Archive for November, 2009

Are we safe, even a year later?

Posted: November 26, 2009 in Mumbai, NSG

I heard a ‘debate’ on Times Now between a few sanctimonious and at times downright arrogant politicians, and the citizens of Mumbai.
I’ve put debate within single quotes because it was more of a roadside scuffle, with the ‘affable’ Goswami trying really hard to bring some order and having completely failed. I’ve put affable in single quotes because some of my students who have worked with him say he is anything but affable!
There was the Congress spokesperson, who thought he was Bertie Wooster reincarnated, addressing the Drones Club. I thought he would soon break into “My dear fellow, you really must control yourself, you know. Bad for the heart and all that, old chap.”
There was Farooq Abdullah who very sarcastically congratulated some woman called Fazilay, because she told him that she wanted answers form politicians like him because she paid her taxes. I could understand Abdullah’s irritation because he was probably thinking he should invite the lady to Kashmir and let her have some close encounters of the AK-56 kind!
But at the end of it all, what was very obvious to the jittery Indian citizen was that he or she was nowhere close to getting any answers from the contemptuous politicians. The spirited Mumbaikars tried their best but they forgot they were dealing with a specific type of scum which has made stalling into an art form.
As I watched the farce unfolding before me on Times Now, I realised this government and its politicians are no closer to protecting its people then they were exactly a year ago and neither does it care.
How serious they are about it can be seen from the fact that they are busy playing politics over a home for the NSG. I don’t believe that there is NO land in Mumbai or its outskirts (unless the State has started treating Pune as a suburb of Mumbai now) where they can house the commandos.
I keep seeing full page advertisements in the newspaper about fancy El Dorados coming up all around Mumbai. Why doesn’t the State Government strike a deal with some builder for the land? Promise them something else in return if needs be, but take the land and house the NSG. Will they? I mean, do they think twice before bulldozing slums because they want to build expressways or widen highways or set up SEZs? So, why not demand land from a builder for a good cause and one that will surely win them the next election!
Then, so much is written about a single investigation agency, but we now know it’s being run by the same bunch of inept bureaucrats who sat on the Intelligence reports about an impending attack before 26/11. One year later, if a guy with a loaded weapon walks the streets of Mumbai firing indiscriminately, the first people to run for cover would be the cops and politicians who will still have no clue about how it happened.
My friend, Gautam, who is also a senior journalist in Mumbai, said to me once, that after 26/11, whenever he leaves home he doesn’t know whether he will come back alive. And Gautam should know, because he was one of those who experienced first hand Ajmal Kasab’s orgy of violence first at CST, then on the road to Cama and finally at Metro.
He was sitting in a local train waiting to go home when he heard the sound of firecrackers. Thinking it was some people celebrating India’s win against England he looked out of the train to see Kasab firing at people on the platform.
Gautam says he hid under the seat even as he heard people screaming and the continuous chatter of gunfire outside. A little while later he was discovered by a cop who after checking his identification told him to take the back road out of CST.
He did and ran almost into the two terrorists who were heading towards Cama Hospital. Hearing the gunfire behind him he ran into a hut and hid there along with the terrified occupants as the terrorists ran past the hut.
About half an hour later, he crept out and ran towards Metro thinking that CST was hardly the place to be if he wished to protect himself. He reached there and a few minutes later, a police jeep came careening down the road, with one of the occupants firing at the bystanders there.
Gautam says he fell to the ground frightened. It probably saved his life, because two men, one in front and one behind him were hit. How he survived all three places is something even he can’t explain. Maybe, as he says, some superior force wanted him to stay alive.
Maybe, Mumbaikars all need to pray to the Superior Force. It doesn’t look like the politician and the police are going to be of much help, anyway.


Heard this joke?
A very worried mother takes her daughter, who’s been complaining of a tummy ache, to the doctor. The doctor examines her and announces that the girl is pregnant. The shocked mother refuses to believe it and says her daughter is innocent and that it could not have happened. The doctor goes to the window and starts looking up at the sky.
The mother asks him what the devil he thinks he’s doing and the doctor replies, “The last time this happened, a star appeared in the sky. I am trying to find another.”
So it brings me to the question… whodunit? If PC didn’t leak it and Liberhan didn’t leak it, then who did? I guess since both accused parties have denied they did, it’s now really up to the Holy Ghost!
So what was the reason behind the selective leaking of the Liberhan report? The Liberhan panel, itself, had anyway outlived its purpose and had become the proverbial dead horse the politicians kept flogging.
Vajpayee is on his last legs (literally and figuratively), Advani is on his way out, and no one gives a rat’s ass if Murli Manohar Joshi and Kalyan Singh are sent to the moon and never return. As for the rest of them, I don’t think any right thinking Indian even knows or cares for the likes of Sadhvi Rithambara or Uma Bharati and what happens to them post-Liberhan.
Funnily, the report supposedly absolves the man who sat there like a pouting Buddha and let it happen – P.V. Narasimha Rao. If there is one guy who should be nailed for whatever happened on that fateful December 6, it’s Rao. It makes one wonder whether Liberhan has lost the plot.
When the Babri Masjid fell, I was on duty at the Maharashtra Herald that evening. The Editor S.D. Wagh came back from his customary walk and looked at me questioningly. I signalled with my palms that the dome had come down. His immediate comment was “good”.
Seeing the shocked look on my face he explained, it was good that the dome was down because finally this issue was over and the politicians could not use it for their narrow political gains. I believe the election results over the past decade have proved that the BJP has failed to use the temple issue to garner votes.
Is anyone really interested, whether there was a temple in Ayodhya or a mosque? Or for that matter whether we build a temple there or keep it locked or surrounded by CRPF personnel?
On another note, the BJP should be handing out complimentary memberships by the dozen to a lot of people in the Congress. After all, who else can they thank for pulling them out of the commode? Are there some closet Hindu extremists in the Congress Party? The party of geriatrics has suddenly got a new lease of life.
I was hoping that Advani and Co. would be history by the New Year or so, but that seems unlikely now. The only people in the world interested in keeping this issue alive are the old men in Nagpur, the older men in Delhi and some Friends of Modi in the US, who long for a Hindu Rashtra where their beloved Narendrabhai will be the prime minister till eternity.
The rest of the world is more worried about the rising prices, dwindling jobs, their kids inhaling room fresheners in aerosol cans (yup that’s the latest), Coke and ecstasy and whether Sachin Tendulkar will be the first man to score 17,237 runs. Don’t ask me why 17,237? I have no idea. It’s just that, every time he takes another run the media calls it a new ‘world record’!
I am sure Liberhan too must have set some sort of world record!

Break to banta hai!

Posted: November 14, 2009 in blogging, Facebook

Have you ever craved for something to the extent that it drives you to distraction? It could be a cigarette, or a drink; a Bengali sweet or an Ice cream; some spicy chicken or an aloo parantha; computers, music or movies …whatever. I am sure there are a lot more things in this world we crave for.
My friend Joe Pinto says on his blog Against The Tide that for the next three months he is going to spend as little of his personal time in from his computer, as he possibly can. I think it is an excellent idea, considering the amount of time we spend at our PCs every day. The problem is that computers are today an integral tool of work and communication that we cannot do without it.
I calculated that I spend approximately 15-16 hours at my computer, working, chatting, blogging or surfing. And I think that is a bit much! Actually, the reality hit home when I saw an application on Facebook which asked me to find out if I was addicted to Facebook. Once I saw the percentage, I was appalled!
The eight hours at work is something I cannot do without, because it keeps the home fires burning. But I could do something about the other eight, spent either on Facebook, my blog, Youtube Limewire, or some other site, ether chatting, writing, watching music videos or downloading music.
Do I need to spend so much of my free time at my PC? Starting today, I am going to find out. So, if you don’t see me on Facebook, I am probably playing cricket with my son! And if you need to get in touch with me…you have my email IDs and mobile number.

“When I die I’ll see God, till then I’ll see Sachin Tendulkar”

These were the words on a poster in Sharjah during the back-to-back hundreds Tendulkar made in 1998. But isn’t that what the Indian cricket fan thinks, anyway, about Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar?

The world’s greatest cricketer (please step back, Sir Garfield), has just completed 20 years in international cricket and it’s been a helluva ride – for him and his fans. It’s been a ‘Tendulkaresque’ two decades of joy that can never be replaced for another millennium. No human being has so overwhelmed us with so many different emotions as has Tendulkar in these two decades since he made his debut in 1989 against Pakistan.

Along with Tendulkar, we’ve gone through his highs and lows on the cricket field; felt his pain and joy; winced every time the ball hit him somewhere; shed silent tears every time the umpire’s finger went skyward; sighed in frustration every time another dubious decision sent him back to the pavilion; cheered every time another ball was sent soaring into the stands; raised our imaginary bats every time he scored another century.

I watched him on TV that day, like a million others with a prayer on my lips, as he faced up to Waqar and Wasim. He carried the hopes of millions and he could not have failed. I swore when he was hit on the face. Then something happened that has remained etched in my memory. Imran Khan clapped to his fielders to stay put. He wanted to see how this kid would take the blow. It was trial by fire. The kid stepped back, wiped the blood away, stared down the wicket, fixed his helmet and got down to the business of cricket. And he’s been doing that ever since.

It’s funny, and I don’t know how many of you noticed, but in the early days every time Tendulkar got hit, he would stare down the wicket (whether at the bowler or just to get back his concentration), adjust his cap and go after the bowler! So it was “uh oh” every time the ball hit him and a pitying look at the bowler thereafter.

Chandu Borde, twice chief of selectors, told me an interesting anecdote of that historic 1989 tour to Pakistan. One night, after everyone had retired to their rooms, Borde heard a strange ‘thump, thump, thump,’ from one of the rooms below. He walked down to investigate and found Tendulkar holding a bat, hitting the ball against the wall! He told the boy to go to sleep and was surprised to hear “Sir I can’t sleep. I’ve never slept alone in my life.” Borde says he sat next to Tendulkar and patted him to asleep. I guess that’s the image that all of us have of Tendulkar – at least those of us who have followed his career since his schooldays – that vulnerable, schoolboy look, that makes us want to reach out and pat him on the head reassuringly every time he scores or fails.

There was another side of him I saw in Pune at the Blue Diamond Hotel when the Indian team was there to play a one-day match against England sometime in the 1990s. While the rest of team went up to their rooms, Tendulkar walked up to a lady seated in the lobby and hugged her. She tousled his hair, stroked his cheek, and teased him like an elder sister would and he looked visibly embarrassed. It made an interesting picture. Here he was, even then the best batsman in the world, completely at sea when dealing with the affections of an elder sister!

At a World Cup group match in Mumbai at the Wankhede Stadium in 1996, against Australia, Tendulkar scored an 84-ball 90 but India went down by 16 runs. I remember the match for the only six scored by India and it came from Tendulkar’s bat. From the all-glass air-conditioned press box, I saw him lift the ball and it soared, high…higher. For a second we lost track of it and then we realized that the ball was coming straight at us. Quite a few of us ducked as the ball thudded into the glass of the Press Box and fell to the ground. Forget us greenhorns, I don’t think even the veteran scribes had seen a shot like that in a long time.

He’s redefined the game and rewritten records, statistics, & figures of most of the bowlers in international cricket in these two decades. But I’ll admit that two years ago I was one of those who felt it was time for Tendulkar to end his one-day career because I thought he was losing his touch. My reason for saying so is because I wanted to remember the genius of Sharjah rather than someone who was found, quite often, searching for his off-stump. I am glad I was wrong.

Sometimes one feels that he ‘gifts’ his wicket away to an innocuous bowler, something his childhood hero Sunil Gavaskar rarely did. Experts believe that his concentration tends to lapse, whenever there is a stoppage during the game. But his peers say that when he is in the “zone” nothing disturbs him. Almost 29,951 international runs, 87 centuries, 198 wickets and 234 catches later, one wonders whether the ‘zone” will soon be rechristened “Sachin Zone” in his honour!

What more can one say about him? Like the days of Bradman, there will come a time when cricket will again be divided into two different eras – BT and AT — Before Tendulkar and After Tendulkar.

I first heard a ball-by-ball cricket commentary on my radio when the Australian team was playing in India in 1969. Their names fascinated me – Stackpole, Redpath, Chappell, Gleeson, Lawry, Mallett, Mckenzie. I guess that was the day I was hooked to cricket and more so to Australian cricket.

When everyone was blasting the Australian team of the 1970s and 80s, for their on-field and off-field antics under Ian Chappell and later under Greg Chappell, I marvelled at their determination to win at any cost. To me they were then and are still the most exciting cricket team in the world. Everybody else is yards behind.

I remember Ian Chappell and his bowlers being criticized for snarling at the English cricketers during the Ashes series in 1974-75 and the following year in England. Just before the 1974-75 Ashes series in Australia, Jeff Thomson was quoted as saying that he liked to see blood on the pitch and batsman writhing on the floor in pain. It was an outrageous comment by any standards, but it had the desired effect. The Englishmen were terrified of facing Thommo and by the time Test series started they were literally backing away from the pitch every time Thomson and Lillee ran in to bowl. They had to win, social niceties be damned.

The following year, members of the Australian team were seen on the balcony of the dressing room in a mock fight, stripping a player to the waist in full public view of the spectators. Ian Chappell was asked about his team’s behavior and his cryptic comment was “What happens off the field should stay off the field!” The Pommies were left fuming at the arrogance of the Australians, but the latter couldn’t have cared less.

I know I’m painting myself in a corner, but I’ve always admired the Australian cricket team for the manner in which they’ve played their cricket. So they are brash, foul-mouthed, cussed, but who cares? At the end of the day they show results and that’s what matters.

I was going through the Australian cricket team’s records on the other day and was marvelling at their consistency over the last 140-odd years. 713 Test matches played and 332 wins, that’s a 46.56 per cent win record, and a loss percentage of 26.08, which is fantastic. In one-day internationals Australia has played 726 matches, won 448 and lost 247 with a win percentage of 64.29.

Now look at India’s Test record: 430 Tests; 99 won with a win percentage of 23.02 and a loss percentage of 31.62.In one-day internationals, in which Indians are supposedly second to the Australians, the record is: Played: 727; Won: 351; Lost: 340, with a 50.79 win percentage. They’ve lost as many matches as they have won.

So when I hear this crap by some of my friends in the media about how India is just a step away from becoming No 1 in world cricket, it makes me laugh. They should ask themselves whether the Indian cricket team really deserves the title. Can India ever be as consistent as the Australians have been over a period of say ten years? From Don Bradman to Ricky Ponting, it has been the focus of every Australian captain to ensure that his team is the best in the world – come what may. It’s a lesson the Indian cricket team and its bosses could do well to learn if they want to EVER be called a great team.

Which Indian captain, with the exception of Sourav Ganguly for a brief while, has made an effort in that direction? It’s not a matter of winning all major tournaments in a year. It’s a matter of winning all major tournaments year after year, for the next ten years! If they can do that, Team India can be called ‘great’. With such a talented bunch of individuals in their midst it’s surprising that the Indians fail to click as a team, except on those rare occasions. And we make it worse by calling anyone or anything ‘great’. Then we expect them to live up to that epithet and crucify them when they fail.

Honestly, there is just one player in this team on whom the title of ‘great’ sits with ease and we all know who that is – the rest of them are all bad copies of the originals we have seen down the ages. As a matter of fact, I’ll stick my neck out to say that there are just a handful of players in the last 40 years who can be called ‘great’ – Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble, and Sourav Ganguly. That’s it. The others have a long way to go, before they can be placed alongside these five – if ever.

So when I heard our pea-brained experts saying on the idiot box before the series started that the injury-hit Australians would be easy meat against the in-form Indians, I was amazed. The Australians are NEVER easy meat and more so an Australian team that’s being written off. So it didn’t surprise me in the least when they rubbed the Indians’ noses to the ground. And mind you, on paper this Australian team is second-string. If this is what a second-string team can do, it speaks volumes for the class of the Indians.

The Australian media has rightly called the Indians ‘upstarts’. Frankly, with the exception of Sachin Tendulkar and to some extent Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the rest of them aren’t worth the big bucks they are paid. They are not great, they just grate.

Driving to work this morning, I saw something that compelled me to write this blog – roadblocks put by the Pune Police. It’s just 24 days away from the events that shook Mumbai this time last year, but are we any wiser? After Kasab and his cohorts struck Mumbai on November 26, there was a flurry of announcements from everyone who mattered at both the State and the Centre.

We were told there would be an NSG force stationed at each metro; we would be modernising our police force; CCTVs would monitor movement at all major railway stations, airports and bus stations; we would have a trim and fit police force etc etc; But where are we on those assurances?

It’s taken the government one year to set up an NSG hub in Mumbai. I guess we should thank our neighbours for giving us a respite for a year! They’re probably waiting for us to set up all the other NSG hubs, before they hit us again, just to prove that we are still where we were on November 26, 2008.

Frankly, the Mumbai police didn’t cover itself in glory then. They showed they were incapable of repulsing an attack by a gang of trained and highly motivated assassins. I am not too confident that one year later, things are any different. Even after the flak they received for their collective paralysis on 26/11, neither the State Government nor the Mumbai Police or for that matter the Police force anywhere gives a damn about such serious issues. Instead, they are too busy playing politics over transfers and promotions. When will these petty minded men with their bloated egos realize that there are larger and more critical issues at hand?

See how the naxalites have been targeting SRPF personnel. My domestic help’s husband is a Sub Inspector in the SRPF and stationed in Gadchiroli. I can sense her fear every time she hears reports about an attack there. She has two teenage children and she wonders aloud how she’ll be able to bring them up. Her husband had a narrow escape a couple of months ago when a bus with SRPF personnel was blown up in Gadchiroli. He survived because his seniors ordered him to travel in the second bus, instead of the one which ended up being blown up. There must be thousands of policemen and their families who live with these fears every day. Is the State Government doing anything about assuaging these fears?

Every time you drive into a mall or multiplex in Pune what do you experience? There’s one guy with a metal detector who pushes it underneath the car. Does he even know what he’s looking for? Has he even been trained to spot explosives? Then he opens the boot, looks inside and shuts it! What’s the guarantee that a motorist isn’t carrying something deadly in the backseat or even tucked away under the front seat of the car?

Some days ago, there were reports in the Pune newspapers of a threat to Chabad House and the Synagogue from terrorists. The cops here sprang into action immediately and erected barricades at specific points on the approach roads to Koregaon Park, the city’s most upmarket locality, where Chabad House is located.

I use the road every day to get to my place of work and guess what I see – policemen relaxing at the barricades. I really wonder if these people are capable of protecting anyone. Last week driving past one such barricade, I saw two policewomen giggling and chatting with a couple of guys on a motorcycle. Vehicles were driving past and neither of the women even glanced in that direction. I deliberately slowed down my car as I reached the two women, but so engrossed were they in flirting with the two men that they hadn’t even noticed that a car had stopped right next to them. If another Kasab had rolled down his window and aimed an automatic rifle at them, they would have been dead in seconds. Some other cops were staring aimlessly into space, not even bothering to reprimand the women.

Again, this morning as I drove to work from another approach road, which is a lot less crowded than the main road, into Koregaon Park, I saw couple of pot-bellied cops relaxing in chairs reading newspapers oblivious of the fact that they were being keenly observed by a motorist. Are these the men who are going to protect us from fully armed terrorists? Now you know the reason for this post!