Sunday, December 4, 2011

80's India

It's almost a year now since I wrote the post on 70's India and almost immediately drafted the one on 80's India. My whole idea was to blog a piece on every decade till the present one. However, for reasons which I can't fathom, I could not set myself to finish this one which I had drafted a long time back. Today, I am in a mood to finish this, lets see. When I look back on the 80's it's my school days in Rourkela. The events which I read in newspapers or influenced me were the ones which I mostly read through nwespapers and magazines (no TV for most of the decade then, Internet not heard of!!). When I write on this, I write through the prism of my growing up years, it's nice to look back and see how your thoughts were at that time.

Diego Armado Maradona:-
He is probably the greatest footballer of all time. Most of the world believes this too, he finished first in the FIFA player of the century award which he shared with Pele. You may wonder why he figures in 80's India, but try going down memory lane and remember those days of the 1986 world cup when television was such a rare commodity in India and still this nation (not a great football crazy nation) sits up the whole night to watch this small little man take football to a whole new level. You may love Maradona, like Maradona, hate Maradona but you simply couldn't ignore him. 
He had no peers......... he was the one. Awesomely talented, fiercely controversial on and off the field, he made a potent combination for the press to get it's daily dose from. This the man who stands out all alone........When this man walked up the podium at Mexico city to lift the cup, it was one of the most outstanding moments of the decade. People were on two sides - one going berserk at the genius of the man and the team he lifted by his sheer presence and the other seething from his "hand of God" episode. Either way he is the decades number one icon. 
In soccer crazy parts of India people started wearing T-shirts with 10 and Maradona pics. Sports magazines in India started writing endless pages on him. This man made a lasting impression on a cricket-crazy nation (mind that)!!! To my mind, he is the decade's icon number one....just remember the midnight of 22nd June 1986, Maradona second goal vs England at Azteca, Mexico, Maradona receiving the ball in his own half , swivelling around , with 11 touches running more than half the field dribbling past five English outfielders and finally the goalkeeper Peter Shilton for the goal of the century!!!

Bhopal Gas tragedy :- 
This is the night of December 2nd 1984 in sleepy Bhopal when Methyl Isocyanate gas leaked from the Union carbide factory and changed the face of industrial hazards forever. It's a tragedy of unimaginable proportions, no real count of people dead or affected till date (some estimates have put it at 15,000 with effects still there, no one prosecuted even after 25 years). 
Legal wangles and procedural delays have ensured that after leaking 390 tons of lethal gases to a city who had gone to a sleep that night, not one person is behind bars!!! Bhopal has changed forever after this. This is truly the decade's darkest moment and stands out for all the wrong reasons. It's a curse to the nation that we had to fight for 15 years of legal battles to extract 470 million USD as a compensation for millions of affected lives.With our aid distribution system in such a pathetic state most of us are not very optimistic that this amount has reached the right places at all.

Rajiv Gandhi: 

He is the man who ruled or mattered the most in India during the eighties.He had all the right genes, which makes any kind of rise in India all the more easier) but had for his own reasons had chosen to be a commercial pilot. Fate intervened and he was unwillingly thrust into the hot seat of politics. Within no time he took his party to a landslide victory and had a long stint as the Prime minster. A likable personality...... he was the face which Indians had to see everyday on television those days in the news programs. He is remembered for all the right reasons as well as wrong - reducing the licence raj, increasing India's international exposure especially with the US and balancing it's equation with the then USSR...... go to his credit while the bungling in Sri Lanka's affairs (LTTE mess!!), Bofors scandal and the Shah Bano case stand as dark spots for which the country is still paying. To be fair to him, he was a man with open and good intentions and very forward looking. India benefited in a lot of ways during his years at the helm.


This is one fabric which came to India and caught on the imagination. Men tired of wearing traditional attire or having their trousers stitched by the neighborhood tailor in a most shapeless fashion where more than happy to have this new piece of cloth around their legs...women were not to be left far behind...... although it took them some more years to break the traditional mold and try denim. Having a pair of jeans meant you had arrived ..." I like jeans" is a sentence you started hearing then. However, very strangely jeans was treated like an alien piece of clothing specially in the 80's decade for reasons nobody understood. I read an interesting article that jeans always had a strong Indian connection because the main dye (then blue) for the jeans came from Indian Indigo. Although the term jeans owes its name to the Italian town of Genoa, the coarse Genoa denim which preceded the modern jeans was made from the fabric - un-dyed calico which owes its name to Calicut.It took us sometime to accept that this "rough" piece of cloth was actually quite comfortable and a fashion statement too!

 Iran Iraq war:

This was the single consistent news item in television news from 1980 to 1988 with news reader routinely reading out the number of daily casualties in this decade long war. The war initially began when Iraq invaded Iran following a long history of border disputes. However, the reasons soon lost its larger meaning. At least to people in India. The eight year brought no results on either side, it neither changed borders or any other significant difference to either countries. It did however leave half a million human lives..... dead and countless affected by chemical warfare and families and generations scarred forever. Probably, this decade taught humanity , the cruel lesson that no war however long and bloody leads us anywhere. Hope leaders remember this in subsequent decades!

End of communist era: 

Probably the single most politically earth shattering event of the decade was the rise of the fall of communism. The Berlin wall came crashing down. There were protests from Poland to China and it seemed that the red book would go down to history books. It all began in Poland in 1989 and continued in East Germany, Bulgaria and the eastern bloc countries. The symbolic Berlin Wall came crashing down a year later. Many winters later, I was fortunate to be at the Brandenburg gate and walk across it. It was ironic to think that such a thing was impossible five years ago. What started towards the end of the 80's decade was to change the political landscape of the world in the next one. Only China withstood the change although there was a strong rumble for several weeks. Mikhail Gorbachev went down in history as the leader who triggered this. He would never have thought the humble glasnost and perestroika would ultimately lead such huge consequences.

HIV :- 

A pandemic disease HIV was discovered in 1981 and although people didn't bother about it in the 80's decade it has taken 25 million lives so far and a large part of it could be attributed to complacency, lack of awareness and medical care, more so in the 80's decade. Although it took a lot of hard work, awareness creation and scientific research in the the subsequent two decades to bring the disease down from its peak casualty levels it still remains one of the most dreaded disease having consumed 0.6% of the world's population with a disproportionate number in Africa. A lot of global charity work is happening in this field coupled with scientific research so one hopes to see better days ahead in our fight to conquer this disease.

Ramanand Sagar's Ramayan and B.R Chopra's Mahabharat: 

In 1987 Ramanad Sagar started airing the Ramayan television series. I series which he would not have imagined would take such a fan following. The whole nation used to come to a halt for one hour on Sunday morning when the mythology used to be relived by Arun Govil and Deepika. High melodrama and low production quality hardly mattered in a nation where Ram was one of the greatest Gods. An estimated 100 million people stopped all work, huddled up in their drawing rooms or in their neighbors, sometimes at electronic stores, pavements and what not..... to catch a glimpse of the religious mythology.

VCR : 

Suddenly this electro - mechanical device surfaced in the 80's promising Indian middle class families the comfort to watch movies from home on a cassette rent of Rupees twenty. The operator would come in a scooter with a huge suitcase carrying this magic equipment and connect it to the TV with an array of wires. The whole family had already huddled up for the "show". This man would press some buttons and Voila; the film show would start in the drawing room. People went on from renting to buying this fancy equipment whose craze lasted a few years and was taken over with the CD whose sleek looks and clarity made this equipment sunset.

There were a lot of other events which had shaped up the psyche of this decade but I chose these, more on the basis of the impression they had left on our minds.

I enjoyed reliving this decade while writing it.

(pics courtesy: Google images)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The greying of India

"We are not limited by our old age; we are liberated by it."

Sounds nice........ but in a lot of cases it is too good to be true. One thing that particularly strikes me and on which I thought of blogging for quite some time is the greying of India. As one looks around, the one thing which strikes is the increase in the number of old people compared to say twenty years back.

Population ageing is an universal and irreversible phenomenon. Of course, it varies from country to country depending on mortality rates, fertility and migration trends. One of India's most stunning achievements post independence has been longevity. While other countries even developed nations have struggled to increase longevity. We have increased our longevity to quite a decent level. All this brings with it a lot of questions and issues. We need to provide health, economic and social security to this vast population of greying India within a short span of time. India's older population is projected to quadruple by mid-century, while that of the world is expected to triple.

Several years ago I was associated with a project which was working on old age pensions and this is a topic which has always been close to my heart. A generation of Indians especially govt employees have been assured of fixed pensions from their date of retirement. However, the government took a different view of assured / guaranteed amount of pensions after it understood that the load on the exchequer would be staggering considering India's rate of increasing ageing population. The OASIS committee which was formed to suggest pension reforms in India came out with a few eye opening facts:-

  1. India's total population is expected to rise by 49% between 1991 and 2016. The share of aged in the total population by 2016 would stand at 8.9% and at 13.9% at 2026.

  2. Males and females aged 60 are expected to live beyond 75 years which means that they would need to have means to support themselves for 15 years after retirement.

  3. Approximately 74% of India's population is rural which does not have a defined pension system as the population mainly consists of farming or contract labour. A total of 11% population in India is presently covered under a pension system and thus the threat of old population sinking into poverty after retirement/ out of work is very high.

  4. The unorganised and private sector have no real laid down pension system and the risks of their standards of living falling drastically on retirement is very large.

  5. Families are becoming smaller and the joint family system is considered unattractive thus leaving the old largely to fend for themselves economically and socially.

I am not going to blog on the details of the pension system but what I wanted to bring about is a change in thinking which is needed for all Indians. Indians are traditionally savers, an average 35% of the money goes into savings ....but how much into retirement savings? Most people's priority of savings are housing, children's marriage, higher education and health care or emergency costs. This leaves aside very little corpus to take care of retirement needs for the elderly couple.

The second larger issue is of a system nation wide which can address the unorganised sector, self-employed, partially employed and people who cannot contribute to a pension system regularly, yet need a security cover and a certain amount of money during their greying years. Current the little population largely government employees which the defined pension system covers is one of defined contribution, defined returns which actually means falling returns as the inflation keeps on increasing. Any pension reform has to bring the unorganised sector into the reform process.

The third issue is educating the people on the issue of retirement planning. Today a large percentage of people with large disposable incomes accord a very small percentages of their income on creating a retirement corpus. ( A holiday abroad, fancy cars, gadgets etc all take precedence). Education also means creating a realistic awareness of the level of returns expected from the retirement plans. Too much optimism from a retirement fund scheme can also be equally harmful. A large section of our working force still relies on premature withdrawal of possible retirement savings like provident fund to fund immediate financial needs.

The fourth issue is including the poorest of the poor- BPL families in the scheme of the things. Currently govt plans provide for certain days of guaranteed employment for families below poverty line but govt and NGO's needs to step in when they are unemployable. The poorest of the poor largely live on daily wages and it is impossible to think that they can create a retirement corpus on their own.Any reform or pension system should be targeted to include this large population with almost zero savings.

The next issue(fifth) is in a large section of employed population , there is a seeming problem that one may outlive the accumulated wealth which has been set aside for retirement years.In the absence of a pension system , a prudent saver may have saved in a disciplined manner . However with increasing inflation there is always the fear of outliving the accumulated wealth.

There is also an issue of a large section of women outliving the men which means that the man's contribution to household income may stop a long before and the woman has to fend a long number of years all by herself.This assumes a more complex dimension if the woman has not been employed ever.

Another complex issue which needs to be sorted is - How old is old? I raise this because the corpus of providing retirement benefits or social security to an increasing population is shrinking and one needs to take an unbiased view of the same. My personal opinion is that , although 60 and above is considered the old age, people in any sector who are employed and are able to earn their livelihood should receive less preference for benefits than people who are unemployed or with special needs.

I want to treat this blog as a living article which I will keep on updating as I personally get more enlightened on this subject. However, the topic of " Greying of India" cannot be complete without thinking of what one does during the greying years. These can turn out to be the most glorious years in a person's life provided one is able to pursue hobbies,read travel or blog, listen to music , enjoy good times with family and friends, volunteer for social work, give free coaching on a subject and basically stay active.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Uniquely Singapore!!!

I resumed blogging after a rather long gap. No particular reason though, I have opened my draft blogs a dozen times in these past six months but never gone ahead to complete it. I spent almost the last seven months in Singapore on an assignment and there is no better topic I can think of to resume blogging than the amazing country. It's a very unique place. I am not so well travelled to make a judgement, but I think Singapore is quite unique. A small island city-country, exceptionally well governed and managed, with robust economic activity is truly an example for several of the world's countries to look at and pick up lessons from. Like every place, Singapore has it's unique flavours which make it what it is today. In my own observations, I will remember Singapore for all these unique reasons:-

Fast walkers:- The first thing you notice about Singapore is fast walkers. People walk out of tube stations, escalators, sea beaches, office complexes and what not...... at a pace you will not see on earth! It is as if they are fitted with some self propelling motors whose speed keeps on increasing. If you do not believe me, I read an article recently where a survey by the British Council ranked Singapore as the city with the fastest walkers followed by Copenhagen, Madrid, Guangzhou and Dublin. Singapore is not a laid back city. The best thing about these fast walkers is that they walk fast at all times - whether it is going to office or coming back, on a weekend with family and friends or when walking out of a pub (that's quite remarkable). However, as a tourist if you really want to get the flavour of the city walk right out of a tube station and walk around. China Town and Clarke Quay are my all time favourites and walking around there is an amazing experience. In fact, my own pace of walking increased by quite a good speed after my stay there.

Amazing public transport: The public transport in Singapore is what one dreams of. Punctual, Reliable, Modern, Economical and World Class. The transport within Singapore is mainly land based - rail, bus, taxis and it is no surprise that a lot of Singaporeans rely completely on that. Travelling within the city is so hassle free that even on a small pretext we used to travel kilometres. However, apart from the trains, bus, taxis there is this unique trishaws akin to our pedalled rickshaws which you can take to get a flavour of the city. When you leave Singapore the thing which strikes is that why the public transport which you took for granted in Singapore is not available in other cities? It is not rocket science, its merely good planning and execution which any other city should be able to do. Its no wonder that a lot of our Indian politicians and babus make innumerable trips to Singapore on taxpayers money to "study" the transport system there and end up ..... I dont know with what (probably large shopping sprees at the Singapore shopping festivals!!)

Cosmopolitan identity:- Singapore is truly a cosmopolitan melting pot. One day in the city is enough to make you realise that it is a unique mix of Chinese, Malay, British and Indian cultures. It happily takes in all these cultures and a large proportion of foreign nationals making it a multi racial, multi ethnic and multi lingual nation. A large section of people can speak or understand more than one language. What really struck during my various interactions with people is that a lot of expats (even Westerns) feel quite at home here and in a lot of cases would not like to go back if given a chance.

Food courts- Singapore can boast of having the largest amount of food courts covering world's most diverse and vibrant culinary traditions. The culinary journey in Singapore is very varied. The choice of food available was actually an eye opener for me. Most local or street food (Singaporeans love that) is influenced by Chinese, Malay and Indian and Continental influences. A large amount of food is chicken based - I saw a lot of Chicken noodles or Chicken rice. There is a huge choice in terms of meat based food ,although for the pure vegetarians there is the ever reliable Saravanna and Anand Bhavan to fall back upon. For the office goers ,La Pau Sat, on a working day lunch hour is amazing. Food is being cooked fast and consumed equally fast. There is probably a little bit of food for every taste - for a Tamil Brahmin to a Japanese tourist or for a Swedish banker.

Network connected - Singapore is the world's most network connected city. I did not meet anybody who does not have a hand phone (most of them Blackberry's and upwards). Checking mail, browsing sites, checking best deals, finding roads, chatting on yahoo are all done on the move on these instruments. The phone is more like a phone cum laptop. An Internet cable line is assured to be there at all places.

Easiest place to do business: Singapore offers one of the best business friendly environments. Its no wonder that almost all the respected corporates in the world have a strong presence there. One may wonder why? The answer is there for all to see- it is a junction of east and west. It is at a crossroads of international trade routes, and it itself is a economic miracle (a country only four decades old, with no natural resources and already one of world's top trade destinations).

Night safari:- This is a unique attraction as part of the Singapore zoo where you will find animals in a created environment resembling their habitat. Its a nocturnal zoo where you hop on to a tram and go through tigers, cheetahs and hyenas who roam about freely past you.

Roads and traffic signals:- Every part of Singapore has traffic signals , some covered by cameras and some not. However, the amazing thing is that in almost 99% of cases people follow them and also follow all road rules. This is such a far cry from some of our cities where if you wait at a red signal the entire traffic honks from behind or if you follow road rules people actually stare and sneer at you.

Litter free:- Singapore has a great reputation of being litter free and it lives up to it everyday. Litter bins are there everywhere and of course there are strict penalties for violating and throwing litter...... could be up to 200 sgd.

Durian fruit:- In Singapore, the king of fruits is the Durian fruit. Widely known, available and marketed.In Singapore, you would either love the durian fruit or hate it but you will never be able to ignore it.It almost ressembles a jackfruit,the edible flesh of it emits a distinctive odour, strong and penetrating even when the husk is intact. Some people regard it as fragrant, otherwise find the aroma overpowering and offensive. The smell evokes deep appreciation to intense disgust and has been described as almonds, rotten onions, turpentine and gym socks. The flesh of the fruit is consumed at various stages of ripeness.

There would be a lot more, which I found quite unique in this city. I did not however include them because I feel some of it could be found in other places and restricted my list to absolutely unique things. Its a great place , there are a lot of things you can learn from there...its a happy city, people are joyous and lead happy lives but its also great to be back home!!

Good bye , Singapore...

Friday, July 9, 2010

70's India

Of late this is a topic I have wanted to write. Every generation has it's high moment - a period of time which defines and brands it. We are the 90's generation because we are born in 70's........ that makes us be at the prime of our youth in the 90's. Oh!!! I am deviating from the topic, the 70's generation is the generation born in the 50's i.e the first post independence generation. They were the first ones not having seen the British rule the country, yet having grown up listening to their stories from their parents. What I want to write about, what I feel were the icons of the 70's generation (people-good, bad or ugly who stood out). This generation is now in their 60's having retired and taking an armchair view of life and the changes taking place all around.

What differentiates it from other generations is that they have seen the maximum amount of change in this country, although they may not have been a part of the change process themselves. Some icons and symbols which have stood in this generation and have defined it are :-

  1. Amitabh Bachchan :- Amitabh meaning the light which would never go off, was the screen hero symbolizing the angry young man of the 70's. Usually playing the role of Vijay (victorious). He was the defiant character who braved all odds, showed a heroic masculinity yet his characters connected to the traditional India by the ideal son, brother, or wife he played. Although he flirted with bankruptcy, a near death accident, flops yet the iconic image never took a beating. He is the 70's icon number one.

  2. Ambassador car :-This car despite it's British origins, is a truly a Indian car. Based on the Morris Oxford model and manufactured out of it's Uttarpara plant, this car remains the symbol which symbolizes India. It still is the preferred taxi in most metros in India, is used by the politician and the humble babu and remains most suited to India's terrain. It's is the 70's icon number two.

  3. Indira Gandhi :- Indira , daughter of India's first prime minister was the lady who presided over the India of the 70's.Starting off with her war on Pakistan in 1971, thereby creating Bangladesh and then creating the "smiling buddha" in remote Pokhran in 1974, the green revolution and the emergency , she remains the single most important person who straddled the political landscape then.To the 70's generation , you either loved her ( most women did) or hated her could not ignore her!!!She's is the 70's icon number three.

  4. Sunil Gavaskar :- He was the sporting icon of this generation. Taking on the West Indies in their own land was the start off our birth as a cricketing power. He was the first who made the world stood up and take notice of India as a powerful cricketing nation. Although he had his bad patches of captaincy and controversies, he remained India's number one run getter for years. He is the 70's icon number four.

  5. Varghese Kurien :- Also known as the milkman of India, is the man who created the white revolution in India and made Amul a household brand. Changing dairy from an unorganized sector to a co-operative movement and making India the largest milk producing nation in the world was no mean achievement. One should go to Anand and have the feel of the transformation for themselves.I have been there and I know how milk has transformed Gujrat.

  6. Lata Mangeshkar :-Is truly India's voice of the millennium. She captivated an entire generation who have grown up listening to her songs. Although she has completed seven decades of singing Hindi and other regional songs and has won every possible Indian award upto the Bharat Ratna it is the period of the 70's which actually catapulted her to the long road to fame and history. It is in this decade that she sang the most songs composed by Laxmikant Pyarelal and R.D.Burman whose lyrics were mostly penned by Gulzar, Anand Bakshi and Majrooh Sultanpuri. Beyond the 70's having established fame and a place in the hearts of the people she gradually cut down on her singing and became choosy with directors and lyrics. She is truly India's icon number six.

  7. Pt.Ravi Shankar:- was truly India's first international artist and musician. He is not only one of the greatest artist of this decade but of the later half of this century. His jugalbandi with Allarakha provided one of the greatest partnership in India's musical journey. He was probably solely responsible for popularizing sitar not only in India but also abroad. His teaming up with George Harrison was also one of the great musical success for mixing of Indian and Western music. It was in the 70's that Panditji was at his peak both in the Indian and international musical scene performing in concerts in India and across the world. A flamboyant personality off the musical stage too, he remains icon number seven.

  8. Bajaj Scooter:- Remember those days, Bajaj Chetak and Bajaj Super was one thing you saw on every Indian roads, it was like the Indian happy family's ultimate throne. The man on the driver's seat the woman behind, the little guy and the girl one tucked in between the parents and the other standing in front. Hamara Bajaj was at that time Hamara Parivar. There were competitors like Lambretta and others though but nobody lived upto the Indian family's dream better than the Bajaj scooter.

  9. Bangladesh:- Creation of this nascent nation by breaking off from Pakistan was one of the major events of this decade.Years of linguistic discrimination and economic neglect spurred a revolution triggering a break away from the mainland Pakistan. Led by Mujib and with active and open support by India this small nation was formed after a decisive military victroy. However, Bangaldesh continues to be plagued by poverty, economic corruption and misrule and still remians one of the poorest nations in the region, ironically with one of the highest density of population!!

  10. Naxalbari-charu mazumdar:- The seeds of the communist revolution and marxism were sown here. Starting with a militant peasant uprising and the birth of marxism -lennism in India this movement is something which still continues to be a part of rural political landscape in Bengal. It was as if it was the in thing then to be a Naxal, thousands of students have given up their careers mid-way to join a movement in the 70's which later lost it's way. Although it's ideals were good and revolution was in the air in the 70's it is sad that it's wrong ways and means took out the good name it could have it could have achieved.

I intend to restrict myself to ten for each decade although for the seventies I strongly felt that the smiling buddha , the moped and the green revolution should be a part of.It was a great decade and salute those who made it what it was!!!

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Nobel peace prize

I sauntered to the sofa sometime back when the news flashed of Barrack Obama winning the Nobel peace prize. I was confused, so decided to blog it out. Over the years I have followed the Nobel prize announcements and it was good to see more Indians getting recognition in this forum. Mother Teresa, Amartya Sen, C.V.Raman and others could make it to the hallowed list although it's far more difficult for an Indian or an Asian to prove his candidature for the Nobel standings than say an American or the British. The classic irony is that while Barrack Obama's promised intention of reducing the nuclear war heads from thousands to hundreds is considered good enough to win him the prize (with no action taken as of now to reduce the stockpile), a Gandhi taking a non-violent route and shaking up the entire British empire isn't. It's always easy for an American or European to get enough publicity to attract the Nobel committee while for an Asian or Indian it's twice as difficult. Amartya Sen, Mohammed Yunus and others have almost dedicated their whole life in pursuit of the respective fields only upon which has the committee woken up and taken note of.

Obama certainly deserves recognition for his efforts only nine months into office and for his thinking of disarming nuclear powers in return for a wider global efforts to prevent proliferation. However, there are a large cross section of Americans who do not subscribe to his view and believe that weapons belong to the country and not the president making his task that much difficult.

It's a huge global and diplomatic effort Obama has to lead if he intends to achieve in reality something for which the has already been lauded with the Nobel prize. It's by no means an easy task of cutting down stock piles of fissile material which have accumulated for decades. Nobody would give up so easily when most countries are still stockpiling them. Efforts of non-proliferation has proved futile with rogue states like north Korea making tall claims and others like us calling it discriminatory. The world has yet to agree on a single treaty.... NPT which is the most widely recognized and which still has large loopholes. The world is still about nuclear haves and have nots with both taking opposing postures.

I personally do not see an immediate change in the nuclear posture of any state including the US. Stockpiles will be kept as per every country's strategic needs. Some rogue nations will still smuggle in technology and material needed to produce them and will mock the world with one or two arsenals of theirs and make false threats. Some others will talk of reduction in stockpiles without doing the same, claiming that security threats exist and nuclear deterrence is a sovereign right.

Coming back to the topic of Obama, I feel he has been given the prize very early in the hope of promised action rather than on the ground reality which has always been the case. It's like rewarding a child for studying very hard a day before the exams and not waiting for the result. Yeah, I know the Nobel committee has in the past made quite glaring mistakes..... the most famous ones being of omitting Gandhi and the other
of Rigoberta Menchu who later admitting to fabrications in her biography.

If one has to keep up the credibility and standing of the prize as the most sought after in the world, it should look at the person's lifetime proven body of work in that field and not of promised action and hope. Peace prize winners
mainly international diplomats like Jimmy Carter, Gorbachev, Shimon Peres, Mandela and Kofi Annan have had a huge volume of work and proven results before they walked up the podium. This prize should not be about hope. It is about recognizing efforts which have brought peace and harmony among different people.

I only hope that Obama delivers all that for which he has already been rewarded and keep up the credibility of the Nobel prize.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Maharajas Galore!!!!

I am writing on a topic today which is close to my heart. To me, 15th August 1947 was a day which not only we became independent but we threw out a loosely fragmented princely tyrannical India. 500 odd kings who amassed wealth beyond most people's imagination (actually the state's taxes and duties dutifully paid by it's citizens, which they royally gobbled up!!). All this went to feed their personal greed and hunger. They indulged in mindless eccentricity while their poor "subjects" (I hate this word as it smacks of slavery) toiled day and night to make ends meet.

We were a poor country with the richest kings. Those shameless creatures had amassed so much wealth (actually looted it !!!) that some of their descendants are still feeding on it. For decades, we doled out to privy purses to these jokers most of whom had nothing in them apart from a few strand of genes which they kept en-cashing. We are told that they understood luxury and the good life while others didn't. If one does not know where his next meal would come from after toiling 16 hours a day, I do not think Cartier watches will be on his mind!!!

As I write the leftist side of me continues to poke me to elaborate on how they subjected the ordinary masses to a wretched life while they enjoyed what they did not deserve even by an inch. The Maharajah of Junagadh had a peculiar passion for dogs. His favorite pets were assigned to apartments equipped with telephones, electricity and domestic servants and were borne off to marble mausoleums to the strains of Chopin's music. For the wedding of his favorite bitch he spent 60,000 pounds, a sum which could by any estimate financed the basic needs of 1,20,000 of his people.

The Nizam of Hyderabad reputed to be one of the wealthiest in the world in 1947, reportedly contributed 25 million pounds to Britain in world war -1, for which a very grateful Britain addressed him as his "Exalted Highness" (the only royal in India to be addressed with such salutations are really costly!!!!) The man himself guarded his wealth zealously for 35 years eating off a tin plate, smoking cigarette stubs left by guests and squatting on a mat by the floor in his room. Yet wrapped in a tattered newspaper on his desk was the Jacob Diamond, one of the largest in the world, a mighty 280 carats.

Then there was the super-glamorous Maharani Bakhtavar Kaur of Patiala, who got Cartier to redesign her necklace with a diamond of 234.69 carats; Maharani Indira Devi of Cooch Behar wore sandals by Salvatore Ferragamo who in his memoirs wrote how the Maharani loved a pair in black velvet set with diamonds. The maharanis had weavers to weave saris specially commissioned. Jewels, cigarette cases, shoes, evening bags, hair combs and ornaments would all have been from design houses like Van Cleef & Arpels, Boucheron, Cartier or Faberge. There was no need for the princes to travel or indeed leave the palace if they didn’t wish to as it all came to them. I am told (but I am not vouching the authenticity of it) that a certain Maharaja had a snout in the front of his Rolls Royce to spray steaming water if any ordinary citizen crosses his path while driving.

This fantasy of luxury in a country where people struggled for basic living, seems not only barbaric but also criminal. Alas, we didn't have an egalitarian society then and being worshipers of such rulers, the people meekly accepted it as their destiny and lived on. The fact that we abolished the privy purses and made them "commoners" is one great achievement of democracy and modern India. We should have no place in an equal society where men and women by virtue of lineage get away with all the nation's wealth.

Thankfully most of their properties now belong to the nation and their grand children only have stories to tell!!

Thankfully we could bury the monarchies and move on to a strong vibrant democracy. Let us not forget that not many people in this world have that privilege.

Monday, June 15, 2009


I am writing on a trip, which I had made in 1995, sounds pre-historic, but when I think of it, it doesn't seem so old. I was then a management trainee in Ispat industries. The company had very generously asked our whole batch of 33 trainees to go on a month long company tour to visit all their plants across India. It was really a month long picnic on our part. We were fresh out of college, and a month long crisscross across the country was something which we were enjoying to the hilt!

Our month long travel was coming to an end, and the last halt was Balasore. Ispat had a factory there which we were supposed to visit for a week. For us, what we were also looking forward was that Balasore is great for seafood, especially prawns!!! We boarded the train at approx 9 in the night, and we were supposed to reach by 1 in the night. Our group, luckily, had all foodies, guys who could consume huge amounts of food and thoroughly relish it!! As the train chugged on from Howrah to Balasore, most of us, had made plans for own our sea food festivals!!!

All of us had decided, that we should not miss anything, as far as sea food was concerned. On reaching the town at 1 in the night, we were taken to a hotel (It was hotel swarnachuda, do not know whether it is still there or not).

As the jeep screeched to a halt at the reception of the hotel, all of us jumped out of it and headed straight to the restaurant, leaving the jeep full of luggage behind (we had not even checked in to our rooms, we did not want to waste time, lest the cook goes to sleep!!!). We asked the staff to open the place for us to 1 in the night.

As per our carefully laid out plans, which we had made on our train journey, our targets had to be two of Balasore's famous exports - prawns and cashew nuts. All of us ordered two jumbo plates of each followed by a dinner, which obviously included some items where these two were the main ingredients.

Our stomachs were obviously not keeping pace with our enthusiasm, but we were the last persons on earth to give up. We gobbled up everything that night, the waiters had a baffled expression on their faces, but they thought probably a good night's sleep would sober us down.
For the next week, the whole of the staff and the cooks of the hotel, have laid on our tables, the amount of food, which they probably lay to their guests in an entire holiday season. Our day would always start and end with cashew nuts (fried or salted or roasted or just raw). Meals would always start with cashew nuts, as if it was the holy bread, would have to include 2-3 varieties of prawn dishes (fried, gravy, roasted etc) besides other non-vegetarian stuff, ice-creams and kheer, and a lot of other delicacies.

It was as if it was a crime not to eat. Each of us was competing with the other on the amount of food one could eat. In the midst of all this cut-throat(or stomach!!!) fights, one of us (Sanjeev, I think) suggested we should go light on one day and stick to something light like dal-chawal.
It was as if he had uttered something sacrilege. The whole gang pounced on him - HOW DARE HE EVEN THINK LIKE THAT??? He beat a hasty retreat and went back to the familiar diet of cashew, prawns, mutton, ice-creams and other such staple stuff.

Balasore is famous for prawns, sea fishes and cashews and unless you eat against time, you will not be able to gulp the huge volumes of food which will leave you totally satisfied with the visit to this unique place. By the 5th day, it's as if we had reached the moksha of eating happiness. It's as if we had climbed a huge mountain of food, done it, conquered and was savoring the victory.

When we caught the train back to Kolkata it was mission accomplished!!!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Bon vivant!!!!

I am starting this new series of food reviews of my latest gourmet adventures.It's been a while , that I have written a post, honestly I ran out of ideas, and then it's the foodie in me which responded. From now on, I am going to write a review of every eatery I visit.

I start my account with my recent visit to Rajdhani restaurant in the Eastern suburb of Mulund in Mumbai. Actually, I made two visits to the same place in a span of a month, the first with my office colleagues (this is when I first came to know of this place and liked it!!) and then with my wife. The second visit, was to make my wife also experience the ambiance and the food which I liked on my first visit.

This place serves authentic Rajasthani / Gujarati food and we took their special thali which I am told is their specialty there. The place is quite large although the tables could have been better arranged giving a more cosy dining experience. The place is pure vegetarian, and although I am not a Gujarati or Rajasthani myself, the dishes seemed to me to have an authentic touch (some of my Guju friends do not agree with this, though!!).

What immediately strikes you after you order for a special thali is the amazing range of items being brought in at regular intervals (you actually keep looking at the staff who keep walking towards your table with amazing regularity) your plate never seems to get empty. If I recollect rightly, it starts off with starters like kachori and chaat and then the actual meal comes. The meal has an assortment of Indian breads(theplas, rotis etc), the rice varieties and khichdi, the farsaans, four types of bhajis and three types of daals, followed with chaas, basundi and other sweets, and deserts.

Overall it is not a meal but as my wife says its a dining experience!!

I am told, that the total count of items on their thali is 32, which includes mostly Gujarati, Marwardi , Maharashtrian dishes. The quantity is unlimited, although it does not make sense, no body can go beyond tasting each item (on my next visit I am going to choose select items and savor them rather than trying to finish their entire range).

The service is quite fast, and it's striking to notice the waiters using some kind of strange hand signals to signify which items someone wants a repeat.

Personally I liked some of their daals, the basundi was good too!!! The snacks serving could have been less (initially a lot of snacks come, one may tend to over eat that) the items needs to be spaced better. I had been on a Sunday, I would personally have preferred a more lazy serving, which gives me more time to savor the dishes, rather than get boggled with the number of katoris I have to finish. Rather than going on with the endless winding story I am going to rate this place for myself:-( out of 10, remember, I am a harsh critic!!!)

Food:- 8.5
Ambiance :- 7
Service :-7.5
Authenticity :- 9

Overall a great dining experience and to cap it all if you have liked the food there is a small hammer which you can strike on a dhol as you exit. It's a nice and unique acknowledgment of the guest and the host for an experience which both have enjoyed. The guest thumps the dhol and the host responds with a team cheer!!!

vivant......till my next burp!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, May 31, 2009


I started playing tennis, a couple of months back, more out of curiosity since I had never played on a tennis court before, but now I have got hooked on to it. It all started with the usual guilt feeling of missing out on games and sports, but now it's part of my daily life. I have always found the game fascinating to watch, loved watching matches at Center court, the Roland Garros and the other Grand slams, but never thought playing could be much more a fun too. As someone so aptly put-Tennis is an addiction that once it has truly hooked a man will not let him go.

Tennis is one of the most popular spectator and participation sports in the world, with fans and competitors in more than 100 countries. Millions of people, most of them amateurs, play the game worldwide, either as recreation or in amateur tournaments. It's truly a great mental and physical game. As Pete Sampras sums it - "It's one-on-one out there, man. There ain't no hiding. I can't pass the ball."

I started first understanding and following tennis when the unseeded Boris Becker, only 17 at that time, beat Kevin Curren in 1985 to win the Wimbledon title. Watching him firing those booming aces at the Center court to hapless opponents make me hook on to the game. Although for a first time watcher, the rules appear slightly queer, over time, I have managed to understand the rules and appreciate the art and beauty of the game.

Once I started playing and got coached, I realized tennis is a mind game too. I realize now looking back how the greats - Sampras, McEnroe, Connors, Becker, Agassi, Steffi all combined a mix of tactical, technical, physical and mental abilities to reach the top of sports. The game I used to watch as a competition sport, is something I see very differently now. I have learned the importance of grip, balancing the body, controlling the shots, the power of serve, how to play tennis from the net and the baseline and all the intricacies of it. Although I can hardly call myself a pro yet I am happy with the learning curve. It is something I look forward to everyday, and truly keeps me going. The best thing about waking up in the morning is no longer the cup of tea, but hitting the courts.

I play with players from all age groups from 12-65 year old and I realize how everyone cashes in on their dominant strengths and pushes the fight to the opponent. Its fun to play with small school going kids (may be 12 year old). The seriousness with which they approach the game makes you stand up and watch. I have played with oldies who have amazing serve and volley as well as great eyes for placing the ball in far corners of the court. If you play tennis you will learn never to underestimate your opponent this is what I take back from the courts everyday.

I am still practicing to put in more power to my serve, although I like the fact that my percentage of first serves are high, I need to improve and develop a strong backhand if I wish to play competitive tennis and improve my stamina by leaps and bounds.

With mumbai monsoons round the corner I am sure my tennis will take a beating but I am aiming that by winter I should be ready for local club level competition. As they say - Champions keep playing till they get it right.

My aim is to be able to serve aces, play the lob, overhead smash and the lob perfectly by October. I also realize that I need to play more passionately and get involved 200% while playing no other thought should cross my head then. I also need to read up more on the game specially on the techniques and watch more tournament coverages. I will keep updating this post with tennis updates.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Blogging Hiatus

Yeah , returning back to blogging after a hiatus!!Feels nice, just could not manage to get into the mood to write a post.What really inspired me today was reading through quite a few very well written blogs, the first thing in the morning.I was planning to start writing again , but could not break the shell.Well written, means, written straight from the heart, not too flamboyant,but one that really makes you continue reading.There are some great blog writers , who write on simple everyday stuff which all of us go about doing everyday; what really sets their posts apart is the that they can hold the readers interest.I hope , they continue writing , inspiring unhurried souls like me to start clicking regularly.
I have no particular topic in mind to write.It's summer in Mumbai with election results round the corner and nothing really much happening apart from some IPL action.Yeah , I did take a small break driving down to the konkan coast for a much needed break.Maharashtra has a long and lush green coastline which few states can match.There is an abundant catch of fresh fish all along.We chose Harihareswar because we had never been there.It's a beautiful beach , shallow and very long.What's particular great that this weekend getaway offers you to get completely cut-off from the hustle of Mumbai (in fact cell phones do not work there !!!!). By the time we had actually reached there after a long drive, we got the shock of our trip !The reality dawned on us that we may not get an acco to stay.We were actually lucky to scrape through the last hotel room available on a long weekend.
We enjoyed some walks along the beach and the tall waves drenching us over.It was something we badly needed from the hustle of Mumbai.This makes me realise what a weekend getaway can do to charge your batteries.I am now determined to take these breaks more regularly.A long drive , check in to a calm place, beside the sea for a weekend, soak in the place and then back to work.
This is the kind of holiday I am looking forward to now, rather long ones in a guided tour fashion where we keep ticking off places which we visit of our register.For me , this place is a must see again!!I hope it remains serene like this and the tourism industry sharks don't eat it up dotting it with innumberable hotels and guided tours!!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

20 things about myself

Today , I restarted blogging after a long time.I contempletd for some time , but thought would break the ice with this small piece I wrote to discover myself.As I was writting this , I realised that I was writtting this more for myself ,than for any web visitor.Here is this ....for myself:-

I love cycling
I love playing tennis and cricket
I enjoy writing a good piece in English , I find well written texts and passages interesting
I enjoy driving on highways.
I love crispy dosas
I relish ice-creams and desserts
I like clean places but hate cleaning.
I don’t like telephones(I do not wish to remain connected all the time)
My views on a lot of issues are slightly left off center
I wish I could have been a swimmer.
I am a strong believer in the institution of marriage.
I wish I could sing or play a musical instrument
I respect self-made people
I hate braggers.
I wish there was more equitable distribution of wealth and resources in society.
I do not like religious discourses.
I hate television soap operas.
I take time picking up a new language.
I love country music
I am not very gadget friendly.

Monday, January 26, 2009

26th January

I started blogging some months back, wrote a few posts with great enthusiasm, after which I sort of gave up. Every time, I think of some topic to write, I mentally conceptualise it, however, when I am on my PC, I just go back to reading old posts, somebody else's blog or more conveniently shift to orkut. For a few weeks now, I have not been able to shrug off my laziness to actually write a new post.

Today, I have no particular topic in mind and my head is cluttered with a medley of random thoughts, however I am determined to restart my blogging innings again. I may not write anything coherent, but I am going to write this for myself. It's Republic day today for Indians and for most Indians it's a holiday to chill out. Coming as it on a monday gives everyone an extended weekend, all of us wish that national holidays fall either on Fridays or Mondays. Honestly, as the number of years go by, days like 26th January become holidays for rest, outings with friends and family and nothing else. The fact that India became a republic on this day is actually incidental. How many of us actually watch that Old Soviet Union style trucks carrying tableaus of different states or one army contingent marching past another. Honestly, I think it's time we changed the the official celebrations in Delhi to something more interesting. While we have made great progress as a nation in every field, when it comes to celebrating our success and show our might, the pattern has not changed. Why don't we think of changing this pattern, Isn't it drab and monotonous??????

First the military parade, I know this is the only day when the defence forces can unveil what they have built in store and ready to use for our safety, however the show, more for reasons of convinience, is weighed heavily in favour of the army. I would prefer a awe-inspring air show by our dare devils on the skies and a show by our navy on the waters. It gives citizens a confidence that apart form a huge army, our skies and seas are equally well protected. An air show telcast to a billion people and a naval drill is something most of us have not seen and would give the navy and the airforce the respect it deserves. I would also prefer a evening fireworks display which makes the celebration enjoyable. Such display can be held in important cities of India and not Delhi alone. I think this can draw people in their respective cities to a common place where everyone can enjoy and feel a sense of national pride. We can have cultural programs on that day and not the same glimpses of states (in different trucks, it's now pretty standard- Milk co-operatives for Gujrat, harvesting in Punjab, Baul singing in Bengal, Rath Yatra for Orissa, Bihu dance for Assam....actually the whole list is pretty predictable!!!!)

I would prefer the whole celebration to be available on the net, downloadable (we are supposed to be an IT giant!!!)This enables NRI's also to be able to access and feel a sense of belonging.
For a change my recipe of celebration would be as follows :- Pay homage to the tomb of unknown soldier and the father of the nation at the crack of dawn followed by a military parade in the morning in all the four major cities. This should be followed by cultural concerts by well known Indian artists after which we can have street plays, folk songs, folk dramas, rock concerts and other cultural items. This could be followed by some interesting sporting events and the day should end in a fireworks carnival.

I hope the recipe sounds different and I have tried to include something to appeal to everybody, this I feel will keep involved in celebrations and not in dozing off, which usually most people do.Do put your thinking caps on, and let us put together an interesting 26th January celebration programme. We can send it to our babus and netas to at least think upon.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

100 things

This is my list of the 100 things that are mentioned. I have done some of them.... my answers are marked in red.....

1. Started my own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than I can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Touched a cobra/snake
10. Sung a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched lightning at sea
14. Taught myself an art from scratch (candle making)
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Kutub Minaar
18. Grown my own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train (all my trips to Kolkatta have been in train)
21. Had a pillow fight (still do!!!)
22. Hitchhiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a Divali fort- "killa"
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone swimming in the Ganga
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a houseboat in the Dal lake in Kashmir
29. Seen a total eclipse (live coverage on tv)
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a sixer (cricket)
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors
35. Visited an Adivasi community ("pada")
36. Taught myself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied (I am always satisfied)
38. Seen the Taj Mahal (monument, not hotel) in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen the Himalayas
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen the eruption of a volcano
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited the US
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had my portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Been to VaishhnoDevi
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Visited a Masjid
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served as a volunteer at a public meeting
61. Helped someone not related to you, with studies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone parasailing
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten karela happily
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood at the Gateway of India recently, after 26/11
74. Toured Kashmir
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards at the Wagah border between Ind-Pak
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Parliament in New Delhi
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in KanyaKumari
84. Had my picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bhagwad Geeta
86. Visited the Rashtrapati Bhavan in Delhi (President of India residence)
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
96. Swam in the Indian Ocean
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Ridden an elephant

46 is my total

Thursday, November 27, 2008


I was brought up in the small town of Rourkela in Orissa (it's not a small town anymore, it's blooming into a industrial hub gradually).To outsiders , in other parts of India , Rourkela stands out for having one of independent India's first steel plants built with the help of Germans and for the fact that Ved vyas (his real name was supposedly Parasara Munda).It is at a site , on the outskirts of Rourkela that the epic Mahabharata was purported to have been put down on paper by Maharishi Vyas.
Being brought up in a colony of an industrial town is quite different to life in larger towns or metros.We had very few amenities, which one in larger towns takes for granted. I remember telephones at home was almost a status symbol.There was no public transport , every body had their own means(mainly scooters, cycles and bikes) , cycling was a part of every day life.You could get a movie ticket for Rs 10 /- (till 1994 at least , after which I have been out of touch ), vegetables were grown in house gardens,every body almost knew the other person by name.It was a small little peaceful town , really a great place to grow up.What would clearly stand out as Rourkela's export is the long list of it's academic toppers.We always had a long line of IIT-ians, every year our schools used to churn out an amazing number of students who used to make the cut to IIT's, Roorkee, REC's, AIIMS etc.When I look back ,I feel , somehow the atmosphere at Rourkela brings in you a tremendous fire to do well.Competition was always cut-throat.
Not many people know, but in our time , there was a coaching class run by Mishra Sir which most of us used to go in Std 12.His classes had a great record of producing success at JEE.His classes were held in the balcony of the temple of Gayatri Devi temple,right under a small hill.All of us used to cycle there, around 80-100 of us used to sit in one batch in his class in low wooden benches while the temple Aarti would go on and the devetional songs and chants would go on in the louspeakers.On Sundays, we had to take a written test.As space was a constraint, Sir used to bring the question papers printed and keep it on the steps of the temple, we used to take he papers and trod up the hill , sit on the ground and solve the papers.It was great, such a far cry from today's coaching classes with laptops.But what success rate he had!!!!He has honned the problem solving skills of some of us , who have gone on to become rankers at IIT and many other great places.It was a unique coaching , but certainly one of the best.
During my college days at Rec, I was a day scholar and certainly missed a part of the hostel action.I was happy, not be in hostel as I got saved from the famous ragging which a lot of my friends happlessly endured (they have written a lot about it in blogs now!!) , but I too missed a lot of fun which happens in hostel.Later in my intial work life when I lived in hostels , I had the fun of hostel life, and I strongly belive veryone should have a stint in hostels.
Many years later in 2002 , I visited Rourkela briefly ,the city was still the same,
it still had it's own charm.Most of my friends, who have left the city still hold very fond memories of that place.Most of us keep planning to have a old boys(girls included!!!) meet there, don't know if such a thing will actually materialise, but thinking about it feels nice.I have great memories of the place.Hip hip Rourkela !!!
Hip hip Hurray , St.Paul's!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Cricket, a primitive game played with tools on cricket pitches......well it has come a long way since then, with the almost war like situations on the ground, to countries like India and Pakistan coming to a halt when 22 men dressed in gentlemanly white (or rather blue and green, with warpaint greased on their faces!!!) take to the field. My tryst with cricket is slightly odd. I have always enjoyed the game, played more to enjoy than to win matches, watched more with the joy of watching the thump of wood and leather meet, the ball race towards the ropes, rather than a country winning.

I have not really been a die hard fan of a particular cricketer, bunked schools and colleges or stayed awake at nights to cheer India (although I have done my share of it, back in school days, but not much after that). What I have really enjoyed in cricket is the the deadly thrill of Malcolm Marshall bowling a bouncer to the cricket's little champion Gavaskar at the other end, the great Sir Vivian Richards truly cricket's greatest king sending the ball to every corner of the ground he pleases with the ease as if he was squatting a fly. Of course, some memories will always be etched in my memory - the Prudential win at Lords with Kapil and his team waving from the balcony, Gavaskar running that 10000th run in Ahmedabad, Sachin the schoolboy facing the music of Pakistani greats - Imran and Akram.

Cricket is a game that truly combines the best of both mind and body, it has it's share of strategy much like the chess and the outdoor thrill of soccer and may I say very few games have that, and thus it's popularity will always remain.

Cricket is the heart and soul of a few million people across the globe, who would be there to watch every ball being delivered, come what may. That's where I feel the agony of the present state of game lies. For years, most of us who have watched cricket, have always considered it be the best, which very few games could rival not something as cruel as kick boxing or as esoteric as golf. It has the best of everything. It had art (you had see a cover drive played by Gower or a square cut by Vishwanth). It had it's share of strategy, heart stopping thrills (tied test, one run wins!!!) and mass hysteria(the roar at Eden Gardens!!!), what more could a game be???

Alas, I feel that was what it was it's undoing. It was too perfect to go on undiluted for ever, and then came in the BETTING. Betting is something which in one stroke destroyed what cricket has always stood for - fairplay! We have always said - "It's just not cricket"!!! The saying seems to have lost some of it's shine after a lot of money kept exchanging hands and the players pre-determined outcomes of matches.

Match fixing came as the deadliest blow to the game, and however much one is a die-hard fan after every match in some corner of the mind there is that lingering feeling of whether the match was played in the right spirit or was it stage managed. The feeling of watching a nail biting finish will never be the same as like in pre-match fixing days.

When you follow a test match bowl by bowl for the five days, not doing every work that comes in your way and at the end of it you come to know that those 22 jokers were actually enacting a scripted drama with the outcome already known to them. It comes to you as if somebody has kicked your stomach after a full meal!! It now seems to me that when the players fix the outcome of a game and money changes hands, they must be laughing at the sight of a billion people cheering foolishly!

The match fixing episode tarnished the game........ left a few of us utterly disillusioned but a large majority of the following still remained. Cricket's greatest scandal did not have the ripple it deserved. People continued to bunk schools and work, watch matches, and more or less exhibit the same amount of enthusiaism there was earlier. In this process the game never got completly cleansed of the evil and the parasite remained (it is like a dormant volcano which sometimes billows smoke but could well throw up lava again)...we should have boycotted cricket let those cricketers lose popularity (as well as their endorsement fees, drop them from being demi-Gods to the average Joe), totally give up on the game for a few years. The shock would have been too great for the cricket establishment the world over (they would have lost billions and really worked hard at cleansing the system which now they have not done enough).

We have let this rot remain....... not cleaned it enough, scratched the surface superficially and allowed the parasite to flourish underneath.

The game is not cleaned of match fixing ....tell me one in the audience in any match who can bet that the match was not fixed with a finger on his heart...nobody can!!

We are letting this rot continue, it keeps throwing up some cricketers as the villians whom we abandon, and continue to hero worship the others...till one among them also falls. It is like if you have played for your country you are assured of hero worship till you have been naive or foolish enough to get caught!!!

Make match fixing a punishable offence, ask the cricketer to be tried in court, take back his fees from the day if he has been proven to be cheating (take back his endorsement fees too)....... if you really want to cleanse the system. Nobody who plays for the country will dare cheat again.

Only then we can cheer a square cut to the ropes and a drive off cover with the joy it deserves!!!