or most of the countries follow neoliberal policies and are yet getting poorer by the day? If yes, then by all means criticise neoliberal policies.

But if the answer is no, and it is in fact seen that the poorest countries are often the ones which follow policies exactly opposite to what the neoliberals suggest, which is actually the case, then opposing neoliberalism is what increases inequality and not neoliberalism itself.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Blogs Shaping India?

Rediff's list of ten trends that shaped India this year features....the Sensex bull run, ipods, dissent in BJP, reality shows..... and blogs! The page about blogs features screenshots of Desipundit, Youth Curry and Vantage Point and mentions the whole IIPM controversy as well as the Mediaah one.


Oh my _!

Can't remember the last time I laughed so much after watching an ad. While surfing the channels just came across this ad for Rajnigandha Pan Masala.

Of late, pan masala brands seem to be targeting the "premium" segment. So instead of showing some village belles dancing and singing "khaini khaini", there have been attempts to be "sophisticated". I still hadn't stopped laughing at their last ad in which an Indian businessman in a designer suit is showing buying out a foreign firm which has vowed, in the beginning of the ad, to actually buy him out. After completing this acquisition, he opens a box of 'rajnigandha' and pops a spoonful of pan masala into his mouth as a chorus in the background goes 'Moonh Mein Rajnigandha Kadmon Mein Duniya'.

I still hadn't stopped laughing at that ad when this latest one literally had me rolling. In the ad, several "achievers" are shown eating Rajnigandha pan masala before their "achievements". It includes an orchestra conductor a la Zubin Mehta in a huge hall's the clincher.... an astronaut sharing pan masala with his fellow-astronauts!!!!!

What makes it even more hilarious is the fact that the production values of this ad are impeccable, so clearly a lot of money has been poured into the campaign. It's not like one of those tacky pan masala ads. This means that the Rajnigandha folks seriously think that they have a chance cracking into the young premium segment. And a chance real enough to spend so much in the advertising.

What are they smoking......or chewing?

Bad Idea!!!

Very rarely does something cricket related that grates one's nerves have nothing to do with DD Sports or Tony Greig. The irritating music of 'Idea Cellular' that keeps playing every few seconds during the telecast of the India-Sri Lanka tests on Zee Sports is one such rare phenomenon.

The music sounds positively like a sample of the holocaust of the world's harp population.

Bad bad idea!

IIPM-vs-Blogs shifts to the regional media

Just read one of the best written articles about the whole IIPM fracas. It appeared in the 'Chatura' supplement of the Marathi daily 'Loksatta' which is part of the Indian Express group.

The article is titled "Uccha Shikshan Ghyayachay? Mag Saavadh!", which means "Interested in Higher Education? Then Beware!".

Do read.

Thanks Mahesh, for pointing it out.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Searching for Indian Communist Blogs

I have been trying to find out if there are any Indian bloggers who are avowedly Communist. No success. If you know any, mail me their links.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Ramanand says

Read this great post written by Ramanand about Ganguly's exclusion. He disagrees with my post and defends Dravid. Makes a few great points.


A few months ago, somebody mentioned a British show on weekends on Star World called "Coupling" and described it as a British 'FRIENDS'. I don't know exactly when it moved to monday nights, but a couple of weeks back I saw an episode, and saw another one yesterday.

The show is pure gold! It is not too much like FRIENDS, except for the fact that it's about 3 guys and 3 girls. In content, tone and characterisation it's actually a lot closer to Seinfeld, in the sense that it has a lot more layers than FRIENDS. But it is also very real, and not in the farcial domain like Seinfeld. Again, like Seinfeld, it is a show that makes you laugh out loud and long.

Ever since Frasier, FRIENDS, and Everybody Loves Raymond wound up last year, and every good show has something to do with Reality, I thought the age of the great sitcoms is dead. Here is a British one that keeps the comedy flag flying though.

Brilliant show, and needs to be promoted a lot better by Star. Watch it, Monday nights.


Here is my response to Chetan. I am speaking for myself and not the Cartel as a whole.

1. Logical Fallacies
If someone makes logical fallacies during debates, we call them. If we make them, we have no problems in their being called. But reacting to our pointing out of logical fallacies by just ridiculing us, is itself another logical fallacy. I notice that though Chetan has pointed out fallacies galore in posts we may have linked to, he still hasn't pointed out fallacies in stuff we ourselves have written.

2. Fallacies by Libertarians other than us
Chetan has pointed out fallacies by many other libertarians and asked us why we do not point those out. Dude, what business are we in? We are not logic vigilantes. We don't wear capes and prowl the streets at night preventing logical fallacies. If someone makes a logical fallacy while arguing with us, we'll point it out. If we make one, we'll accept responsibility for it. But if some other libertarians are making logial fallacies, why should we go about correcting them? It's the job of opponents of libertarianism.

3. No critical thinking about our own theories
Again, not true. Within the cartel, there are folks who adhere to different philosophies. Yazad and Chandru are anar-cap-lib, while most of the others are minarchists. Just a few days back I wrote a post about this. A few months back, I also wrote a post about a dilemma I faced because of the Imrana issue, something that Shanti linked to last week.

4. Anger at caricaturing the cartel
Chetan kept repeating this point again and again. Which Cartelian, at what point, reacted with anger at the Cartel being caricatured? Go ahead and caricature us. If caricatures are backed by solid critiques, like for Bidwai and A-Roy, those caricatures hold substance and endure. If not, they wither away.

5. Libertarian policies can never be "fully' implemented
Even if we grant this point for the sake of the argument, look at the points we make. Are we calling for an overthrow of the government? Hardly. In every field, we ask for a freer society and a freer economy. The free-est society is obviously our ideal, but we don't go about pushing that exact ideal down people's throat, do we? But if that ideal is attacked, we will obviously defend it.

6. Why not take a more centrist position?
Because my friend, we don't swing that way. Asking for accountability from the government is fine. I am never going to oppose that. I am just saying it is futile.

7. Sudhir Mishra
Dude, I know he's a leftist. Everyone knows he's a leftist. His interviews clearly indicate that. Which is what makes HKA an even better movie in my eyes that if it had been made by a non-leftist. And in our admiration of HKA lies our vindication.

These are responses to all the points you have made about me, or the cartel.

Rest of the comment is by and large a collection of your beliefs about politics and economics, which you are entitled to. I don't agree with most of the points you make though.

How is Kumble different?

Something happened in the Delhi test that I really enjoyed. Anil Kumble outshone Muttiah Muralitharan.

Bith are great bowlers as I have written earlier, but are so different. One being a leggie and the other an offie is just the first point of difference.

Batsmen are wary of each and every ball that Murali bowls. The prodigious spin by itself is enough for foxing a lesser batsman. Now he also has the doosra. To illustrate my point more clearly, if Murali was a fast bowler, he would be someone who keeps attacking the stumps at torrid pace. So the batsmen are busy keeping each and every ball out. Thus Murali is a bit like Shoaib Akhtar.

Kumble however is different. Most of his deliveries are safe ones that even a tail-ender can easily negotiate. But it's one or two deliveries that end up being wicket-taking ones.

When a batsman is dismissed to a Murali delivery, often he isn't dismissed because he didn't know how to play the delivery. It was the execution that went wrong. But when a batsman is out to Kumble, it's mostly because he had no idea how to negotiate that particular delivery.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Hi Chetan!

Just read the comment Chetan has posted on Desipundit about the Mall Road debate about regulations. It is a comment written after a lot of thought and deserves a similar response. Have made this post to promise Chetan a response as soon as possible, because I am a bit swamped right now.

I'll make two points though -

1. I vociferously, loudly and vehemently disagree with Shivam and Mridula being termed anti-free-market. Terming them that is, if I may invoke another logical fallacy, building a strawman. Shivam and Mridula believe in some minor level of regulation which also incorporates accountability. That, by no stretch of imagination, makes them anti-free-market. No one has a copyright on the term "free market", and the position adopted by Shivam and Mridula may also be considered as free market by many. It is not as free as I would ideally like it to be, but that sort of set-up would still be a thousand times freer than the current set-up, and if in my life-time India manages to bring even that about, I would die by and large satisfied.

2. About my No-Comments policy which Chetan has spoken about it extensively. I've said this earlier but it bears repititon (maybe I should put a permanent explanation on the sidebar) - The no-comments thing started out as an anti-troll measure. And very frankly, the policy highlights my flaws. Ideally I would love to be a cool, calm and collected unflappable sort of a dude who brushes off abuse and insistent trolling. But I'm not. I am emotional and passionate about what I write. So abusive trolling affects me. At times even long debates which are not necessarily abusive, but extremely fallacious and stubborn affect me to an extent.

Now here's the thing. Blogging is a passion for me, but it is not my livelihood. In addition to that, my line of work is such that I can't multi-task blogging with it. If I was a writer by profession, i could view blogging as an extension of it. But I am not. So for blogging, I have to take out time apart from my work, and my personal life. That sort of time is simply not enough for me to write log posts, AND debate/defend them. Now the thing is, I have been debating since I was a kid. So it is ingrained in me to get my point across. And if my opponent is commiting a fallacy, I can't sit silent without pointing it out. So if during a debate, my opponent indulges in a lot of fallacies, goal-shifting and sophistry, even while not getting abusive, it takes a lot of my time and mental energy to respond to it. I HAVE TO respond. Can't help it.

Now here's another thing. We had a Prof at IIML whose favourite dialogue was "What business are we in?". The point of this dialogue was to remind us that in business, we should never lose sight of what our ultimate goal is. So if I ask myself, "What business is Vantage Point in?", i.e with what objective did I set up this blog? The primary objective was, me expressing myself, writing about things that move me, interest me, amuse me, infuriate me...... I make no bones about it.... this blog is all about ME. i don't describe my daily routine, but i do write about MY take on issues. Now if in addition to that, there was some debate happening among folks commenting on my blog, that was fine. But after a couple of years of blogging, the debate started affecting the primary objective. This blog is not in the business of debates. Some bloggers do think of their blogs as places where they can have debates on issues. I am not one who thinks of it as a primary motive. And if it was a primary motive, it had to go.

From my personal point of view, life became a lot simpler after I did away with the comments. As I said, the primary deterrents were the abusive comments, which I didn't have the time or the continuous connectivity to moderate. But this other point is what made me keep the no-comments policy in place.

As far as reader feedback is concerned, I still get it via email and believe me, it is of great quality. I often post a good piece of feedback(though not often enough...note to self - restart the weekly feedback round-up thing). So that is another front which I don't have to worry about. I am not losing out on feedback.

So from a personal point of view, "no-comments policy" was the best decision I took with regards to this blog. And hence I am sticking to it. However in the last few weeks, I have thought of starting a debate-only blog, where I will mirror the posts on which I would like to see a healthy debate. Maybe I will start it soon. So watch this space.

This post turned out to be longer than I thought, and so I need to run. Next post, I promise, a response to other points made by Chetan.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Bastian's Back!

Gautam Bastian returns to blogging. Read this great post.

Friday, December 16, 2005


This ad for the Bombay Ad Club's MAD Quiz reminds me of some other ad. I wonder which...... :-P

(Hat-tip: Kaps)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Professional Commentators

Reading this post by Zainub on Different Strokes, one can't help but wonder why is it that, even though the best cricket writers in the world are not former test cricketers, we expect commentators, consisting mostly out of former test cricketers, to be great at their jobs?

I think producers of cricket boradcasts need to think long and hard about their philosophy behind selecting commentators. As of now it seems like the qualifications are -

- Must have played test cricket
- Must be able to speak decent english
- Must be willing to become a commentator

I wonder if they use any other criteria. The creativity, erudition, wittiness, vocabulary... I wonder if any of it is considered. I really doubt it. Why else would Tony Greig still get commentary gigs when 90% of what he says can be summed up in the following set of phrases - ("in comes the throw", "he's hit it hiiiiigh", "correction"). Why else would the entire Channel Nine commentary team keep reminding me of that Star Wars episode - Attack of the Clones? Why else would Mike Atherton, Robin Jackman, Bob Willis, Arun Lal, Ravi Shastri etc be considered good commentators?

A former test cricketer as a commentator makes sense only when he has a bagful of stories and anecdotes to narrate. Ian Chappell is a great example. Or else you need a cricketer who is also good with the language. Two completely different names come to mind - Richie Benaud, who can fit in maximum punch in the minimum number of words, and Navjyot Singh Sidhu, who genuinely makes an effort to keep coming up with newer phrases. However Sidhu loves the sound of his own voice too much to be a good commentator.

The best commentator in world cricket is someone who has played no first class cricket. In fact he is an MBA - Harsha Bhogle. What makes Harsha great is the fact that he is great with the language, is a great listener, and can strike up a great conversation with his co-commentator at any stage of the game.

TV producers need to find more commentators like Harsha Bhogle. ESPN's reality show, Harsha ki Khoj, disappointingly enough ended up finding TV anchors for the channel rather than commentators. An ideal combination in the commentary box is someone like Harsha, and someone like Ian Chappell or Boycott. The combination of analysis, cricketing anecdotes, and a cliche-ridden commentary is what will result.

"Dravid is an honourable man" or "Beware of the Ides of December"

As you can guess from the title, I am drawing inevitable historic-literary parallels. It would be hard to not think of Ganguly as Caesar and Dravid as Brutus. And it in this parallel that lies a big lesson for Rahul Dravid.

Brutus, addressing the people of Rome for the first time after caesar's murder said,

If there be any in this assembly, any dear friend of Caesar's, to him I say, that Brutus' love to Caesar was no less than his. If then that friend demand why Brutus rose against Caesar, this is my answer: --Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more. Had you rather Caesar were living and die all slaves, than that Caesar were dead, to live all free men? As Caesar loved me, I weep for him; as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was valiant, I honour him: but, as he was ambitious, I slew him. There is tears for his love; joy for his fortune; honour for his valour; and death for his ambition.

Dravid too may well give this defence....
(Read the rest of the entry at Different Strokes, the Cricinfo Blog)


I am utterly baffled over this unnecessary controversy that the Indian selectors have gotten themselves into. They have dropped Sourav Ganguly from the team for the third test match. Thus the bizarre drama, which started with his selection in the team for the first two tests as an "all rounder"(!!) has ended on a note that would actually earn Ganguly a lot of sympathy. In fact the latest SMS poll on Aaj-Tak shows that 75% respondents feel that the decision to drop him was wrong.

Let's go through this drama once more to see if we have it clear. Ganguly brings dirty linen out in the public and pretends to scrub it. Chappell writes a loooooong mail lambasting Ganguly in every possible way. BCCI, then run by Ganguly-supporters, engineers a "truce" between the two after a long hearing. Ganguly then gets injured and isn't picked for the one-day team. Dravid is named captain for 12 ODIs at a stretch, and Ganguly isn't picked in the ODI squad even when he regains fitness. Team wins 8 matches and loses 3. Dravid effectively full-time captain. One of the losses at Kolkatta, where crowd boos the Indian team. Ganguly's ODI career over for all practical purposes.

Meanwhile Sharad Pawar wins the BCCI election, and Ganguly-supporters lose. Expected turn of events - Ganguly will be dropped from the test squad, will announce retirement, take up commentary, etc.

Then comes the first twist in the tale. Selectors name Dravid as captain of the test squad, but pick Ganguly in the squad! What's more, only two seamers are picked, implying that Ganguly will be the third seamer if required.

First test rained out, Ganguly gets a low score, but then, so does the whole team.

Second test. Ganguly makes 40 runs at a very crucial stage in partnership with Tendulkar. In the process looks more composed than ever during the last year or so. Starts middling the ball. Second innings. Again, scores 39 important runs at a very crucial stage. Chappell says Ganguly will be "mentor" for the team(the rate at which Chappell is anointing mentors, they will soon outnumber the mentees).

Now if Ganguly's stock was listed on the BSE, I am sure its price would have gone up after this test match, as compared to before the first test. But for some utterly bizarre reason, the selectors dropped him from the squad for the third test. Why? Some spiel about letting Yuvraj settle down at No. 6 is given.

I wonder if the real reason was this - they knew that in cricketing terms, they had no reason to drop him before the first test. His last test innings was a hundred. He had also got good scores in the Duleep Trophy. So the selectors decided to pick him, and take a gamble. They bet he would fail, giving them a solid reason to drop him later. He didn't fail, but he didn't get a very big score either. Plus he seems to be in okayish touch. What if he gets a hundred in the enxt test? That would make it impossible to drop him. One gambled had already backfired. The selectors decided to axe him now, and take a limited "YOU DROPPED HIM EVEN AFTER HE SCORED 40???" type backlash rather than lose another gamble and face a "YOU DROPPED HIM AFTER HE SCORED A HUNDRED???" type.


I think this is a very shabby way to treat Ganguly. Granted he's made some mistakes in the last few months, but he has done enough for Indian cricket to go out with dignity. He played well in this test. If the selectors were so sure that he doesn't fit in the plan for the future, they should have told him so, and given him the option to declare his retirement. But they chose instead to humiliate him like this. I get the feeling that the next time Ganguly and Dhanraj Pillay run into each other, they will have a lot to talk about.

Free Riders

A particular species of human beings that makes its existence known only in business schools is the 'Free Rider'.

In b-schools, they give you a project or a term paper for almost every subject. And almost every project or term paper is to be written in groups. The free rider is someone who manages to avoid work with the deftness with which Fardeen Khan avoids acting. However, he/she is part of the group and so ends up getting the same marks for the project as everyone else, people who did work on it.

The tactics employed by the free riders to avoid work are astounding and manifold. Excuses range from a myserious illness, to an urgent visit to the city, to a visit from the significant other, to something as bizarre as denying having received any emails at all. Follow-up, pleading, cajoling, threatening them is of no use. They are as assured of marks as an Indian babu is of his job security. The slightly less rhino-skinned free riders will take up the responsibility of formatting the final draft of the report, taking its printouts and submitting it.

First year, and especially the first two terms are very tricky, because that's when you discover this free rider phenomenon, and identify those batchmates who fit the bill. Due to the lack of information in first year, free riders have a great time. But the second year is what separates the really hardcore free riders from the amateurs.

By second year everyone knows who the free riders are. Plus second year is mainly made up of elective courses. So not only do you have greater freedom in choosing your group members, but you also possess knowledge of whom to not choose.

So all the free-riders find themselves being put out to dry. Naturally it forces all the free-riders to form a group. The group is always mentioned by others with ill-concealed sniggers, and their presentation is always scrutinised and debated in greater detail.

It is from this group of free-riders that, as if cast from the pure molten evil of Mt. Doom in Mordor, emerges 'The One Free Rider'. He/she is the purest of all free riders, one whom even a group of free-riders can't compel to work. And if this person is not picked even by the free-rider group, he/she possesses enough acumen to survive via other demonic means.

Once all the groups have been formed, and he/she hasn't been included in any of them, this is what is done. The group with the nicest folks is identified. Then the Prof is sent a mail saying "SOrry sir, I forgot to enter my name in the sheet of paper with group divisions. I am in Group number 8." The Prof duly notes this down. Then the nicest member of this nice group is approached, and told "I didn't have a group, so the Prof alloted me to yours." The nice one obviously has to pass on this news to the other members, who shrug and ebar with it. Anyway, they had chosen all the members. An extra one won't add any value(obviously!) but won't cause much harm either.

"The One" obviously avoids all project meetings, and anything that resembles work, and yet manages to get a decent grade on the project.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

SomeAchaar - Delhi to be renamed

New Delhi - The Chief Minister of Delhi Sheila Dixit announced today that the capital of the country will change its name back to what it was in the pre-colonial-pre-mughal-pre-sultan-pre-everything-else-except-Mahabharat days. However there is no consensus on the exact name that should be chosen.

After the renaming of all major Indian cities in the last decade, Delhi is feeling left out, Dixit said. Bombay became Mumbai, Madras became Chennai, Calcutta became Kolkatta, and just a couple of days back, it was announced that Bangalore would become Bengaluru. Dixit says, this made everyone focus their sights on Delhi, since it was the oldest city in India. The Congress proposes that Delhi be renamed Hastinapur, since it was the capital of the dynasty of the Kurus from Mahabharat.

"Delhi is a name that indicates our mental slavery at the hands of our former colonialists and conquerers. The oldest name of the city is Hastinapur and we shall initiate the legislative procedure to effect the name change immediately", Dixit said.

However controversy erupted after the BJP strongly opposed the choice of the name. Senior BJP leader from Delhi, Madanlala Khurana said,

"We support the idea of a name change. In fact the idea for a name change was originally BJP's. However we think that the city should be renamed Indraprastha, since there is historical, archeological and mythological evidence to prove that Delhi was actually the site of the Pandavas' new capital."

The BJP has threatened a nation-wide agitation to garner support for the name 'Indraprastha'. Khurana also spoke about taking the case to court, and bringing in the ASI(Archaeological Survey of India) to excavate in locations all over Delhi and settle the issue.

The Left meanwhile opposed both names.

"The BJP's communal intentions are clear from their support for the name Indraprastha, which refers to a Hindu god. To preserve the secular nature of this country, we will never allow it to be named Indraprastha", thundered Sitaram Yechury of the CPI(M). He was not very enthusiastic about the name Hastinapur either.

"If anything, we propose the name be changed to Leningrad. The great Vladimir Ilyich is now no longer respected in his own country Russia. At the same time his idelogical contributions to the cause of the Indian people is immense."

It will be interesting to see which name is finally chosen.

Ball of the Century

The ball that dismissed Mahendra Singh Dhoni in the first innings of the Delhi test is, according to me, the ball of the century, and one of the all time greats.

The ball pitched slightly outside leg stump, and Dhoni went on the front-foot and presented a defensive face of the bat. The ball spun sharply away from him, travelled a few inches outside the line of his bat, and crahes into top of the off-stump.

What makes it the ball of the century is the fact that it was an off-spinner's doosra.

Anarcho-Capitalist-Libertarianism vs Communism

I am not a Communist.
I am not an Anarch-Capitalist-Libertarian(ACL) either.

I told this to a friend in office today, and his reaction was, "Yes, both are very Utopian ideas, utterly impractical, as we saw from the collapse of the Soviet Union".

Well, not really, I said to him. According to me, ACL is indeed a Utopian idea. Ideally I would love to live in an ACL world, but I don't think it is a sustainable....even attainable.... state. But if I were to be born in a happy sustained ACL society, I would love it.

My dislike for communism has nothing to do with its impracticality. I don;t think Communism is a Utopian idea. In fact, I think the exact opposite. I think its a pretty Dystopian idea. The failure of the Soviet Union may be dismissed as "wrong implementation" by Communists. But for me, a perfectly implemented Communist state would be a more scary place than a flawed one.

My problem with most Leftists I have encountered throughout my life, is the fact that their arguments are always full of fallacies galore. I wonder why that is. It is by and large possible to defend Leftist or Communist thoughts logically, without committing any fallacies. Eventually, they will end up at the same age-old question -

"Which is more important - Freedom or Equality?"

And they will give the wrong answer - equality.

But at least until they come to this question, they should stick to logic.

Monday, December 12, 2005

On Advani's Blog...

Q - What feature would not be enabled on L.K.Advani's blog?
A - RSS Feeds

Sunday, December 11, 2005

ICC gets Medieval-er

The ICC issued a statement about players' behaviour yesterday.

(ICC).. warned that umpires and match referees would not allow the spirit of the game to be compromised.

Of course not, they hate competition!! Wouldn't Darrel Hair, Steve Bucknor etc be piqued if their monopoly over compromising the spirit of the game were to be broken?

Here's something funny I found later on in the news report -

Since the start of November, eight players and officials have been found guilty of ICC code of conduct breaches, twice the number of guilty verdicts in the same period last year.

Officials? What officials? Pray share with us which officials have been held accountable for anything they did? Darrel Hair continues to be on the ICC panel of umpires though he clearly demonstrated he doesn't even know the laws of the game.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Comment of the week...

.. comes from Cricinfo's Anand Vasu. He produces a gem during an unlikely assignment, that of "reviewing" the new Kotla stadium. He writes -

Not unlike college students who take to activism and politics simply because it's fashionable, the pavilion is left of centre.

Wisden Cricinfo - the only place where you get to read good cricket writing by Indians.

Three and Five....Thirty Five

A tired but relentless Chaminda Vaas ran in to to bowl his 124th delivery of the day. Kumar Sangakkara was standing close to the stumps. The bowl pitched slightly outside leg stump and a bit short, and Sachin Tendulkar deftly turned the ball towards the vacant square leg region. He took a couple of steps and punched the air in delight. Punching the air in delight was not Sachin alone, but also millions of his fans all over the world.

The elusive 35th century, which had been fidgeting outside the door since over a year finally blew the door apart and joined the party. Deservingly, it was the longest celebration demonstrated by Sachin in the field, stretching for about 30 seconds. The Indian dressing room, led by skipper Rahul Dravid, leapt up in joy. Saurav Ganguly, his partner walked up and gave him a hug. The wait was over. The leading century maker was a tag now held by just one Indian instead of two.

As if acknowledging that the century is what the world was waiting for, the umpires walked up to the batsmen and offered them the light. They took it and the curtains came down on a day that belonged well and truly to India.

Dare I...

.. speculate once again about the much awaited return-to-form of Sourav Ganguly even as he is at the crease? This blog has done so in the past, only to be popat-ed (a slang which is almost impossible to translate) by a prompt dismissal. Have been popat-ed on many other occasions as well when I have sms-ed Harish and Amit similar optimistic speculations.

Ganguly is on 22 right now, and a good Vaas delivery hit the middle of his bat and hurried to the cover fence a while back. Hope for a characteristically fluent century from him, and not a scratchy one like in Zimbabwe, through which he lowered the bar for himself so much that even this blog felt compelled to "withdraw support".

At the other end, Tendulkar is on a cautious-but-fluent 51. Promising session ahead.

Flight of the Kiwis

Everyone was talking about how the Kiwis almost pulled off a thrilling mammoth chase against the Australians. In this match, the flying Kiwis took the "almost" out and achieved what seemed impossible. A friend of mine just called me and said he changed the channel after Styric was dismissed and the Kiwis were 8 down, with 74 needed in 7 overs. I did too, but I kept switching back, and was witness to something remarkable as McCullum and Vettori created history, that too with an over to spare.

And one of the oldest cliches of the game is drilled into Lewis' head - The game is a great leveler.

Avoid Deferred Disappointment

Writing in the Times of India, Subroto Bagchi, the COO of Mindtree Consulting, says it perfectly in this column - Mostly Bad Apples.

My own thoughts on the subject are almost identical.

After the whole IIPM saga, several people mailed me or called me, asking, so are you taking any steps to get IIPM banned or shut down. Is there any way we can take legal steps to close down the institution?

As someone who believes in the free-market, I have never wished the closure of IIPM, at least by the government. Which is why when Bagchi says -

It will take serious action not by the regulators, but by prospective students and their guardians themselves. At times they are as much to blame.

I agree. Before investing lakhs of rupees in an MBA education, it is the responsibility of students and parents to check out the institution. Caveat emptor, as they say. So before spending so much money, find out a few things about the institute. Ask around, talk to b-school students from that place as well as other more reputed schools. It is from existing b-school students and alumni that you will get a frank appraisal of b-schools.

Another thing that bothers me is our obsession with "gori chamdi". Yes, the West has accomplished a lot, and can teach us a lot. They have several great institutions that are pioneers in all fields. But that doesn't mean ALL foreign institutions are great. But most of us Indians, with our colonial hangover, get excited if we see a foreign name. A "tie-up" with a foreign university is seen as a mark of quality. So several colleges misuse this hangover to upsell their courses. As Bagchi writes

Parents, please do not get carried away with “foreign affiliation.’’ This is the last vestige of our colonial mindset. If something is not inherently good, a so-called foreign affiliation does not purify it with pigmentation. The best way for you to determine if an institute could add value to your ward is to find out what jobs some of the students of the previous three graduating classes have landed. Meet some of these people and ask them probing questions about the faculty and what value the institute added in helping them to get their jobs. If the answers are not forthcoming and yet you want to admit your ward to the MBA course, know that you are buying just deferred disappointment.

So parents and students need to be more aware before taking admission to a course. This is the fact-finding template I recommend -

1. Read the ad of the institute carefully, and keep your eyes peeled for any small print.
2. Google the institute's name, and find out more about it.
3. If they claim to have tie-ups with foreign universities, e.g IMI Belgium, google that too, and find out how good or bad that foreign university is.
4. If they claim to have tie-ups with reputed names like Harvard, Wharton etc, enquire more about the exact nature of the tie-up. The best thing to do is to email the reputed name and ask them the nature of their relationship with the institute. Similarly if you see a big name like Philip Kotler used in an ad, mail them and ask them too. What some institutes like IIPM do is, pay someone like Kotler a lot of money to come to India and give a lecture to professionals, for which professionals are charged as well. Along with professionals, IIPM students will attend the lecture. And just on the basis of this, they will state in their ads that IIPM students are taught by faculty such as Kotler from schools like Kellogg. Parents and students need to realise that this is a lot different from ISB Hyderabad where professors from reputed universities actually come and conduct classes. To attend one of the sessions of foreign authors that IIPM conducts, you don't need to study there. You can just pay the registration charges for that session.
5. Speak to at least 10 current or previous students of the institute.
6. Speak to at least 10 alumni or students of other b-schools. They will give you a frank opinion, even if it isn't their own alma mater. For example, I am from an IIM, but if someone asked my advice about MDI, NMIMS, JBIMS, SPJIMR, MICA or IIFT, I would give those places a thumbs up.
7. Also, take the opinion of someone senior in coaching institutes like IMS, Career Forum, Career Launcher, Bullseye etc. It is in their business interest to give the correct advice.

If parents/students do all the above things, they can avoid what Bagchi succinctly terms as "deferred disappointment".

Friday, December 09, 2005

Great Feedback

Romit Choudhury sent me the following mail in response to my posts on Che Guevara. Good stuff. Read it -

Romit Choudhury to me
Dec 8 (14 hours ago)


I regularly follow your blog.Few weeks back had the pleasure of glossing over your article about Che. Pretty nicely put through esp. the almost melodramatic way in which you arrived at the topic- pulling all ropes right from Bush's drawer to Osamas turban before zeroing on Che's beard !

Like zillions of wannabe souls, i have grown up adoring those poster boys of rebel(che lennon et all.)
However now tiptoe-ing at the verge of actual social work, the realization sinks in fast-its pretty romantic to possess "kool" rebellion T shirts with overgrwon hair and loads of pot-that does not alter the ground scenario-people in hunger don't need (urbane) attitude -they need food.

As a worthy yankee friend of mine told-
Most of the hippies returned to become middle aged bankers and pot bellied papas thanking Bush for saving America.

I believe in REFORM not in REVOLUTION. The first is a painstakingly slow process requring immense sacrifice on the behalf of the volunteers to enlighten the masses while the other is a surefire way to populism that more often than not fails to produce any long term impact-dissolving into petty anarchy-digressing midway only to defeat the purposes it set out to upheld.

My home state Bengal is an example of that bearing the brunt of Naxalite movement -which though well meaning-after four bloodbathed years had a blank scorecard on display.

We need Mother Teresas and Medha Patekars, Maheshweta Devis and Muhammad Yunus (founder-grameen bank) to achieve those humane ideals of equality and freedom.

So while forever admiring the genius of "Lennon - the musician" i have reservations about "Lennon - the mutinous".

Romit Choudhury

1) And tragic death is another shock that etches one in the public mind
"Once you are dead you are made for life !" - as MR Jimmy Hendrix told!
2) There is a brilliant novel by Tarashonkor Bondhopadhay called "Dhaatridebota" sketching the war between quickfire action and all round developement against the backdrop of the Freedom Struggle.I don't know whether there is an English translation,but it will be a worthy read for anyone interested in the subject.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Date Seinfeld, Make it Big

Watching the latest episode of Seinfeld - The Implant, on Star World yesterday, I realised that the actress whose breasts are a subject of great enquiry during the entire episode, is none other than a much younger, and I daresay much hotter Teri Hatcher. Teri Hatcher nowadays is the top billed star in the latest hit TV show Desperate Housewives.

She was the latest addition to a list of actresses who dated Jerry on-screen and then went on to get big roles in hit TV shows themselves.

Off the top of my head I can recall the following -

-Courtney Cox, who played Monica in FRIENDS, dates Jerry in the episode "The Wife" where the two start acting like a married couple.
-Debra Messing, who plays Grace on Will and Grace, dates Jerry during the unforgettable 'Yada Yada Yada' episode, and towards the end of the episode, is revealed to be anti-semitic. Ironic, considering the fact that Grace is Jewish.
-Jane Leeves, who plays Daphne on Fraiser, is Jerry's girl in two more legendary episodes - The Virgin and The Bet.
-Lori Loughlin, who played Rebecca on Full House, dates Jerry in another landmark episode - Serenity Now. However she played this part after Full House wound up.
-Marcia Cross, another Desperate Housewife Bree, was Jerry's girl in The Slicer
-Amanda Peet, Jack from jack and Jill, has no made it to the movie. She dates Jerry in an episode too, but I don't remember which one.

So we see dating Jerry was a great career move. Dating George however does not seem as great. I can recall only one girl George dated becoming a key member of a sitcom. Christina Miller, who played Kate in the Drew Carey Show.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Chennai Battered

Chennai was battered by water. But this time, at least it wasn't sea water, so it will lead to a rise in the ground water levels.

But as if Chennai hadn't suffered already, it was forced to witness Tendulkar prod and poke around for 126 balls to score a laborious 22. A city which saw the master play some of his finest knocks was forced to watch as God tried to put himself to sleep.

I guess my post about the return of the king was premature.

A few bloglets

A few bloglets to round up all that I wished to blog over the past few days but could not due to several reasons.
Finally watched Sarkar. Had a good time watching it. Favourite bit of dialogue is when the big evil politician played by Ek-shunya-shunya(I refuse to call him by any other name) brags "Sarkar main chalata hoon, CM main hoon, inquiry commission bithegi, 2 din mein chhooT jaoonga", and Abhishek calmly responds "Main bhi yahi chahta hoon". Smooth!
Uma Bharti is beginning to resemble a headless chicken more and more as each day passes by. Some commentators in the media, like Vir Sanghvi have been portraying her as some sort of a principled sanyasin who was undone by the wily intrigues of intra-party politics. I think she was just plain outwitted at a game she played and miscalculated badly. Now for some hilarious reason, she is digging up the issue of Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin. I recommend a few years in the Himalayas for Miss Bharti. By that time Sonia would have made way for one of her kids and Bharti may be forced to think up a real issue.
The Shivsena situation is rather fascinating. Raj has openly revolted and has effectively burnt his bridges. If even after such a public outburst, he lets himself be sweet-talked into a "truce", he will meet the same fate as Uma Bharti and Saurav Ganguly. After such an outburst, a "truce" is facile. It never works in favour of the rebel. There is no way Raj can, will, and should join the Congress. The NCP is a possibility, albeit distant. And if he is thinking of following in the footsteps of his uncle and setting up a new party, he is vastly overestimating the strength, both of his followers as well as his ideology.
Time is running out for Ganguly. Considering the position at which he bats, he will get a chance to shut his critics up only if Sehwag, Sachin and Dravid fail. It happened in the first test, but instead of stroking a fifty and making a statement, he first ran VVS out, and then returned to the pavillion himself. Ganguly owes himself a dignified exit. Since he himself dug his own grave, the least he can do is pick out a pretty tombstone.
Oh yes, Vantage Point crossed the 3,00,000 mark a couple of days back. :)

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Oil for food scam...old hat

Ever since the Volcker Report came out and the controversy over the Oil for Food scam erupted, I was plagued by an uneasy sense of deja vu. I kept thinking, this wasn't the first time I had heard of this scam. Congress Party as a beneficiary of the Saddam regime.... it had a familiar ring to it. Then a feeling crept in that I read about it back when I was at IIML. Then a more specific peripheral detail - I had mentally tagged the news as a possible GD topic for my final placements. Then when I met Shanti in Mumbai a few weeks back, the bell rang loud and clear. I had read it on Shanti's blog, some time in my last term at IIML.

I made a mental note to search the posts and blog about them. But kept forgeting. Have finally remembered to do do so online, since I just heard about the ruckus in the Lok Sabha over the issue.

Here are the two posts -

This is too good!

It was about oil

I am really baffled as to why no one from the Indian media caught on to this story in a big way at that time, almost 2 years ago. Maybe because Congress was not in power, and so the story didn't seem as "sexy"? When a party just sits in the opposition, there's only so much news mileage to be extracted out of embarassing it. No high profile resignations, no probes or anything.

Damn you, Inzy!

Damn you, Inzamam-ul-Haq! Why can't you be meaner, spew venom and act hostile? You and you men are slowly killing off one of the most mouth-watering rivalry franchises in sports today. You and your men are taking the sheen off the India-Pakistan rivalry.

Remember the sentiment surrounding any India-Pakistan cricket match in the 80s and 90s? A more explosive mix of jingoism and pure hatred would be tougher to find even in the 1930s in Germany. We hated the Pakistani players and every match became a war. People cried and tore their wigs out when close matches ended in the enemy's pocket. Pakistanis celebrated India's defeat to Sri Lanka in the 1996 World Cup semi-finals, and Indians were ecstatic at Australia thrashing Pakistan in the 1999 final.

After 1999, terrorism touched new heights. In addition, the men in Delhi donned saffron, while the men in Islamabad donned fatigues. Cricket ties were suspended for almost half a decade. But then 9/11 happened. 13/12 happened. The saffron tinge got milder and the fatigues expressed a desire to be replaced by salwar-kurtas. India and Pakistan started playing cricket again.

But hello, what on earth was this? Where was the edge? Where was the venom? The change in the nature of the India-Pakistan rivalry was nothing less than a tectonic shift. People on both sides of the border started treating it like just a cricket rivalry rather than a war. It became tame, even threatening to be tamer than the much-hyped-but-actually-tepid-and-wannabe ANZACS rivalry.

I blame Inzamam-ul-Haq!

The guy is just so damn nice. It just isn't possible to hate him. And once the captain is so nice and conciliatory, the team finds it very tough to adopt a belligerent attitude. It's all about the captains and the key players.

Remember, the edge to the rivalry was added by two gentlemen named Imran Khan and Javed Miandad. Imran Khan did it more explicitly, with his born-again-Muslim attitude. He was spewing the word 'jihad' even back in those days when Osama and Saddam were American "friends". He said Pakistani players treat every match against India as jihad. The supremo of the then-ascendant Shiv Sena latched on to this dialogue, and whipped up frenzy. Javed Miandad, with his last-ball six and his pugnacious attitude on field which he proudly displayed on television, was Ayman-Al-Zawahiri to Imran's Osama, in the mind of the Indians. Then there was a battery of pace bowlers, all breathing fire, and crushing Indian toes. The annual Sharjah circus kept sharpening the edge. Expat jingoism is always more expressive. The procession of Pakistani captains in the 90s was made up of followers of Imran, and be it Wasim AKram, Aamir SOhail or Rashid Latif, they all were obviosuly more charged up when the opponent was India.

Then along came 2004. Cricketing ties were restored. India agreed to play a full series in Pakistan, sending a message to other sides which had been cancelling tours post-9/11 that the place is quite safe after all. With a new and more cautious peace-process in place, there was guarded optimism. And of course, Inzy was at the helm.

Inzamam is one of my favourite players of all time. His lazy genius, his unflappable marshalling skills, and the ease with which he changes gears makes him a delight to watch. Plus he is such a nice guy, with an almost child-like innocence. His obvious talent also ensures that his innings don't rankle Indian supporters as much as Javed Mianded who was always more gumption-n-grit than genius. Even his spearhead fast bowler, Shoaib Akhtar, for some reason has never really rattled India in the last few years. His other lieutenants Yousuf and Younis, are also not very demonstrative of a "jihadi" attitude, the way every key player under Imran was. And his best spinner is a Hindu!

Bah! How can one hate this Pakistan team? Which is why their coming from behind and levelling the test series and winning the one-day series last season were not treated like national calamities in India. The Indian fan at Bangalore stood up and applauded Pakistan's amazing comeback. And even today, most Indians find themselves appreciating the way Pakistan is dominating England. Cricket is outselling jingoism.

Where did it all start? Did it start at Chennai in 1999 when the crowd shocked the Pakistanis with a standing ovation? Did it start at Delhi in 1999 when Akram wore as big a smile as Anil Kumble while congratulating him for the 10-wicket prize?

I'm not sure, but the enmity in India-Pakistan cricket is, at best dead, and at worst hibernating.

I blame good ole Inzy!

Cross posted on the Cricinfo Blog - Different Strokes