Archive for April, 2011


I don’t know what it is with non-vegetarians. The minute they learn you are a vegetarian they become condescending, irritated and at times downright rude. I am a vegetarian and I could also be extremely rude if I wanted to be with my fellow non-vegetarians, but I share a table with them without showing any signs of squeamishness! I’m not a ‘vegan’ either, but I really don’t care if people want to go the other extremes in the zeal to not touch any living organism! That’s their fetish, not mine. I still love a good cheese-chilly omelette!

I’ve been a vegetarian by choice as far back as I can remember. I have never developed a taste for the stuff and I remember as a kid, a friend of my mother’s even fed me a sandwich that was covered in something that looked like jam. I ate it, but something about the taste put me off. When I was asked if I had liked it I told them I didn’t like the taste of the ‘jam’, which I later learnt was a variety of fish! So I guess me and non-vegetarian food weren’t made for each other.

The other day I was travelling to Mumbai with a senior editor of an auto magazine and in our conversation I mentioned that I was a vegetarian. I narrated an incident to him that occurred during my stay in Lucknow when some of my then colleagues wanted to take me out for some “booze and chicken”. I told them that I was a vegetarian. Then one of them asked if I drank and I said I had quit. Someone else asked if I had pan masala and I replied in the negative. One exasperated soul asked “You don’t drink or smoke; don’t chew paan; don’t eat non-vegetarian food…so what the hell do you do?”

When the editor heard the anecdote, he laughed and said “I don’t know you well enough otherwise I too would have called you something quite nasty!” Now, he might have meant that as a joke, but it got me thinking. Why should a non-vegetarian deride my eating habits when I don’t go around calling a non vegetarian a ‘f*****g carnivore’? I have been the butt of some nasty comments by non-vegetarians and have been quite taken aback. I’ve also been told on numerous occasions that “you don’t know what you’re missing” – which is untrue, because I know what I am missing and have no problems at all, unlike some of my friends who get withdrawal symptoms when they don’t have a piece of chicken during a meal or get orgasmic when they do!

I remember going for a Malayali Christian friend’s wedding down South where the only dish on the menu was mutton biryani. The friend had forgotten that I did not touch the stuff. Totally mortified, he offered to go into the kitchen, and remove the pieces of mutton from the biryani and offer it to me. I reluctantly agreed. I’d even stopped visiting friends because they would have to take the trouble to cook dal and rice just for me. Nowadays, there are a lot more people who’ve become vegetarians by choice. So it’s not that bad.

I have absolutely no problems dining with die-hard non-vegetarians, either. I am not a ‘brahmin’ who’ll sit at another table if I have some chicken-eaters dining alongside me, or rush off to wash my plate just because some oil from the chicken dish dropped into my plate. Heck, my wife is a ‘Brahmin’ in the real sense of the word and she is a rabid non-vegetarian. We cook it all at home. I often introduce her to people with “I’m a vegetarian and she’s the brahmin, but eats anything dead!”

Now to the subject of drinking – I used to enjoy my beer and the occasional well-made Bloody Mary, until a decade ago. I was never a hard drinker like a lot of other people I know. I quit having even that occasional drink on my volition, after being diagnosed with diabetes. I am not even the kind of guy who preaches on the ills of boozing either. I have friends who can drink an entire bottle of whisky and I have no issues with that. I still enjoy their company, because they don’t behave like idiots. The problem is with people who think a teetotaller isn’t macho. If macho means, getting into a fight at a bar or a restaurant to impress the women around, or falling into a gutter, or crashing the car into a lamppost after a few pegs, I am glad I don’t drink.

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It’s clear that the Committee has agreed that your new policy is really an excellent plan. But in view of some of the doubts being expressed, may I propose that I recall that after careful consideration, the considered view of the Committee was that, while they considered that the proposal met with broad approval in principle, that some of the principles were sufficiently fundamental in principle, and some of the considerations so complex and finely balanced in practice that in principle it was proposed that the sensible and prudent practice would be to submit the proposal for more detailed consideration, laying stress on the essential continuity of the new proposal with existing principles, the principle of the principal arguments which the proposal proposes and propounds for their approval. In principle.”
– Humphrey Appleby in Yes Prime Minister

This is exactly the kind of mumbo jumbo one has come to expect from whichever government is at the Centre, when it comes to taking a decision that adversely affects their political career and livelihood. The unanimity the members of parliament have displayed in the case of the Lokpal Bill is astounding. They might abstain from parliament, throw cushions at each other in the Central hall of Parliament, call each other names inside and outside the august house, but there are two things on which they always stand united – the hike in their salaries and the Lokpal Bill! I can understand why no member of parliament wants the bill passed. Can you fathom how an MP would survive if he was caught and banished from political life? Telling an MP to stop making money through illegal means is like asking Sachin Tendulkar to stop playing cricket! Sorry for the odious comparison but I couldn’t think of anything more apt! It would mean a virtual death sentence to the khadi clad criminal.

Briefly, the jurisdiction of the Lokpal under Section 10 apparently covers the prime minister, ministers and MPs, MLAs, chief ministers etc. But at the same time it nullifies the same by stating that the Lokpal cannot enquire into any allegations of corruption against any member of either House of Parliament unless recommended by the Speaker or Chairman of Council of States as the case may be. So who’s going to squeal against his own?

According to what I’ve read up, “even when Lokpal finds that any of the charges have been proved, against the members of Parliament, all he can do is to send a report of his finding to the Speaker and Chairman, of the council of States, and they alone will determine what action to be taken – obviously it may include rejecting the report of Lokpal. Of course the presiding officers have to place the report before both the houses of parliament. A formal courtesy is to be done by informing the Lokpal as to what action is taken or proposed to be taken which includes the rejection of findings of guilt by Lokpal.”

So you can take a good guess why the issue has been put on the back-burner since 1968! The UPA government should stop talking through their hats (There’s another and more apt four-letter word I could use here, but I won’t) on the entire Lokpal Bill issue. They’ve been deliberating for the past 43 years on the clauses of the Bill and every time it comes up in Parliament, it is deferred for one silly reason or another. For a Bill that should have become an Act over 40 years ago, for the Congress government to say that ‘important’ decisions cannot be taken overnight and “need deliberations” (according to Ms Jayanthi Natarajan) is classic Humphrey Appleby mumbo jumbo! And instead of accepting that it’s their fault the government is trying to bully their way through. All through from 1968 to 2011, they’ve been delaying the Bill, and it took someone like social activist Anna Hazare to say enough is enough.


And I thought Shahid Afridi, was a sensible young man, who had mellowed in the past two years! On June 25, 2009, I had posted something on Afridi and his big mouth, where I had said that he was going around making silly statements like India were scared of playing against Pakistan, instead of trying to mend fences with them. I had also said that he should keep his feet out of the one place where they invariably find themselves – his mouth!

But then after his rather sporting speech at the post-match presentation ceremony at Mohali, I was impressed with his demeanour. I thought he had matured as a skipper, and that Pakistan cricket had finally found Imran’s successor – a serious, yet modern and forward thinking skipper. But judging by his latest ‘boo boo’ nothing’s changed. I can accept his comment that as a Pakistani he feels that his people are more large-hearted than the Indians. We can’t expect everyone to like us. We don’t think much of the Pakistanis, do we? But to say THEY’VE tried to make peace with US for the past 60-odd years and WE’VE always rejected THEIR overtures, is laughable. And then to say that the Indian media was negative is even more laughable. Has he forgotten that it was the Indian media which blasted his minister for the ‘keep away from match-fixing’ comment?

The problem that the Pakistanis have is age-old. It stems from the ‘weight’ of the rather large chip that they’ve been carrying on their shoulders for the past 63 years. I guess Afridi is no different. And I’m not talking politics here. They are simply unable to accept that they have lost to India in every single World Cup they’ve played against us and quite a few other matches in between. It’s not that they are a bad team or inferior to the Indians. They’ve always had better fast bowlers, if not batsmen, so why, when they meet India, do they come a cropper? That and the fact that Indian cricket has everything they don’t – better managed infrastructure, better paid players at all levels, and after the Azharuddin episode, no incidents of match-fixing – is what really pisses them off.

And, so, even as Pakistan Prime Minister Gilani expressed the hope that Indo-Pak cricket matches could be resumed, along came Mr Shahid ‘Big Mouth’ Afridi shooting from the lip. After what he has said about the people of India and against Gautam Gambhir dedicating the win to the victims of 26/11, does he really expect the Indian Government or the BCCI to be in any sort of hurry to resume ties? What did Gambhir say that was offensive? Didn’t Tendulkar dedicate one if his centuries to the Mumbai after the terror attack?

I remember reading in Sunil Gavaskar’s book Sunny Days that in 1971 when war broke out in the subcontinent between the two neighbours, he and Bishen Singh Bedi were playing for the World XI in Australia. They would have dinner every evening with two other players – Mustaqh Mohammed and Intikhab Alam – both Pakistanis and there was no rancour or animosity – in fact they were the best of friends and still are. Afridi should accept that he cannot change history. But it’s really in his hands to change the future. But that won’t happen if he, like some of his predecessors, walks around with that chip on his shoulder.

Green, it would seem for the Pakistanis, is also the colour of envy.


Here’s a confession. Till yesterday’s final, I had not watched a single match of the ICC World Cup which India played. But more of that later…

Last night as I watched the kids in my building running up and down the parking area screaming “India India” after Dhoni smacked the six, I could afford to look on indulgently. After all, I had been there, done that. I had witnessed it before. I couldn’t help think back to that magical day in June of 1983 when India achieved the impossible. Was that a more defining moment than this one? I was 25 then and crazy about the game as my son is today. No one gave India a hope in hell to even reach the semi-finals, leave alone the final. I remember reading that the arrogant England players and their media were delighted and derisive about meeting India in the semi-finals, because they couldn’t have asked for an easier opponent en route to the final at Lords.

When Yashpal Sharma whipped Bob Willis of his legs to midwicket for a six, everyone sitting in the control room of Hotel Blue Diamond, where I worked in those days, erupted. We knew it then that we were going to thrash the Poms. We could see the faces of the England players. They were shell-shocked and had already lost the match. You don’t pick Bob Willis then England’s best fast bowler and cart him over the fence like he was bowling with a tennis ball!

Then in the final as the West Indies were sailing to a win with the arrogant Viv Richards treating the Indian bowlers like they were schoolboys, we all prayed. All ‘we’ needed was his wicket and as Richards lifted a Madan Lal delivery to the leg side, I think most of us packed to the nines in that small room at the hotel died a thousand deaths as we watched Kapil Dev running to get under the ball. Would he drop it? Would he? He didn’t.

As Mohinder Amarnath claimed the last wicket I don’t think there was a dry eye amongst us. We wept. For a lot of us, it was a moment we never imagined would happen. Just like today’s generation, we had been waiting for this moment since we were kids. Imagine a rag-a-tag bunch of no-hopers under a 23-year-old captaining his country at cricket’s most prestigious tournament for the first time, walking away with the title. I remember wishing, like I did yesterday, that I could have been in Mumbai, because that is where the celebrations would be at its best. It was after all the home of Indian cricket. I remember reading that the foghorns on ships anchored along the coast near the Gateway of India went on blaring through the night, flares lit up the night sky and people danced on the streets.

I might have lost my job that night, because I should have been on duty at the Reception of the hotel, but was instead watching the match. But no one noticed and no one cared. The hotel lobby was packed with guests who came down from their rooms asking us to open the Bar, because they wanted a drink to celebrate. You can have been a waiter or a guest, but it didn’t matter, because people hugged each other in the lobby. I remember thinking, as tears rolled down, that this was the most incredible moment of my life.

But all through this World Cup whenever India played my son told me to stay away from the living room. He believed that every time I walked in an Indian wicket fell, so I was banished into the bedroom and told to watch the match on my laptop! He claimed India won because I stayed out of the living room and he didn’t move from his perch on the sofa! But yesterday, as India lost Sehwag and Tendulkar, my son was despondent, and went to sleep. I came back, sat in the living room and watched the entire match. Fifteen runs away from a win, I woke him up. He was stunned when he heard me tell him excitedly that India was about to win the Cup. I also told him that I had been sitting in his chair and India was about to win!

Of course, I didn’t tell him that I was jumping up and down like a schoolboy, cheering and shouting every time Gambhir and Dhoni sent the ball to the boundary. “Two fours….two fours, is all we need to take the pressure off,” I remember thinking aloud. Going a run a ball wasn’t exactly comforting as we inched closer. The run-to-ball ratio had to change quickly now and then Dhoni took on Malinga. As he hit two fours I was applauding and clapping in delight. And then in the next over as he banished the ball into the stands, I leapt from the chair, dancing, screaming – just like those kids down below. It was 1983 again.