Saturday, January 27, 2007

Incognito !

Fancy an Indian Captain, going unnoticed in a public place, not being mobbed by autograph hunters. Or a team player who will never be hauled up by his sponsors for mixing up the multiple brands he endorses on the field . Or the legions of girls who will never swoon over the triceps/quadriceps/ gluteus maximus of the center forward. A match not accompanied to the din of thousands of crazy cannibals (read sports fans) baying for blood ? Or a media that has no arm chair analysts to dissect performance ?

Bliss did you say ? Welcome to Indian Hockey ! I'm not exactly the neighborhood athlete, but two different experiences beg me to speak for them. The entire office that on any normal day can sit in front of their laptops till 10 pm seriously studying absurd emails is currently transplanted on the month end to the cricket stadium, screaming their throats hoarse leaving me all alone with my beloved pen.

And the second, a conversation at my office that showed me how big an ignoramus I can actually be, even without trying. Sample this:

Intro: Satish, meet Mr. Mohd Riaz, he’s an Arjuna Awardee

S : Wow ! That’s great Mr. Riaz

R: Thanks Satish .

S: But sir, what sport did you get the award for ?

R (stiffening ): Hockey .

S ( turning pink and finding a huge foot in his palate ) : Sorry Sir, my knowledge of hockey is a bit poor …

Upon beating a hasty retreat, a quick wikipedia search showed Mr. R to be the Captain of the Indian hockey team that made it to the 2000 Olympics. A part of me wonders even now, how we can turn our back to almost all of those souls who represent us, while immediately deifying those who constantly deceive our expectations.

The more sober me wonders when we shall learn to respect all of these men and women. But I live with the hope that some day all of us shall get our act together. Until we get our sensibilities straight, Mr. R and co. shall have to live with good-natured humiliation.

Ring for Jeeves !

Ever been in a fight and seen that knockout punch coming at you, tracing a trajectory to your plexus ? Or when the Indian cricket team lurches from cruising victory to abominable defeat ? And what about picking up that Math paper and all you can figure out from it is the D on the report card ?

Yup, that sinking feeling. On the surface things are sangfroid. Dive deep beneath, and the stomach is in a churn, the intestine in knots ,and the liver is AWOL . Reminds one of Bertie Wooster on his way for the seemingly definite trip to the altar ...

Saturday has left me searching for the restoratives . But how should I tackle it ? Fight or flight ?

No easy answers for this one.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A Tale of two Writers.

The last week has been a sad one for the Writer’s Republic. Two trees were felled, in different settings and differing circumstances.

Art Buchwald is no more with us. For the average reader, filled to the brim with all of life’s tragedies, Art came across as a breath of fresh air. Millions have hung on every column of his, filled as they were with incisive wit and humour. Art succeeded in converting every possible tragedy (including his slow death) with characteristic humour.

Sample some of his jewels:

A bad liver is to a Frenchman what a nervous breakdown is to an American. Everyone has had one and everyone wants to talk about it.
New York Herald Tribune (January 16, 1958)

Every time you think television has hit its lowest ebb, a new...program comes along to make you wonder where you thought the ebb was.
Have I Ever Lied to You? (1968)

People are broad-minded. They'll accept the fact that a person can be an alcoholic, a dope fiend, a wife beater and even a newspaperman, but if a man doesn't drive, there's something wrong with him.
Have I Ever Lied to You?

Just when you think there's nothing to write about, Nixon says, "I am not a crook." Jimmy Carter says, "I have lusted after women in my heart." President Reagan says, "I have just taken a urinalysis test, and I am not on dope."
Time magazine (September 29, 1986)

If you attack the establishment long enough and hard enough, they will make you a member of it.
International Herald Tribune (May 24, 1989)

People ask what I am really trying to do with humor. The answer is, 'I'm getting even.' ... For me, being funny is the best revenge.
Leaving Home (1995)

Whether it's the best of times or the worst of times, it's the only time we've got.

I'm having a swell time. The best time of my life.
About his dying

In the 90’s I remember eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Sunday Hindu paper to read what he had to say. As an avid fan, I can only say I shall miss him a lot.

Hrant Dink. Dink who? Until last week, I confess this would have been my response to this name. Not any more. Last week, this Turkish writer of Armenian descent was shot in broad daylight as he walked to his newspaper office. His crime? His outspoken attitude, especially on a controversial segment of Turkish past. While I’m no expert on history, this event coming just a week after I wrote about the Four Pillars of Respect, only goes on to buttress my resolve that the India I cherish has to be protected at all costs. Is there anyone listening out there?

I take leave with a few words from the last article of Hrant Dink, written this year before his death.
"For me, 2007 is likely to be a hard year. The trials will continue, new ones will be started. Who knows what other injustices I will be up against." – Hrant Dink.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

4 Pillars of Respect

Come one, come all ye cribbers of India Inc. Take an atlas and a compass. Place the sharp end on the dot that’s Delhi. Now cut a wide swathe such that your circle extends upto the boundaries of the EU. Now step back and look at the circle. How many countries in this “circle of hope” have regular elections? Or a vibrant fourth estate? An independent judiciary? An army that stays put in its barracks? Or all of the above? I pen my thoughts knowing that in some countries in this circle, for writing the last 2 posts, I could land in jail, have my teeth knocked out, or both. Or worse. Thus, to that accent faking johnnies, who cringe and wail about India, doing nothing else, I say - get a plane ticket out of here.

However, incorrigible MBA that I am, let me say “ On the other hand ...“ ( I just love saying that !) . On the other hand, there is very little else to talk home about. My beloved land lies buried deep under lies, politics, sex and greed beyond parallel. Dissent lives in the shadows, while intrigue basks in the warm Indian sun. In short, I’m an Indian in Wimpistan.

How have we come to such a pass? Where’s Gandhi? Asoka ? Swami Vivekanand ? Shivaji ? Ranjit Singh? Akbar? Tipu? The Buddha? Is all history a pack of lies? Did these people really spring from the land I walk today? Where is our way of life? Our culture? Morals? Why the morass despite potential? Where are our heroes?

Looking at all this, I believe what has made Wimpistan possible is a fundamental lack of respect amongst us minnows. Respect that leads to self - awareness, thence to humility and therefrom a desire to grow and achieve. What are desired are four pillars of respect, to build a strong society.

I believe these to be :

Respect for the aspirations of women.
Respect for our environment, our culture.
Respect for the laws of the land and its people.
Respect for the rights of the individual.

This is my litmus test for a true democracy and an Indian. We all have a long way to go to clear this test, but it is good to start today. The future is too precious to continue dithering.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007


Three letters that can mean a lifetime of privilege, power and the ghastly perks that go with it. It’s a divide – between the greaser and the greased palm. The difference between the long wait for passports, PAN, IT refunds and the mother of all mother documents a.k.a ration card and having them delivered to your residence. From gun toting guards, slavish cronies to salaaming bureaucrats and the world at your feet in general. In short, an India represented by a tiny icicle on the proverbial iceberg tip.

I write this trapped in a leafy one way of my beloved Adyar, opposite a V.I.P showroom waiting for the Prez AND the CM to pass us plebians. And pass they did, after 41 and 22 vehicles respectively had zoomed pass my humble car. (Yes, I counted them to kill time). Against the pale full moon, the Ambys’ looked ghostly and were they fast! I wonder if the speed was to put the miles between them and the urban squalor or for kicks. My heart goes out instantly to the great residents of Delhi who have to put up with 534 such holinesses not to mention an army of other such elite.

Where does all this splurging really take us? Do they see the millions at the bus stop with no vehicle to drive? Cant they see the slums, the potholes and the giant hoardings promising manna from heaven? If they only rolled down the windows they could also smell the perfume that wafts from our rivers, or what is left of them. It seems criminal that a nation of overwhelmingly poor people should pay for these excesses.

Why do I write about this? Because deep down I have to stand up to what is ridiculous. Its time to think of a change, and its all of us who need to act. Remember, somebody soon has to pay the bill for this party, and I have a feeling its going to be my generation.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Birth !

What is the recipe for this blog ? First, take one large generally empty brain. Next, expose it to some wonderful cinema and stuff it with star performances . Then immerse it in the sights and sounds of the lives of ordinary folk, no Movenpick and caffe latte please. Finally, add a generous dollop of advise from a tech-savvy lissome Lass . And voila - you have Wimpistan !

This burst of thought had its seed in an electrifying experience over 2 years back, aptly in a cinema complex. As a tall, dark, handsome (cinematic license this) member of a super aggressive MNC (who else )bank, my team got free tickets, popcorn and skirts to ogle for a must watch movie -Dev from our grovelling distributors. I must confess to have emerged from the hall, a changed man. As one who has grown in the splendid security of the South, and being a sales guy spouting the merits of an " India Shining" beyond compare, I saw a contrarian India . One that plundered and killed its own, for ends that were childish from the start. Logical thought held, one of these India could not exist. Rather, I saw two Indias, one all IT & cappuccino and the other with 10 hour load shedding and women abusers. Must I add, that seeing grown up men cry ( Big B breaks down in this Govind Nihlani movie ) is a powerful catalyst ?

Thoughts that reared their head again when I went on a vacation to interior India, last month and saw some of the gentlest people living in conditions that I thought were the stuff of history books. Girls reading in candlelight at night destined for a life of burden , entire villages with no electricity , the works. Thus was born Wimpistan, the brute India .

Hope came in the form of the Lass who initiated me to the power of the written word. After some initial hiccups, here I am. While I might struggle to find my feet ,and be truthful in word and soul ( I'm in sales, after all ! ) rest assured, this pen will not run dry !

To those who gawk and jeer, I have but this to say :

Blind may be I,
lame I was born with .
Deaf i am destined for,
Dumb I shall never become .