Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sachin Tendulkar - The Unseen Face

The disappointment and pain that accompanies the collapse of a beautiful image is more often than not, excruciating. And when the image is one that has endured longer than most, inasmuch as to be considered infallible, the fall is harder to digest. And when the image is worshipped by millions, the mere suggestion of fallibility is sacrilegious.

In India, the image of Sachin Tendulkar is nothing short of Godly, and yet I am at pains to point out a few chinks in that apparently blemishless image for the sake of the great game that is cricket, and for the sake of its fervent supporters.

These days, the newspapers and the electronic media are full of Sachin's achievements and his "greatness", some going even to the extent of raising him to the level of the greatest personalities that India as a country has seen through the ages. Yet, many have seen and felt, albeit without expressing their feelings for fear of blaspheming the painstakingly created, larger-than-life persona that Sachin Tendulkar is, that Sachin is no superhuman. He is equally vulnerable to all the vices of humanity as we all are. He is equally obsessed with fame and popularity as every celebrity is. He would be committing an act of mendacity if he claimed to be unconcerned about his batting average or his tally of centuries. All these are perfectly human and perfectly acceptable qualities, except when these ambitions and aspirations rise higher than the collective goal of the team and the country, in which case the very character of these attributes becomes obnoxious.

I have seen Sachin to be very possessive about landmarks, so much so that he can bat ten times longer for one run when he is close to one than when away from it. I have seen him comment unfavorably about one captain's decision to declare the innings when he was on the verge of another landmark. This time I have seen him protecting his wicket at the expense of the team's prestige and morale. The fact wouldn't have deserved any mention had it not been so visibly invidious and selfish. Even Graeme Smith, the opposing captain was surprised by Sachin's deliberate attempts to get away from the strike when the team needed him to be at the crease as much as possible so as to avoid at least an innings defeat, if not delay proceedings as much as possible until weather intervened. The way in which he stole singles and allowed the number eleven batsman to face the major part of every over bowled by the South African pacers reeked of suspicious intent, to say the least, to save his wicket and, in the process, sacrifice the interests of the team and the country at the altar of his ambitions.

What pains most is the fact that Sachin has had the chance to be the perfect role model for the generations to come. He has the perfect balance of skill and temperament to ensure a place in the sun without resorting to any tactics that may mar his image irreparably. Yet, his actions on the field are transparent enough to belie any of his statements of modesty off the field, and has lowered his stature in the eyes of many more fans like me.

Role models are expected to be perfect, and perfection is but a non-existent attribute in today's world. And, now we know, though many would be loth to admit, that Sachin Tendulkar cannot expected to be an exception to the fact.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Akshaya Patra - A Noble Initiative

It is an undeniable fact that Nobility is an exalted attribute, and that everybody would like to be classified amongst the noble. Yet, the chasm that separates the practitioners and preachers of this enviable virtue is a wide one, and very few can lay claim to have crossed it.

Notwithstanding the abundance of apathy that abounds everywhere, there are still a select few that have put service above self and are rendering a Godly service to humanity. Akshaya Patra, an organization for the care of poor and underprivileged children, is indeed an instance of human selflessness and nobility. I have often felt pangs of empathy at the plight of children in dire need of nutrition, education and love, and have often had to turn my eyes, my ears and my mind away from these issues in my helplessness to fight them. So, when I see how organizations such as Akshaya Patra have volunteered to give themselves up for a cause that would help uplift the lives of thousands of impoverished and underprivileged children, I am overwhelmed with a poignant sense of admiration and pleasure.

Organizations such as Akshaya Patra should be helped to proliferate and grow, because they are the few centers of goodness, empathy, care and love that still survive in spite of all the coldness around. They help nurture and educate the future of the world, and help spread the message of kindness and unselfishness. Any praise for such an endeavor can never be overstated.

Please Donate to help in this great cause.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Diplomacy or Duplicity?

Any visit by a president of the United States to India is a cause for great expectation and fanfare within the echelons of Indian politics and its polity, and Obama’s upcoming visit is expected to create no less an effect. However, India’s expectations of support and empathy from the US with regard to its perennial conflicts with Pakistan have always fallen flat, insofar that America cannot afford to ingratiate India at the expense of Pakistan, while the reverse may be true to some extent. The ascent of Obama to the highest post in the US has so far not augured very favorably for India, in that Obama’s stance towards the Indo-US nuclear deal and the offshoring of US jobs to Indian shores has not been particularly agreeable. These fears find further confirmation in the diplomatic jugglery resorted to by the US High Commissioner in India, Mr Tim Roemer, when, in a recent interview to Times Now TV channel, he was quizzed by new journalist Arnab Goswami about the prospects of US president Barack Obama’s upcoming visit to India. Goswami’s questions on US policy regarding Indo-Pak issues and Kashmir seemed to fall on deaf ears as Roemer ducked each of them by digressing into issues of little or no importance. For example, when asked about the continued American support to the Pakistan government in spite of that country’s abysmal record in nuclear proliferation and its continual abetment of all forms of terrorism against India, Roemer chose to talk instead about the number of Indian students that are studying in the US, the grand opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games, and many more things totally irrelevant to the crux of the question. Either Roemer is totally uneducated in the affairs of the subcontinent, or his attitude is a reflection of the current American stance towards India’s problems, which, if true, does not reflect very well on the prospects of Obama’s visit to India. It may well be another charade of superficial affection hiding the intent of double diplomacy that US has forever pursued in this region.

Friday, October 8, 2010

CWG - A Sordid Reality Show

India has long been struggling to rid itself of the seemingly inextricable images of filth, dirt and corruption that have clung to it like a leeches ever since it embarked upon a journey of reinventing itself on its own post independence. The last two decades have seen the Indian psyche undergoing a pleasant change with governments, corporations and individuals committing themselves to a quality of life hitherto unseen on Indian shores. The endeavors of a vast majority of Indians towards mending the many flaws in the Indian social, political and economic systems have begun to bear some fruit, with the world at large viewing India as a symbol of something other than its clich├ęd shortcomings, and Brand India beginning to get its due respect on foreign turfs. So, it hurts all the more, when one hears and reads about the embarrassing fiasco that the build-up to the Commonwealth Games 2010 had thrown up, borne of a few unscrupulous and corrupt individuals, inflicting an unkind cut upon the country’s image, which has taken so many painstaking years to brush up. It would hardly surprise anybody to know that money laundering and corruption are ineffaceable aspects of Indian politics, but that Kalmadi and his associates have put the honour of the country at stake in their perennial pursuit of illegal wealth, hoping that the world would be none the wiser, points to unpatriotic behavior, and cannot, and should not ever be condoned. To the utter dismay of all and sundry, even as the murk kept flowing out of the CWG village, the smug arrogance and apathy of the CWG organizers, Kalmadi and Co., brushing every mishap and every sordid condition aside with nonchalant statements that range from ridiculous to hilarious, managed to shift international focus from the country’s main street of prosperity and growth to its squalid back alleys of filth, corruption and depravity. The CWG 2010 had threatened to become more a reality show on India than anything else. The Government of India (read PM) needs to abandon its passivity and work towards restoration of the impaired dignity of the country. Swift and exemplary punitive action must be taken against people like Kalmadi to discourage others of his ilk from harboring such insidious aspirations.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Reliance - Victim of A Flawed Democracy?

Democracy is a beautiful word. It gives the common man uninhibited freedom to air his or her views on virtually anything without fear of retribution. But the same word takes a repugnant form when used for furtherance of petty personal gains. And when such attempts involve accretion of petty gains at the cost of the life and property of another, they become abhorrent, to say the least.

Such was the effect of the fatuous gossip that was circulated by one TV channel in Andhra Pradesh on the night of the 7th of January 2010. The channel in question, TV5, perhaps succumbed to the perverted idea of giving itself a new-year gift of massive TRPs at the expense of the reputation of a large private sector company, which would explain its decision to sensationalize an unsubstantiated, obsolete piece of graffiti from an obscure overseas publication in a manner that ensured a public outcry of gargantuan proportions. Add to that the pugnacious gusto of the ubiquitous party worker (read “goon”), and we have the perfect recipe for a night of mayhem. On the evening of the 7th of January, TV5 filled its screens with images of YRS Reddy’s unfortunate accident superimposed by visuals of Reliance Industries’ facilities in Andhra Pradesh. The background audio stentoriously declared over and over again that Reliance Industries’ Chairman, Mukesh Ambani, was behind the alleged sabotage of YSR’s chopper, which crashed into a hillock on that fateful day. The basis for the wild allegation was one paragraph published in some tabloid in Russia that insinuated some linkage between the chopper crash and Reliance’s Gas business in Andhra Pradesh. The TV5 report was enough fodder for all the goons waiting on the sidelines to switch into crash-n-smash mode and start wielding their cudgels at everything that had a Reliance logo on it. Within a space of a few hours, Retails stores and petrol stations belonging to Reliance Industries were targeted and damaged all over Andhra Pradesh. Work in offices of Reliance Industries in the state was affected for two consecutive days. Not unexpectedly, the rumors soon turned out to be unfounded and the situation returned to normal. However, the damage had been done to several Reliance establishments and the scars of unjustified public ire will take long to efface from the face of the company in Andhra Pradesh.

The TV5 report and its aftermath once again brought the inherent flaws of a free democracy to the fore. In a country like India, where the poor and the illiterate can be maneuvered at will by the unscrupulous political forces either through the lure of lucre or through pure deceit of speech, democracy is nothing but a convenient garb for the powers that be. The power to create and destroy is in the hands of a powerful few who are the darkest minds among the laity. The petty neighborhood gangster stands the biggest chance of getting elected as the leader of a constituency not by dint of his popularity but through his achievements in the nether world of crime. The country is being ruled by a set of politicians, many of whom are criminals who control another set of criminals who control nerve centers of public opinion either by force or through deceit. The majority of “emancipated” citizens are reluctant to exercise their franchise, leading to a state of affairs such that the people of the country are at the mercy of a few goons and street smart politicians who have the dexterity to machinate the democratic norms to their advantage. As such, it is but natural for the poor, the unemployed and the illiterate to take recourse to violence in their efforts to climb the ladder of politics. They jump at every visible opportunity to get a share of the “limelight” in situations that demand unrestrained muscle power. And these are the pockets of public desperation that are spurred on by irresponsible journalism by certain sections of the media lurking under the all-pervasive blanket of “freedom of speech”.

The question that naturally comes to mind is whether the democratic set up in the country is as effective as it should be. Do we have the necessary checks and balances required to prevent unscrupulous politicians and media from hijacking the system and reducing it to a bane rather than a boon to society? Should we not have more stringent penalties for social offenders and abettors of violence such as TV5? Or should we discard our garb of democracy and embrace autocracy for as long as it is required to get us inculcated on the principles of discipline and aesthetic social behaviour? The solution may lie in either of the answers to the above.

Trapped in The Web

With the turn of the century, I graduated from inland letter cards to email; from landlines to mobiles; and from social visits to socia...