Archive for March, 2011

I am an Indian cricket fan too, like the rest of the one billion plus Indians in this country and the numerous others around the world. There was a time when I used to keep a ball-by-ball account of every match India played anywhere in the world; copiously reading up on cricket statistics; pouring over reports on the game from all over the world. As a kid I did not know my multiplication tables from my division, but could tell you Sunil Gavaskar’s batting average to the last decimal! I still lose my cool when I see an Indian wicket fall to a poor shot or a catch being dropped, or even cheer when the opposition drops a catch!

Right now I too have butterflies in my stomach thinking about what could happen tomorrow. Why? Because beating the Pakistanis is what every Indian desperately wants. But, I still treat cricket as a sport to be enjoyed and every match as just as a another match, and not WAR, unlike some of my countrymen, who believe that beating the Pakistanis is like shoving a bayonet into the enemy’s chest.

Some of the vicious comments I’ve been reading in the media and on social networking sites make me wonder whether we are a rational thinking people from a country steeped in the ‘Hindu culture’ or a bunch of psychopaths. Heck, I would be over the moon if India won the match against Pakistan and then the ICC World Cup. Please note I said ‘IF’ and not ‘WHEN’ because in a game with such high stakes and pressure, five overs or a couple of wickets either way, could decide the result.

After Brett Lee got hit on the eye I read some comment on Facebook that said “serves him right”. Serves him right, for what? Playing his heart out for his country? Give the man some credit. He has taken over 800 international wickets, which is a damn sight more than any of the Indian bowlers playing for their team. Our cricket fans should appreciate his bowling instead of denigrating it and should urge our bunch of second-rate (YES SECOND-RATE) medium pacers (with the exception of Zaheer Khan) to learn the art of pace bowling from the great Australian.

Criticising a player for his poor performance is one thing but to ridicule his efforts shows us up for unsportsmanlike behaviour. We (and I don’t mean the cricketers, but a section of the media and a large number of Indian cricket fans) are quick to call the Australians ‘cry babies’. But let’s not forget that until very recently it was the Indians who were always the cry babies. Instead of appreciating the way the Australians played their game and learning from them, we cried about being bullied out. Funnily, isn’t that what Sourav Ganguly did? He played the game the Aussie way and won; and he publicly acknowledged that Steve Waugh was his hero.

As a nation of sports enthusiasts we are poor losers and history is witness to that. Way back in 1974, after Ajit Wadekar’s boys had been thrashed by England 3-0 in a Test series, their homes were stoned and a stone replica of a cricket bat, with the signatures of the team captained by Wadekar that defeated the West Indies and England in 1971, was defaced. This is just one example. Indian skipper Dhoni has also commented that he has stopped caring about the reactions of the Indian cricket fans because by now they have even killed him in their minds, every time his team plays badly! It’s a sad reflection on us as a sports-loving people.

That is why I am APPALLED by the entire jingoistic and intolerant reaction of our cricket fans to our team and any opposition, especially the Pakistanis. A day before the big match, we sound like the same hysterical, frenzied mobs that would take out a knife and stab someone at the slightest provocation. I am surprised that some political party hasn’t yet taken out a procession.

Tomorrow, I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for Team India. And I sincerely hope, for the sake of the billions who’ve been thumping their chest and dreaming of annihilation, that they don’t get the unexpected.


The world is full of idiots, but the commercial is only partially true. The idiots are not on two legs, but also behind a steering wheel of a car. And the Mumbai-Pune Expressway is the one place where you can see them in abundance. The dangerous thing is that these idiots could endanger your life or mine.

Driving to Pune from the Mumbai airport on my return from Udaipur, along with a former colleague, who now works with a national business newspaper, we encountered one such idiot. First of all, this idiot and his co-idiots in a Maruti 800 were driving in the fast lane at around 60-70 kmph. Our driver waited patiently for the car to move into lane No 2, but this idiot refused to do so. Left with no choice, our driver then honked, which the idiot again refused to heed. So then, our car moved into lane No 2 to overtake the idiots.

Just as we were about to overtake them from the left, the idiot passenger in the front seat opened the door. It was, what one calls, a perfect “OH SHIT!” moment. Even as our driver stepped on the brakes, the guy opened the door even wider, leaned out and evicted some mucous on the e-way. As our car braked suddenly, we were all gesturing wildly in anger, but the idiot couldn’t have cared less. Completely unconcerned that his act could have caused a serious mishap, he then shut door and glared back at us!

It was a Pune registration number so it’s not that surprising, but thinking about what could have happened made us really mad. I guess this is when you really feel that the government should spend the money and install a state-of-the-art surveillance system which will nail all these idiots who treat the expressway like a by-lane near their home. On our way to Mumbai to take the flight to Udaipur on Friday, we saw an accident inside the first tunnel, where a trailer truck had crashed against the wall of the tunnel and turned at a 90 degree angle.

Day in and day out we read about accidents on the expressway. While doing a story on the subject for Car India, I, along with the Highway Traffic Police was measuring the speed of the vehicles with a speed gun and realised the absurd speeds people drive at only because the road allows them that liberty. I also realised that the cops didn’t have a hope in hell of catching errant motorists, because they were not equipped to do so. They neither had enough cameras nor did they have enough fast 4WDs to do so. Can they stop a car going at 160 plus with their decrepit Sumos?

I was reading a Facebook status update by Ramesh Menon and it brought back memories of my days in college way back in the late 1970s. Let me ‘assure’ Mr Menon that even in those days there were hooligans who molested girls and misbehaved on the streets.

I remember one Holi when we were having fun outside Vaishali restaurant on the busy Fergusson College Road. We weren’t allowed in by the management if we intended to spray colours. All that Naik, the manager at Vaishali, had to do was to tell revellers to have their fun outside – and no one objected. It wasn’t what happened inside Vaishali that day that I remember, but what happened outside on the busy street that has stuck in my head till date.

We were, on that particular Holi day, having fun outside Vaishali when two girls from our class came out of the Fergusson College Girls Hostel gate. Suddenly a bunch of guys noticed these two, one of whom was in a white Tee. These guys just surrounded them, before any of us could react or warn the girls. None of us knew what transpired inside the ‘ring’ made by the boys, but when the guys left I only saw this completely shaken girl, her white Tee and pants camouflaged by myriad colours, hand prints in all the ‘strategic’ places. She had been molested (and that’s the only word to describe what she went through) in public view, on a busy Fergusson College Road, in the presence of her peers, none of whom dared to help her. I thought it was a pretty disgraceful thing to do.

I don’t know if all the guys who molested her were from the same college she studied in, but they were not exactly the kind one would like to associate with even if they were last people left on this earth! I still remember the look on the girl’s face. I don’t think she expected to be celebrating Holi in this way. She had wrapped her arms around herself and was shaking in shock. I knew who the girl was and I’m sure some of my friends who read this post also did. It was a sick thing to do but all of us – and we were aged just 17 or 18 then – pretended like we didn’t know anything and left.

Many years later, while living in Salunke Vihar, we celebrated Holi every year, the way it should be celebrated – with colours, guzzling beer, going on a drive with the girls and generally having fun. Sure, some of the guys did take a few inadvertent ‘liberties’ but it was followed by apologies. Heck, we had to live there and the girls we were with, were the ones who would eventually be invited to the parties we had in the colony. Quite a few of them were pretty stunning, so most of us knew which side the bread was buttered and behaved ourselves!

Of course, we joked that we didn’t wish to be chased by some retired Fauji armed with a loaded rifle around Salunke Vihar, because we had fooled around with his daughter/s! But the truth is we did maintain some decorum. It wasn’t like there were no affairs happening around, but during any public event or even a private party, we usually behaved ourselves! We drank ourselves silly but were usually well-behaved around the women! There was something else about the Army culture that I liked as a ‘civilian’. People wished each other. We wished all the elders we knew and met at whatever time of day. We also knew, because of the friends we made, that it only took one phone call and a friend would be at our doorstep to help. I don’t know if I can say that today. I guess I really miss those good ol’ days…

CSR redefined…

Posted: March 14, 2011 in CSR

I’ve been called a cynic and a pessimist so very often that I’ve started to take it as a compliment. Maybe, the 24 years I spent in the hotel and media industries, respectively, made me realise how people could so easily fake friendliness. It feels good when a well-known film star puts his arm around you, like you’re his best friend, when in reality all he wants is for you to give him and his mistress a room to hide in. Or a guy who wants to give you a gas connection only because you’re from the Press and he can, some time or the other, come to you for help.

But today as I heard a bunch of students tell me about their experiences at some of the corporate houses while working on what they believe is a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) project, I said to myself, I’m not the only cynic around! Most companies would have us believe that when they undertake CSR projects, they do so with the intention of giving something back to the underprivileged in society. But listening to some students talk about their CSR projects with well known corporate houses was an eye-opener.

Of course there were some kids who actually believed that what the company was doing is a good thing and I am happy about that. They told me of companies that genuinely helped the poorer sections of society. But there were others who were trying to convince themselves and me of the same, and were not doing a very good job of it. And there was this last category who knew that this was a lot of hogwash. It’s this category that surprised me. And their average age is 19.

I listened with interest as one kid spoke about her time at India’s largest corporate house that has a finger in every pie and is making quite a hash of it. Clearly disillusioned, she told me how the company would not spare 20k to treat a bunch of homeless kids to a special lunch, because that money had to be spent on buying caviar! Hey, what’s a bunch of homeless kids for these bigwigs when there’s champagne and caviar on the anvil! Another student told me about the time she was trying to get a special lunch organised for some street kids and asked the hotel chain where she was doing her project to permit a chef to do the needful. But not a single chef accepted the offer and it was only after a warning that one of them did and complained about it the whole time.

One of them told me about how he would invite four managers of this company where he interned to be a part of some event, and they would invariably refuse stating time constraints. Yet every day for at least two hours during the lunch break they had time to play Nintendo on their computers in the game room! Managers looking after CSR projects would first check on what their corporate rivals were doing in the area before deciding their next plan of action. Even the poor were not spared the internecine office politics that has today become a part and parcel of corporate life.

Another bright kid told me that managers at many of the corporate houses brazenly stated that the whole CSR experience was just an attempt to save income tax – responsibility to the less fortunate always comes a distant second. If the first can be achieved easily, then the second is quite simply an exercise in offloading cash and conscience.

Like this big Delhi corporate house whose idea of CSR was to organise an occasional lunch for homeless kids who slept outside his multiplex – kids who were already hooked on booze, glue and coke at the age of 12 or 13. Or worse, organising some silly Christmas party for them where some idiot in a silly Santa Claus outfit gave them even sillier gifts. Wouldn’t it have been better if he could send these kids into rehab and ensure they came out clean and stayed that way, by giving them a job and a home? But then this is a section of corporate India’s idea of social responsibility – give a little money and get rid of a whole lot of guilt conscience. Once that was done, they could reach for the champagne and caviar. Cheers!