Friday, 28 November 2008

Chalta hai...

If there is one outlook or opinion that unites India apart from cricketing victories… and which we would not want to accept, though deep inside our hearts we know its true, is the “chalta hai” outlook. And this shows in the way we go about with our lives; we are just too gullible. I should say majority of the Indians since there are a few among us who have started raising their heads and voices and acted on their convictions.

Tell me one thing. Over the past 20 years, how many times have we gone through terrorists attacks? Kashmir tourism has become synonymous with terrorism. We have terrorist attacks and threats in the North East. A series of bomb blasts in 1993 rocked Mumbai. Rajiv Gandhi killed by a human bomb in Tamil Nadu. Multiple blasts in the Mumbai local trains in the last few years. And of-late a string of bomb blasts from Delhi to Bangalore to Ahmadabad. Not to forget Askhardham and the Parliament. Well, by the look of affairs in the country, I guess there would be many who would be sad that the Parliament attack was a failure for the terrorists. Anyways.

And I don’t think it would be prudent on my part to place the blame on the politicians alone… afterall even they are Indians.

India and Indians have not been attacked for the first time. And we are suffering all the time, rather the “aam aadmi” the common man is suffering.

A bomb blasts today and the city is back on track tomorrow as if nothing out of the usual had happened. We write blogs, read the newspapers, follow CNN IBN, discuss and condemn the attacks, but mind you, we do not let these things impact our daily lives, unless we are directly impacted due to the terrorist attacks. We show concern and at times are genuinely concerned. But it does not last for long. Our memory is short and vision near. We care only and only about our immediate near and dear ones, sometimes not even that. So you see, we were anyways gullible and now we are too self-centered as well.
We condemn the attacks. We blame the police. We blame the politicians. We blame the municipality, the electricity board, the water board, our boss, our company where we work and the list is never ending. We blame each and every entity which does not belong to us… because along with being gullible and self centered we are not ready to take any ownership.

It’s always the other person who is wrong and it’s the same other person who does not do his duty. And when it comes to us, we focus on our rights… and duties? Let’s talk about the rights; we’ll tackle the duties later. Like it or not, but I have seen very less people who think otherwise.

Another interesting aspect that arises from our willingness to not take ownership is that we believe and strongly follow this formula:

“Work not done + existence of reasons for work not being done = Work done.”

This means that if a work is not done by us and if we have reasons for not doing it, then its as good as it being done. Like I said, this can be very comfortably attributed to lack of ownership. You might be wondering as to where I am leading? No-where. I just wanted us to see where we are, where we have come with this “chalta hai” attitude.
Something goes wrong.. Chalta hai.
There is a traffic jam… Chalta hai... Kya kar sakte hai?
Increased electricity cuts… Chalta hai. Kya kar sakte hai?
Incompetent leadership at the top of the Indian political circle… Chalta to nahin hai. Lekin kya kar sakte hai?
Is it the question –What can we do? [Kya kar sakte hai] Or is it the answer “I do not want to do anything”

As I write this now, it’s around 55 hours and the operation at Hotel Taj is still going on. You make like to admit it or not, but the endurance of these terrorists are remarkable. And what does it certify? That these are not run-of-the-mill terrorists but highly trained militants specifically for such purposes.
This time since the police has lost important lives we are not blaming the police, so we blame our intelligence –RAW, our home ministry, our defense ministry or the ruling party. We have to pin the blame of someone… someone but us. Yes there has been laxity at the sea borders. This time its the sea borders, rest of the time it was the land. And we discuss this with a cup of hot tea and samosa.

About 15 years back when Mumbai was bombed in 1993 the RDX made its way through the waters. 15 years hence and things have not changed much. Our coast lines are still open. We paid a huge price then and we are paying a huge price now… and if we do not act, we will keep paying the price. Coming back to the recent killings a few things stuck me hard.

Point One: I felt a complete lack of leadership in tackling this situation. For those of us who had seen Dr Manmohan Singh make the broadcast, they would agree that it was a lackluster performance by the most powerful man in India. Our PM lacked all emotions, lacked conviction. He did not speak as if his own house is attacked. Lack of passion for the nation, lack of sentiments –a robot might have done a similar job. Dear PM, I have no doubts that you are one of the most educated guys in the Parliament but you surely lacked the vigor, passion and anger that a young nation like ours expected from the PM.

I somehow left that he did it because he had to do it… without conviction and a poor body language.

Point Two: Our home ministry led by Shivraj Patil. One look at him and I was asking myself –what motivation would the security personals get by looking at him. He just lacked the persona to tackle the crisis.

Point Three: Our dadu [grandpa] Pranab Mukherjee just followed the PM with the speech delivery. All that he said was that he and his ministry condemn the acts of terrorism and this is the worst attacks we have seen. Arre dadu, merely condemning might not be enough. You need to tighten up your dhoti and shake up the Pakistani External Affairs ministry and use you powers, to ensure Shivraj Patil does not slip and Dr. Manmohan Singh does not forget his lackluster and unconvincing resolution to take this issue to an acceptable result.

Of course our Navy, Army, RPF, NSG and the police have done a superb job and are still firing and on the other hand our political leaders are in a mess. They should keep out of places were they are not needed…I would also ban them from entering the Parliament. We can and will have varied views on this subject… but the bottom-line is, we as citizens have to say that enough is enough; we need to get into the thick of action. We need to take ownership and responsibilities. We need to perform our duties, ask for our rights, voice our concerns, question the administration. “Aab aur nahin chalta hai.”

How many more Hemant Karkares’ should sacrifice their lives to open our eyes? How many more Kamtes’? How many more Saluskars’? And as they died on the line of duty, what answer will we give when their kids come and ask us as to what improvements have we done to make their dad’s lives worth it?

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Mumbai, How long and how many?

26th of November 2008. It was a good day for the Indian stock markets and to see how was the Dow Jones faring I flipped through the television channel in the gym. Channel 17, and I froze. CNN: Mumbai under terror seize. I forgot about my gyming routine and increased the volume.

At around 10:30 PM tonight open gunfire started in CafĂ© Leopold in Colaba. Over time the terrorists have taken up hostages in Hotel Oberoi and Taj Hotel. Foreign tourists have been taken hostages. A police jeep has been hijacked and unprecedented open firing was going on injuring and killing the innocent bystanders in the streets of South Mumbai. Open and indiscriminate firing at Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the main railway station, killed a lot of people. Most heinous of all, hostages are taken up in Cama Hospital which is for women and children. I have heard that people have been killed in the hospital as well… But what do we do? How do we give these terrorists a fitting reply?

Till now 87 people are dead and more than 200 injured. Anti-terrorism squad Chief Hemant Karkare was killed in the shootout. The 54 year old veteran, one of Mumbai’s finest took the bullet on his chest. Additional commissionaire Ashok Kamte killed in gun battle. Vijay Saluskar, encounter specialist, killed in gunfire. These were the men who took care of Mumbai. Mumbai lost five of its finest officers tonight. The Army, RAF have already entered the hotels and till now four terrorists have been killed. But its not yet over, there are more terrorists holed in. There is a fire at Taj Hotel. Hostages are being relieved but they are too dumbstruck to talk. A total of 11 policemen have died and 18 have been injured. But what do we do? How do we give these terrorists a fitting reply?

This is not new. This is not happening for the first time and I know it is not happening for the last time. These hotels are the places where a majority of foreign tourists flocked. Will they come again? What impression will they have of our nation? Colaba market is a favourite hangout for Mumbaikars as well as for the foreign crowd. They have targeted places like the railway station, the hospital, the hotels and the streets. They are killing people… not a Hindu or a Muslim or a Christian… they are killing the “aam aadmi” and the “aam aadmi” does not belong to one particular religion. He’s the same “aam aadmi” who lives inside you and me. And the “aam aadmi” is suffering. What is the “aam aadmi” in you doing?

Time and again, Mumbai gets attacked. And Mumbai rises again… what is the other alternative? You have to rise. But what exactly do you get by killing innocents? What exactly do they want? The whole nation, sorry, the world is watching this.

A hand made grenade was hurled in the BP petrol pump in Colaba, luckily the bomb did not affect the underground petrol bunk. I just saw footage of a hijacked police jeep and automatic gun firing near to the camera-man as all the people there ducked to shield themselves from the bullets. As the jeep left, there were injured people. People were screaming; they were frightened. There is no safety at all for the citizens of Mumbai.

One terrorist outfit –Deccan Mujahideen have claimed this as their doing. But what I fail to understand is, what do you get by killing people? What exactly do you get? Every-time our country faces such a situation there would be a terrorist outfit claiming “proudly” that this is their doing. Sometimes they demand a release of one of their kiths from the police custody. But still, I fail to understand what exactly do you get by killing people, killing not people… but innocent people? By disturbing the normal life? And when these in-human creatures are caught, we are not supposed to kill or harm them because we are a democratic nation and we have the Human Rights to ensure that they are not ill treated. My foot!!!

But all said and done… what happens the next day? Is it life as usual? Are we going to go out as if it’s just another day? Are we so fragile that every-time such terrorism strikes us we would rush for the covers? Why can we not protect our homes, our cities, our countries?

The place outside the Oberoi Hotel has pin drop silence. People are scared and they know, that its not yet over. There are still around 15 member terrorists in the age group of 20-25 years active on the 19th floor of Oberoi Hotel. The Army, the RAF and now the NSG have also been called.

The route taken for the ammunitions is via the sea, as abandoned boats were located near Gateway of India.

There are a few questions that we have to ask ourselves.

Are we capable to take care of ourselves?

How long are we going to reel under such losses, time and again?

And last but not the least, what do you accomplish by killing innocents? 70 virgins when you die??? My foot!!!

Somebody needs to educate these fanatics. We really need to know why the youth are taking such a path. I know it would open a Pandora box but we really need to know. I can still hear the gun fire being played by IBN Live. Its exactly 6:50 AM India time as I finish this, but the gun fire is still on.

I don't know whether I'd be able to sleep tonight. Its a shame on humanity.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Dada -Straight from the Bat

On the 11th of January 1992, at Brisbane against the mighty West Indies, a lanky 20 year old guy took guard against the stumps. The guard was a bit too defensive and he was given out LBW to a delivery from the in-form pacer Cummins. Sourav Ganguly scored three runs in thirteen balls. When he was asked how he found the ball on the fast Aussie tracks, he answered, “I am yet to see the ball… All I can do now is hear it pas my ear”. And then there was a hiatus; a lul in his cricketing career.

Come 1996 –the England tour and history was being written. Navjot Singh Sidhu left the touring Indian side due to some internal ill-treatment from the then captain Md. Azharuddin and made way for India’s future and till date most successful test and one day cricket captain –Sourav Ganguly.

How many cricketers make their debut at cricket’s sacred ground –Lords? And how many of them score a century on their debut at Lords? Only three. And well, his 131 still remains the highest by any debutant. In his next match at Trent Bridge he scores a 136; only three batsman are in this league, to score two centuries in the first two matches. And if you would have seen him play in those days [I did] – the square cuts, square drives and the cover drivers were as masterful as they can be. He could hit any ball on the off-side with such perfection and elegancy that you had to agree when Dravid said, “On the off-side, first there is god, and then there is Sourav Ganguly”. Remember this comes from one of the bookish-est cricketers of all time –Dravid. Overnight he became the Prince Of Kolkata.

After being destructive in the longer version of the game, Sourav Ganguly didn’t stop there. In 1997 Ganguly made his maiden One Day International century against Lanka. In the same year he won four consecutive Man-of-the-Match awards in the Sahara Cup against Pakistan at Toronto, sizzling not only with the bat but also with the ball. It was the same series where he was christened “The man with the golden arm”. In the second match he had taken 5/16 of his 10 overs. The journey towards greatness had begun, and its reputation kept growing.

It was 1996 when Sidhu left, and that players like Rathod, S. Somasunder, Jadeja were being paired as openers against Tendulkar, but none survived. India faced an acute shortage of a killer opening pair and the prayers were answered bountifully. Sourav Ganguly as an opener in his very first match scored a half century and India found its other opener. History stands testimony of how destructive the left-right duo of Sourav-Sachin has been in tormenting the balling line ups of any country. The duo was the most successful opening pairs in ODIs having amassed the highest number of century partnerships [26] for the first wicket. Together they have more than 7000 runs in their kitty for the first wicket at an impressive average of 48.98. They are also the world record holders for the highest number of 50 run partnerships for the first wicket: 44 fifties.

Sourav Ganguly used to exploit the field restrictions in the initial overs by walking down the pitch and hitting the pace bowlers over extra cover and mid-off. His sense of timing was impeccable and he used his hand-eye co-ordination in picking up the length of the balls early and hitting it over mid-on or mid-wicket either for a six or a one bounce four. The best part of his ground shots were, that they always found the gaps. The only delivery that tormented him throughout his career, not initially, was the short ball. He was not at all comfortable playing the short ball and used to miss-judge or lose his balance. The short ball was extensively used against him not always to get him out with it but to make him feel uncomfortable enough to commit an error in the execution of his strokes. Later he developed the art of a pull or a hook, though not natural but it saved him his wicket and added a few extra runs to the kitty.

One of the lowest points in Indian cricket was its deep involvement in the match fixing scandals and a lot of senior players were lost in it. Sourav Ganguly was the man India turned to as a leader. Sourav brought together the youth and energy, the determination and the grit, the killer instinct and the never say die attitude in the youngsters. He changed them all to Team India. Sourav also has fought with the selectors for youngsters like Yuvi, Bhajji, Kaif, Zaheer, Veeru, Ifran. The never say die attitude is now paying rich dividends. The present Indian team was created by none other than Sourav Ganguly.

It was Ganguly who converted Veeru into an opener discarding the conventional methods of opening an innings. “In India you need runs at the top order, for once the ball becomes older, you can’t score fast. And if you get off to a flier the opposition will always be under pressure. Sehwag was our best bet.”

In the year 2000, India lost 5 test matches in a row under Sachin’s captaincy and the reins of Team India for test cricket was handed over to Ganguly. To add to his woes, Steve Waugh’s Australians were seeking to conquer the “Final frontier” after having won 15 test matches on the trot. Sourav Ganguly’s Team India not only broke the trot at Edens, Kolkata but also won the series for India at Chennai, 2-1. That was Waugh’s last series and he got a gritting team with an un-characteristic attitude to face at the end. Under Ganguly nothing seemed impossible and innovation was routine life.

The India cricket team under the captaincy of Sourav Ganguly was being taken seriously in the cricketing fraternity. Team India had a burning desire, a desire to excel and win and most important of all –a team that believed in itself. It was Sourav who imbibed into his team a new sense of strength and faith in their capabilities. The bowling became tighter, the gaps narrower and the fitness perfect; and with one of the best batting line ups in the world, India was never short of runs on the board. Indian cricket was always about silk, about splitting cover and extra cover with neither fielders moving. It took Ganguly to put the steel in it. He never walked onto a cricket field to win friends, but to only and only win for India and he did that with an arrogance and self belief that irked almost everyone. His fiery attitude rubbed off on Team India; a team that believed in playing tough and winning from any situation. Remember the final at Lords in 2002 for the Natwest Trophy? Kaif and Yuvi were hand picked by Dada. Who would not remember Natwest? The heroic performances by Kaif and Yuvi brought out the spontaneous passion ingrained in our Dada, who celebrated the victory by taking off his shirt and waving it in the air from the Lords balcony. Off-course that was a fitting reply to Andrew Flintoff’s act while in a series in India. Ganguly has rushed from the balcony to the cricket ground and hugged his team mates in more than a bear hug. He loved his team and his nation. He was passionate for the game, for the team and for India and you could see it when he spoke. At that moment, my city was celebrating the victory… a victory that brought the nation together.

Brandished as being outspoken and arrogant, Sourav had often attracted controversies. The most famous being the Chappell-Ganguly one. What actually happened [am not talking about the credibility of the Chappell email] is not really known. But what we all know is that Ganguly built Team India and he brought the grit, the killer instinct, the passion and the determination to excel into the team, into the game. But at that time his form on the field was not too good and he was subsequently dropped from the team and stripped of his captaincy. It’s a humiliation to Indian cricket if they took Greg Chappell seriously. The Aussies have a habit of living upto the standards of their great grandfathers… whether its Clark, Symonds or Ponting, their integrity is always questionable.

It was the second Test match of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in 2007 in Sydney when Clark unethically claimed a catch [which was dropped] of Ganguly. Gavaskar went on record to accuse the Australian side for un-sportsmanship. Ganguly knew that it was not a catch but had heeded to the umpire decision; the umpire [ -a typical SOB] was shown asking Ponting whether it was a catch or not, but not Steve Bucknor the leg umpire. And whom do you ask? Ponting?? Who in the earlier inning had declined to admit that he was out when he was actually out?? There were many such dubicious decisions in that series and clubbed with poor ethics from the Australian side –it was enough for them to save the series which ended in a tie. I tell you, these Aussies are still a group of crooks…only their modus operandi changes that’s all. And well if I were in the field I would have shoved the Ricky Point finger and the umpire’s finger in each other’s arses… a few of such blunders had costed India the series. Every cricketer in the world is aware that the second test of BG Trophy was a total mess.

But come this year -2008 and India clinches the BG Trophy this time on home ground beating Aussies to a clean 2-0 series win. Dada had walked the Indian team one last time as captain and he is seen here standing extreme right with his simple signature smile on India winning. Looking at him who would say that he is the architect of the current India team?

Coming back to our Dada… he has always been the fulcrum of Indian cricketing performance and his own as well. He has staged numerous come-backs time and again to prove the cricketing pundits wrong who were always ready to pen down the obituary of his journey. But on 8th of October, he finally decided to hang his boots. The world can debate on whether a Voluntary Retirement Scheme was forced down our Dada or not by the BCCI but there would be no second thoughts on the fact that we would miss the numerous beautiful, gutsy, unforgettable performances. If Jack Welch called his book “Straight from the Gut”, Dada should call his “Straight from the Bat”.

Though I did not want to copy paste his cricketing stats but to give a sense of completeness to this blog, I am doing so.

Dada is the most successful Indian captain, having played more than 100 test matches and is the 4th highest run scorer for India. He holds an enviable record of 21-13 wins-losses as captain, Team India besides having lead the team to the World Cup finals of 2003.

Dada has got 16 centuries in Test matches and 22 in ODIs and is only behind Sachin, Ponting and Jayasuriya in the ODIs. He’s also got 35 and 72 half centuries in the longer and shorter version of the game respectively.

Dada is the fourth player to cross 11,000 ODI runs and third player to cross 10,000 ODI runs and so far the fastest in ODI history, after Sachin Tendulkar.

He is also one of the 3 players in the world to achieve amazing treble of 10,000 runs, 100 wickets and 100 catches in ODI cricket history, the others being Sachin and Jayasuriya.

His average is 41+ in both the forms of the game and has never dipped below 40 in the test matches ever.

Sachin On Ganguly: “Sourav has had a lot of ups and downs in his career; tough times but he has fought through it all. He was opening partner in ODIs for a long time and even attempted to teach me Bengali at times. In end we got to know each other so well that I could predict what he would do on the next ball. That for me was special. The entire nation will miss you and Anil when you are not walking with the team. Rest assured, I will too.”

When dada announced his retirement, all I wanted was that he leaves the same way as he entered… with a century, that he does not give another opportunity to the scavengers to write another article of the sorts “Hadn’t-I-said-so?” type. And Dada did it in style, a century with his long standing partner Sachin at Mohali and a gutsy 85 at Nagpur with one signature sixer of Jason Krejza…

This had to happen one day. Dada had to leave. But I was glad that he left when he was scoring. I would also want to show a small comparison of numbers for the benefit of all, of the performances of three great batsman of India cricket over the last two years.
They are arranged as “Matches-Runs-Highest-Score-Average-Strike Rate-100s-50s”

Rahul Dravid: 23-1292-129-33.12-40.40-2-7
Sachin Tendulkar: 20-1558-154*-47.21-55.96-4-9
Sourav Ganguly: 23 -1842-239-47.23-59.07-4-9

On the 10th of November, Dada scored a duck to wrap up his Test cricket and no one could believe that it would end this way. Not even Dada. Dada looked at the sky for a second or so to convey his thanks and embarked on a new journey… He was later hauled onto the shoulders when India won the match and the series and Dada was asked to perform the Lords act of shirt-waving… only the anger was missing, to be replaced with the mystical half smile. And then he left. He was gone.

Modifying Rahul Dravid’s views, I would say “When Sourav Ganguly is on wicket, even God runs for cover.”

But the fact remains, that more than Ganguly as the batsman he would be remembered as Ganguly the captain, the “game-changer”. Would this be his talisman to the Indian cricket? Only time can answer that.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

The WASE Days: Bringing down the average

What do you get if you put a tough semester, a tougher end semester exam and the toughest post-result alcohol session together? If it were me, it’d be a classic theory. And that is exactly what I would be mentioning this time. The theory stands for the greater good. And it’s christened as “Bringing down the average”.

By nature human beings are very peace loving creatures of God. They love sharing and caring. They love laughter and happiness around them and wherever they go. They want to spread happiness, love and peace even if it comes at a cost. But how many of us are ready to bet on that when it comes to spreading happiness at our own cost… Contributing to that greater good?

Though we all know how our grading system works, let me still mention it – that it’s all relative. That means that if majority of the class scores above 50 out of 100, the average would be above 50 and vice versa.

Flashback: 3rd Semester WASE 2003 batch.

We were lucky to have a teacher like Jura for Object Oriented Programming concepts. I hope I have brought back the memories, -- good or bad, we have our own versions of the same story. To start with our teacher was “Ultimate”, but we had a lot of “buts” about his teaching style or rather his examining style, and believe me when we saw the examination paper a lot of butts were in the line of fire. Mine included.

When I came out of the examination hall, in 45 minutes instead of the 180 minutes, I was not alone outside. We were all in the same boat, which apparently was sinking. But we were ignorant of the fact then. That day I promised Debu and Panky that if I escape an E grade [fail grade], I would throw a party on it. As God had cherished, his chosen ONE, was safe. That day, evening rather, God had touched me again… this time not with the blessings but with a thought. Well after half a bottle of Blue Label, you see God in everything and everywhere. Anyways.

That evening not many were lucky to be on the safe side of the “E” grade… a few of us could not make it. And that is because a few of us wanted to reach for the stars. I’ll tell you know.

Take for example a class of five students appear in an exam for a maximum of 100 marks. Lets say A and B score 50 marks each while C, D and E score 90 marks each. The average of the class is 74 marks. A and B have scored below average and both are sad. C, D and E are happy but they have made A and B sad.

Let us see what happened in real life. Our class had around 90 students and a lot of them had participated in the race to reach the top and in doing so, have taken the average up, very up. But at the same time, there was a Sourav, who was the chosen one of the God [after half a bottle of Blue Label that is]… who knew how difficult it would be to bring the average down single handedly. So what did he do? He scored below average, much below the average and hence his contribution brought the average down.

For example, consider a class of 100 students and the average score is of 52. Say Miss A. scores 50, and since she’s below the average she’s sad. Then comes Sourav and scores 10 or a more realistic 5 :-) and the class average comes down to 48. Miss A. is now happy and who knows might as well kiss Sourav… a thank you kiss… [Please remember, it’s the half bottle of Blue Label].

Whether you are the Miss A or not I do not know, but remember that you got an A grade because there was a Sourav, who brought the average down. Sourav busted his own ass so that you could be where you are now.

Now, whether Sourav really wanted to be in the who’s who list of the scoring list is a different track. I just hope that we would not forget the innumerable Souravs who have contributed in we being where we are now… and we owe them a lot of our successes. Everything is relative… whatever comes in, goes out…

Let us slow down a bit, let us score a little less, let us allow someone else to run the show…let us be the Sourav for someone else. Take care friends, believe me, there is a Sourav because of whom we are where we are today.

By the way, I am currently looking for my Sourav, to thank him… I got a QPCL of 116%