Archive for January, 2010

On staying connected…

Posted: January 31, 2010 in friendship

Friendship is a funny thing.

You can talk to someone after 30 years and it’s like nothing’s changed in all these years. And you can stay next door to someone for months and not talk to the person over such a trivial issue. Isn’t it a waste of life?

You don’t keep in touch with someone for six months and you hear the guy has gone through a personal crisis – two heart attacks within a week and a heart surgery. And you say, “Shit! I should have called.”

And then you talk to someone 20,000+ miles away, who you haven’t spoken to in 35 years because as friends you had a fall out. And after that one moment of awkwardness, it’s like nothing had ever gone wrong between the two of you.

So when I got a call from a friend earlier in the evening telling me that a common friend Sunny had two heart attacks, it was like a wake up call.

And then there was this other friend who I connected with after almost 30 years. We hadn’t spoken to each other over an issue that today seems like such a waste of time. He tracked me down through AOL and my address and phone number from the Internet. The funny thing is that when he called, my wife wondered why he was calling her after so long – they were colleagues at the hotel after I had quit the same place!

Then he asked her if she was married to the same guy who worked in that hotel and by the end of it all, it was madness! When he called me my first instinct was to put the phone down. Then I gave him a piece of my mind and all he said was sorry for everything that had happened 30 years ago! I guess after that there’s really nothing much to swear about. It made me reflect on friendships and on the importance of staying connected.

The problem happens when two people believe the other should take the first step and neither one does. I too could have sat on my high horse, but I am glad I didn’t. I guess life’s too short to worry about these little foibles.

Sorry is such a simple word isn’t it? Solves so many problems – even if half the time we don’t mean it! Like my son. From his tongue, sorry rolls out like bottles in a soft drink factory. He doesn’t mean a word of what he says, but there’s nothing either my wife or I can do!

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So, why are people in the broadcast media so touchy about any questions thrown at them about the frivolous manner in which cricket matches are being covered nowadays?

At a National Sports Media Meet at the SIMC on Friday, my question to a panel of three well-known mediapersons – Ayaz Memon, Senior Associate Editor of the Telegraph Lokendra Pratap Sahi and Times Sports Editor Bobilli Vijay Kumar – was “do you think that 20-somethings who hold forth on the state of the game and the cricketers on television channels today, have trivialised the level of commentating and analysis?”

Before any of the panelists could answer the question, the moderator, who was from the world’s biggest sports channel, jumped at me with “Who are you referring to?”

When I said I wasn’t talking about anyone in particular and the question was meant for the three big names of print media, he persisted angrily, “Why don’t you name the person?”

The much more experienced Memon, then quickly butted in and started answering. When he finished, Sahi joined the debate and said precisely what I wanted to hear – that at the end of the day people had to turn to journalists like Memon, Vijay Kumar and himself to get a good analysis of a match!

The matter didn’t end there. After the session, which incidentally, was quite good as were the ones after that, I went up to the moderator to soothe ruffled feathers, but he snapped, “I was going to tell you to switch off your TV set.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. Funnily enough, I wasn’t even referring to his channel, because, I believe, it is probably the only sports channel that doesn’t believe in trvialising sports coverage. So, I wondered why he took offence at my comments.

The first thought that came to mind was that, maybe I wasn’t the first to throw such a question to people like him. After all, we’ve read enough criticism about TV channels paying more attention to noodle straps, plunging necklines and tight T shirts, than do some serious commentating.

Don’t think for one moment that I’m being an MCP. I’m not. I’d love to see some woman in noodle straps – but just not in the commentary box! The point I’m making is that there are kids of both genders on some of the TV channels with barely six months under the belt who give their expert comments about the game and players, and only end up making complete asses of themselves. There have been times when it makes one mutter “wtf is he/she talking about?”

A good case in point was the person from the International Cricket Council who also addressed the students, and started every other line with “I don’t know” or “I’m not too sure”. How was such a ‘clueless’ person giving a power point presentation to 200 kids about the ICC’s role in promoting the game?

If TV channels drafted in former women cricketers like Diana Eduljee, Shubhangi Kulkarni or Anjum Chopra to speak on the game, the level of commentary would really be engaging. Kulkarni and Chopra are among the most articulate and knowledgeable persons, I have heard talking on cricket. I’ve had discussions with Kulkarni the few times that we’ve met in the past decade or so, and her opinions and comments on the way the game is being run would give most men an inferiority complex.

But, we do know that most sports channels are not doing too well, and when everything rests on TRPs and it starts to drop, there’s nothing better than a plunging neckline and noodle straps to give it a ‘push up’, is there?

Guilty conscience?

Posted: January 27, 2010 in Uncategorized

Here are a few minor queries for those of you who were perturbed, by what I wrote in my last blog post..’gossip…”
Why were you so perturbed? Did you suffer pangs of guilt, because realisation hit home that you had done something you shouldn’t have done? How did you assume I was referring to you?
The post has obviously struck a raw nerve. But as they say, if the cap fits wear it.
Just a reminder….I teach at three other media institutes in the city. So don’t put the cart before the horse, unless….

On sadists and gossip…

Posted: January 26, 2010 in Uncategorized

Today, my housemaid came in looking really hassled. Her son, a student at a school close by was beaten up with his by his peers with school belts. His crime? He complained about them to the Principal as they had come to school wearing jeans on Republic Day. The poor kid, who was only doing his job as the school monitor. Now he is black and blue all over and terrified of going to school.
Many years ago there was this short, dark 12-year-old who used to wear thick glasses, thanks to short sight. His peers ridiculed him for his nerdy looks. Everyday in the bus, he would be bullied physically and mentally by one particular senior. He never complained to his parents and always took the crap. One day, however, it reached breaking point because this kid was slapped for no rhyme or reason and unable to bear the humiliation he began to weep. A medical college student finally stepped in and told the bully to stop it. The senior replied with “why don’t you mind your business?”
To which the medical college student said, “This kid is like my younger brother and if you don’t stop it, I’ll break your jaw. Then it will become my business.” He then turned to the kid and told him “If he does it again, just let me know.”
That incident stopped the bullying. The senior was basically a sadist who liked to pick on kids, because he knew they wouldn’t retaliate.
Some of my journalism students told me how they’ve been at the receiving end of a whole lot of negative vibes and comments, only because they took the initiative in a project which the others baulked at. Adding to this rather nonsensical issue, which included innuendo and gossip, were the usual academic and parental pressures they were facing every day. It reached breaking point a few days ago and after speaking to their parents they were all set to walk out. It was some last minute talking to them that made them see reason.
Even at a workplace I’ve seen such behaviour and have quite often wondered what makes people do it. It’s one thing to put someone in their place because they are being casual about their work and an entirely different thing to pick on someone for kicks. A lot of seniors indulge in the latter and enjoy it.
In my first job at a hotel there was an assistant manager who would pick on a couple of us, just for kicks. Since none of the seniors took him too seriously, he would assert his authority by firing us juniors for even the most minor of transgressions. Till one day, my uncle, whose company was one of the biggest clients of the hotel, walked in, came up to me and started chatting. The AM saw this and made some discreet inquiries. We became the best of friends, thereafter!
Competitiveness is fine, but when it degenerates into mindless and vicious innuendos and bitching, it stinks. Going after someone just because the person is smarter than you or more articulate, shows not just your upbringing, but also your own insecurities. Maybe, it’s time some people held a mirror to themselves.
Oh, that nerdy kid with short-sight was me, so you can guess why I have a problem with such people!

What a blooper!

Posted: January 25, 2010 in Government of India, Media
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As bloopers go, I’ve seen a lot and done a lot in my newspaper job, but the DAVP advertisement featuring the Pakistan air chief’s picture, must rank among the very best! This is not like a repetition of stories on two pages or even on one page that usually happens during a shift in a newspaper. This was a boo-boo of epic proportions and it came from the Government!
If the advertisement blooper with the Pakistani air chief had been done by someone not from DAVP, the boss would have come down on him/her like a ton of bricks. A memo would have been issued, a show cause notice served and the poor sod would have been watching TV at home for a month without salary! But I bet nothing will ever come out of this. The PMO has issued an apology and the matter has been quietly buried.
Working late nights reading copy after copy on a computer can really drive you up the wall. I’ve seen people during a late night shift go ballistic over the most insignificant incident. An ambiguous headline or a copy that has a few errors have made seniors fling pages back at their juniors with a loud “what the f—k is this crap?” Very often, the tirade is not justified but then someone who’s been sitting, first in front of a computer screen cleaning up the mess, and then with a red pen still cleaning up another mess, just snaps.
In one organisation, the paginator and a senior copy editor came to blows, because the paginator suggested, what he thought was a better design, and the copy editor ignored it. Not one to give up so easily the paginator went ahead and made a dummy. The copy editor turned it down. They then had a chat, The chat soon turned into an argument and then into a full-blown spat, till finally the furious copy editor stood up and questioned his colleague’s parentage! All hell broke loose. I could not understand why the paginator kept arguing with the senior copy editor, because it was finally the prerogative of the latter on what kind of page he wanted to do. This was in the days when we didn’t have Adobe Pagemakers and Quark Xpress and pages were still made by the cut-and-paste method! Thank God for technology!
Bloopers are so common and you see them in the newspapers every day. Except for a memo, which really doesn’t mean anything, or a ticking off by the boss, nothing too serious happens. I remember a time when a story that came to us on the nation news pages from Delhi about the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. There was obviously some kid with an itchy finger in a hurry to finish his job who must have edited the copy, because during a spell check, Instead of pressing on ‘ignore’ when it came to names, he/she pressed ‘change.
When I saw the report the next day, I broke into a sweat.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee had become Atlas Binary Vampire – and it was the top story on the page. I did hear that the culprit got away unscathed. That’s life!


Not a contrived attempt? They acted maturely? Do the IPL bosses actually expect us to believe that? And when we have to listen to a dumb Bollywood starlet, who couldn’t act to save her film career, mouthing such idiocies, it does get galling. And the more she shoots her mouth off, the deeper the hole she and her compatriots dig themselves into. Hopefully, by the time the next edition comes around, they’ll bury themselves completely, and we’ll be rid of this bastardized form of a great game.
But since it’s still on, what’s the real reason for not picking the Pakistanis? Not good enough? Didn’t like their nationalities? Didn’t like their religion? Didn’t like their beards? Didn’t like their names? Or were they planning to attack India with…. cricket bats and balls?
If they didn’t want to select the Pakistanis, the IPL bosses shouldn’t even have picked them in the original list of players up for auction. And even after they did, if one or two had been bought and the rest ignored, it would have looked a natural auctioning process. But ignoring all eleven? I don’t blame the Pakistan press for calling us a bunch of bigots. In the US and Australia you have racism and in India you have bigotry in the worst form – caste, gender religion and colour – which decides where you’ll be studying, staying or working, or who you’ll be marrying. But let’s stick with the IPL for now we’ll leave the rest for another day.
What’s the cricketing logic in keeping Shahid Afridi out? He is one of the best and most exciting one-day players in the world. Strange, that no player from the best T20 team in the world finds a place in the IPL.
Jingoism be damned, but who wants to watch a bunch of retired, semi-retired and some unknown faces huffing and puffing through 20 overs? I would much rather watch the likes of Afridi, Umar Gul, and the Akmal brothers than some Roach, Bond, Ganguly, Kaif, or a club class cricketer like Yousuf Pathan. Didn’t Bond retire from international cricket because of persistent injury problems? How is he fit to play now?
IPL was launched supposedly to bring the best cricketing talent in the world under one umbrella and have them perform together in different teams. The first edition was exciting because one suddenly saw Ponting, Sourav and Shoaib Akhtar playing together and Shane Warne leading an ‘Indian’ team. Secondly, it also gave a lot of cricketers some form of financial security. While some of these reasons still coexist, the excitement has worn off. We all know what happened during the last IPL in South Africa.
The moral of the story is that even money power isn’t enough to go against some of the unwritten diktats made by governments. Either the Government is telling the truth that they have nothing to do with IPL or the IPL bosses have mastered the fine art of bending over. They can go blue in the face denying any ulterior motive for not picking the Pakistanis, but not too many people believe them. I feel sorry for the Pakistani players – caught in the middle of a political war of nerves, not of their doing.
What the IPL bosses had been doing these past few years was bad enough – screwing the great game of cricket by selling it to the highest bidder. Now they are playing politics over it too.

One year…and still here

Posted: January 15, 2010 in blogging
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Posts – 104; Hits – 4480; Visits – 532; Page views – 1,082; Followers – 54 ….It has been a year since I started blogging. If 54 and had been 104, it would have looked even better, but looking at those figures, I don’t know if it’s a good or a bad start for a guy who once fell into a drum. This nugget was supplied to me by an old friend Zubin Kabraji. I guess he knew, because I obviously, had no recollection, probably because I was in no condition to remember!
Why did I start blogging? To be truthful, I saw a blog by a colleague on cookery and said to myself…“If she can do this, why can’t I?” And I wasn’t demeaning her efforts, but if someone could start a blog on recipes, I could surely write a few hundred words every week. Thank you, Anjali, you were my inspiration!
I was also warned by friends that blogging wasn’t everyone’s cuppa. That it was difficult to keep the content flowing day after day. To be honest, there were days I said to myself, “Shit, I can’t do this every day.”
That’s why some blogs were just rants, some pretty crappy, while others were straight from the heart. But isn’t that how our minds work? Unless, of course, like race horses, we go through life with blinkers on!
A couple of my posts have been featured in some newspapers while some were used as a subject of discussion on other blogs and discussion sites. I have got a few acerbic reactions from students, friends and even anonymous bloggers – ALL of which I have posted on my blog.
I wrote about various things, probably because I myself have done, and am still doing, a lot of different things! I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I don’t know whether it’s better to be a jack of all trades and a master of none or vice versa. But I’ve never been one to do something, just because someone said I should or shouldn’t. It’s mostly been because someone said I can’t.
Between working in a hotel, five newspaper offices, two IT companies, three media institutes, blogging and writing a book…it’s been fun. Maybe, if I could have done things differently, I would have been elsewhere, bigger, better. But then I might never have had so much fun, never met so many people and never had the opportunity to interact with so many youngsters, who showed me life from a fresh perspective.
I had also decided that the blog wouldn’t be one dimensional and I’ve stuck by that. A lot of former colleagues from my media days write on education or technology, based on their interest, but I didn’t want to confine myself to that. I’ve no interest in ‘educating’ anyone or preaching, because that’s never been my interest.
To all those who follow my blog…a big thank you! I wouldn’t have been there nor done that without you.
And to my students, even if I am not teaching anymore tomorrow…enjoy whatever you do!
Now, an honest confession… It took me two weeks to write this one! Why? Because, it’s very easy to criticise, but far more difficult to praise – even oneself!!!