Archive for June, 2009

Just when you thought it was safe to get back… on the cricket field, along comes Shahid Afridi.
Now what was the need for Boom Boom (or should that be Big Mouth?) Afridi to say Indians didn’t want to play Pakistan in the World Cup? Has he forgotten that Indians did play Pakistan in a warm up and beat them quite convincingly?
Afridi’s blather comes just after the calm and composed Younis Khan made a fervent plea asking India and others not to boycott sports events in Pakistan, which I thought was a very rational request.
While I agree that the situation in Pakistan isn’t that hot to play with anything except AK-56 rifles and tanks, why penalize the players. I’ve always disliked sports being made a convenient scapegoat by pseudo patriotic politicians and Indo-Pak sports has been the casualty in this regard.
But coming back to Afridi – The first lesson he has to learn, if and when he becomes captain, is that whenever he opens his mouth, his feet must be far away from it, because at the present moment that’s where they are. He should realise that these verbal underarm deliveries do him and his country’s chances of returning to big time cricket more harm than good.
I have a sneaking admiration for the Pakistan cricket team and the manner in which they bull-dozed their way into the final of the T 20 World Cup and won the Cup. I guess when you rub someone’s nose to the ground too long, then that someone, if he has any self respect, is bound to stand up and fight back. And that is what the Pakistan team did.
I did tell my wife and son before the T 20 started that I had a gut feeling about Pakistan. I’m not boasting, just making a statement. Why did I feel that way? Probably, because I usually back the underdog and I thought if these guys had any pride and self respect they would hit back.
After the way they lost to India in the warm-up, I really thought they didn’t have it in them. For their sake, I hope this victory brings about some unity in their battle against the enemy that’s eating up Pakistan from the inside. Otherwise Mr Afridi can keep shooting his mouth off and all that will come out will be blanks.


Brits are racist. Americans are racist. Australians are racist. Yes, but what about us? It’s a bit like the pot calling the kettle black. Oops, sorry no pun intended.
Sure, a lot of people living in the US, Australia, and UK are colour conscious. But the thing is that a lot of them haven’t been exposed to cultures except their own. When another race of people come in, and start to interfere and take over their lives they react. When they haven’t stepped out of their little towns to even go shopping, what do you expect? A handful of teams from a few states play each other in some silly sport and they call it the ‘World Series’! So it’s not surprising that people from these ‘worlds’ have such a blinkered view of the rest. I guess that’s the problem numerous Australians face today.
Heck, till the World Trade Center became rubble, the US President didn’t know where Pakistan was. Let’s be honest, a lot of us were happy that 9/11 happened, not because we hated the yanks, but because they and a lot of other White nations woke up to the fact that there was another world outside of the USA with bigger problems than theirs. And now they too were forced to be a part of the problem.
We, Indians, on the other hand, have been exposed to different cultures and peoples, but our behaviour is downright disgraceful. Face it, for all the righteous indignation we Indians drum up when faced with the uncomfortable truth, we are just a bunch of hypocrites. We have a gender bias that goes to the extremes. We are colour, race & caste conscious. In fact, in India racism has become a fashion statement.
Why, we don’t spare even our own.
When my best friend wanted to marry an African national, and told her family and friends about it, most of them went ballistic. But she went ahead and married the guy anyway, migrated to London and now they have the cutest little son. But I know what she had to hear when she made the decision and, coming from people who were supposedly very liberal-minded, it was pretty weird.
I know of someone who told me that her grandmother never forgave her mother for not being fair-complexioned enough (how much is ‘enough’?), to the extent of insulting her quite openly in family gatherings. And this lady is from the Konkan, a region that prides itself for its fair-skinned men and women.
We label people Madrasis, Biharis, Sindhis, Bengalis or Bhaiyyas and it’s used more as an insult than as a way to denote the region they come from. Anyone south of the Vindhyas is a Madrasi, and never mind if it includes Kannadigas and malayalees! Some of my cousins from the South, who are as fair as can be, have been asked if they are really from the South, because all South Indians are dark-skinned, aren’t they? And what about the Punjabis who call anyone and everyone who’s not like them “woh kaale log.”
I once worked for an organisation where bigotry had been made into an art form. The day I joined the company quite a few of the staffers came up to greet me. A while later, another group of staffers met me and said they were “happy to meet a Kayasth” just like them. Even as I was wondering about that remark, I was ‘advised’ who I should socialize with and who I should generally stay away from! I hadn’t known till then that I was a kayasth and didn’t really care.
So I did the next best thing, I went straight to one of the persons they had asked me not to socialize with, and shook the guy’s hand. I chatted with him and others on the ‘banned list’ for a while before returning to my cubicle. To describe the look on the faces of some people is something that even money can’t buy!

A long time ago Mohinder Amarnath called the selectors a bunch of jokers. I think that epithet can now be used for some sections of the media. Now that India is out of the T20, the ‘experts’ in the media have started pointing out skipper Dhoni’s mistakes. So why did he send Jadeja before Yuvraj? Why did he give Ishant the extra over. Why did he send in Raina? etc etc.

The way the Indian media has handled the Sehwag issue and now India’s exit from the Cup, has shown that they have neither the maturity nor the experience to wield a pen or a microphone.
Maybe, Dhoni should have consulted the experts in the press box before he went for the toss. Maybe he should do so from now on? After all, these clowns who sit in the press box obviously believe they know more about the game than those 11 guys out there on the field.
What would these ‘jokers’ have said if Jadeja had spanked a quickfire 50 in 22 balls or Ishant had sent a couple of England batsman back the pavillion in that one over? Then Dhoni would have been called the master strategist who takes bold decisions!
The basic problem is that Dhoni has shown contempt for the media and that is what some people can’t stomach. If he, like a former skipper in recent times, had his own favourites in the media, they would have ensured that he got away clean.
I don’t know what you think, but to me, it looks like a lot of these upstarts who call themselves cricket correspondents, don’t know their d— from their elbow, leave alone a full toss from a yorker.
To me the real villain of the piece was Harbhajan Singh who bowled the most irresponsible last over I’ve seen in a long time. The two wickets he got were worth zilch, because he bowled two wides, which cost India the match in the final analysis. Even people like Praveen Kumar and Joginder Singh have bowled better last overs in this format of the game than Harbhajan.
Getting hit by a batsman in the final overs is something no bowler can help. But bowling wides in the last over is gross negligence and when it comes from a senior like Harbhajan, who is looking to fill the shoes of Anil Kumble, it is unforgivable.

The day (May 23) we checked in to our hotel in Karde near Dapoli, the cook fled. Trust me we had nothing to do with it …but I can’t imagine a hotel without a cook!
When we left Dandeli for Kolhapur on the last leg of our holiday, we had hoped that the drive would be as much fun as the one till then and we weren’t disappointed. The drive to Belgaum and from there to Kolhapur was smooth. The roads were good except for one patch just after we left Dandeli. Once we touched NH 4 from Belgaum driving was a pleasure. We stopped at Hotel Tourist in Kolhapur for the night and left the next morning for Dapoli.
Just before we did the Kumbharli Ghat stretch we stopped for breakfast at Valley View Hotel. The pohe was good, but the view of the valley in the morning mist, from the hotel was spectacular (see picture). Two and a half hours later we were in Dapoli and in trouble!
When we checked in to the hotel just before noon we decided to order lunch, from Room Service. No one responded. Then we called up reception and they sent a kid to take our order. So there we were, looking at the rather packed menu card and deciding on our lunch, when the kid blurted out, “don’t look at the Menu, you won’t get anything on it.” And out came the unpalatable truth. Now a hotel without a cook was okay for some people who were surviving on a liquid diet, but since none of us were, it presented us with a piquant situation. I don’t know who they brought in as replacement, but if the quality of the food served was any indication, the just-departed cook must have been a master chef! We ate out after that.
The hotel itself was awful. It resembled one of those lodges you see around the Pune railway station. A group of inebriated youths, which included some young women made a lot of honeymooners and families uncomfortable by playing their car stereo at ear-splitting volumes and dancing in the open parking lot at various times of the day/night/ early morning, in various stages of dress and undress.
Strangely, the manager, a doddering old guy, who seemed to have a perennial hangover, never thought it necessary to caution them. Since we had paid for the room in advance, we had to make the best of it or till our patience ran out- which it did.
It was a lousy start to the last leg of our holiday. But it improved from there – or at least we decided to do something to improve it. After lunch we crashed and in the evening went to the beach. I wasn’t too impressed because I had seen better on our drive last year from Karwar to Kanyakumari and Chennai. And then, the tide brought ashore a dead dolphin that made the beach near our hotel stink. (More)

But we did go dolphin spotting the next day, and also visited the Kadyavarcha Ganpati temple which was on top of a hill at Anjarle. The drive to the temple and back was amazing and nerve-wracking, because of the very narrow roads and the steep inclines. But the dolphin spotting the next day was quite a farce. The boatmen would shout ‘udhar dekho’ and by the time all of us trained our eyes in that direction, the so called dolphin was gone! We didn’t see a single one. Then we decided to do our own sightseeing.
Around 10 am, after breakfast, we drove down to the fishing village in Harnai to visit the Suvarnadurg fort. As we set sail for the fort, in the Arabian Sea, the waters were pretty choppy. When we reached the rear of the fort the boatman cut the engine. That’s when we saw the dolphins…1…2…3…4 – there were so many leaping out of the sea that we went crazy trying to count them! Some were as close as five metres from the boat. The marauding tourists hadn’t reached yet, and there were no discarded packets of Lays and kurkure floating in the sea for the dolphins to choke on. So they seemed happy to frolic in the water.
The fort was a no-show because of the choppy seas. The boatman told us that on a normal day the boat would have reached the foot of the fort and one would just have to step on to terra firma. But now we would have to wade to the shore. Since, none of us have a great relationship with the water – except when we are in the shower (and some, not even then) – we weren’t too keen on wading.
Back in the hotel, after the temple visit and lunch, we decided we had had enough of Dapoli. I think the heat and the hotel got to us! Also, I think we just got a little homesick. In less than 30 minutes, we had packed, loaded our bags in the car and were on way to another great drive through the hills on our way back to Pune. Oh, and don’t attempt the Poladpur-Mahabaleshwar stretch, especially in the rains, unless you are the kind who drives around a lot. The entire stretch is a steep climb and in terrible condition. We realized it too late. But the Dandeli-Dapoli and the Dapoli-Pune drives were still the most interesting we did during the entire trip.
It was uphill and downhill most of the way, till we crossed Wai and reached NH 4 from where we turned left for Pune. Once we reached NH 4, it was like driving on a busy city road in the evenings. When we reached home, ourSwift had done 1588 kms over 8 days. Our holiday was over!
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my travelogues as much as I enjoyed writing them.
Till the next time…Cheers!

Dandeli:Relaxing in the jungle – I

Posted: June 10, 2009 in Uncategorized
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The sky in Dandeli lit up, intermittently crisscrossed with brilliant flashes and thunderclaps rumbled across the valley like drumbeats. Howling winds rattled the doors and windows of our cottage, and torrential rain hammered down on the roof. Mother Nature was at her petulant best.
We came to Dandeli expecting a lot…It’s called a wildlife sanctuary, but we saw very little wildlife here. There were some bison, numerous deer, and a whole lot of birds (the feathered kind), but we didn’t see any tigers, panthers, leopards or even elephants. According to officials at the Camp, there aren’t more than a dozen each of the animals mentioned above. The reason for that, locals say, is the late sandalwood smuggler and brigand, Veerappan, who killed the animals for their tusks and skins.
We checked into the Pradhani jungle camp on May 19, around noon. We would have never found our way there, but the officials at Pradhani sent an escort vehicle. It was a lovely resort, hidden in the reserve forests overlooking the valley. In the afternoon we set off to spot crocodiles in the River Kali. We did see quite a few and the guide even brought some baby crocs for us to hold.
Back at the Camp, during tea we spotted a giant squirrel in the trees next to the dining area. I had never seen anything like it before. The squirrels we’ve seen are those puny creatures that can fit in the palm of the hand. This one was at least 2 feet in length with a very colourful tail.
That night the staff brought us some lanterns just in case the lights went out – and it did. The lantern, we realized later, was a very bad idea, because it attracted a lot of insects that materialized through the cracks in the false ceiling. We were soon brushing away the insects that were crawling on our hands, legs and faces. (More)

Dandeli – Not too much wildlife– II

Posted: June 10, 2009 in Uncategorized
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Before dawn the next day we were taken on a jungle safari. This was the most disappointing part of our stay in Dandeli. We spotted a wild owl, a peacock, some deer and bison, but not a single big cat or even a tusker. We also visited Sintheri rocks, a 300-feet high single piece of rock under which runs a whirlpool, where 12 tourists had previously lost their lives for not heeding the warning to avoid swimming.
In the evening as we relaxed outside our cottage, we watched dark clouds gather rapidly overhead and knew we were in for big trouble. A few drops of rain, soon gave way to a steady drizzle. The breeze was soon replaced by strong winds and the drizzle was replaced by heavy rain. Then the lights went out. And all hell broke loose. Thunder, lightning, downpour and howling winds, we got it all that night. We were really worried that the roof of our cottage might blow away, but it stood firm!
That night we put the lanterns in the bathroom and had a relatively peaceful sleep, even without a fan. If there was a complaint we had about the Pradhani Camp, it was to do with maintenance.
Okay, so we were in the jungle and should not be squeamish about insects and reptiles crawling around. But the rooms at the Pradhani camp were in a deplorable state. The false ceiling in the room was made of damaged pieces of thermocole with huge gaps between the pieces, allowing worms and insects to fall on unwary guests throughout the night. The night it rained, water began seeping through the ceiling and walls. To me, it looked like a case of doing cheap work rather than getting work done cheap – which was a pity, because otherwise the place is beautiful and the staff simply wonderful. (More)