Friday, December 29, 2006

See you in 007

This will be the last post of the year. We're off to Panchgani. For three days of rest, rejuvenation and rumination. 9 of us. And a few others like Mr Daniels, Comrade Smirnoff and Monsieur Sula. See you next year.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Thoroughly enjoyed the superb lecture by Jawed Akhtar at SGF, last night.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Pertinent Question

Are pigeon-holes actually inter-galactic wormholes that transports you to another universe? And in that case, are pigeons actually messengers who ply the multiverse?

Monday, November 20, 2006


And just when you thought you had reconciled with it, the city strikes you down and puts you in your place. The love-hate relationship continues.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Monday, November 13, 2006

Danny Huston

I think one of most under-rated actors of Hollywood is Danny Huston. I suppose the reason behind this is the combined weight of his parentage and the kind of movies he works in. If you want to know what I am talking about, check out The Proposition. A brilliant film set in the Australian Outback. (Which also has an awesome performance from our man from The Departed, Ray Winstone.) Also see this and this.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

My Nation

This is my nation. For yours, visit www.cybernations.netPosted by Picasa

Thursday, November 02, 2006


Lovely post on Kolkata.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Thursday, October 26, 2006


The verdict is out. The new Don stinks. Forget comparing it to the original. The remake is an insipid, cold, hammy and flawed piece of work by a director who demonstrated so much promise with his first film. The film is and looks like the spoiled creation of the son of an over-indulgent father. The plot twists do not make sense and are quite heavy-handedly executed. Why the hell does Boman Irani suddenly start monologing in the sequence before Interval? And he looks quite unfit for a top cop. Not to mention, too cute for a super-villain. Actually, you actually feel sorry for the guy as he gets beaten up in the last scene.

FA tries a Ang Lee-like scene-in-scene treatment in some of the sequences. For what? Only he knows. (Ang Lee's treatment was a reverse homage to the original medium of Hulk. Comic Books.)

As for SRK, he gives a brilliant performance as SRK. Not Don.

FA, stick to your South Bombay tomes. Tales like Don are best left to indulgent dads.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Most blogs have the words "random", "musings", "ruminations", "haphazard", "arbitrary", "deliberate", in their names.

Shundi, on the other hand, is a carefully cultivated exercise in laziness.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Rain, rain, go away!

The answer to India's age-old affliction with droughts, is here. It's the Indian cricket team. Everytime they start playing, it rains. They rained out an entire tournament in Colombo. They rained out and lost a match they had half won, against West Indies in KL. Now they are playing the Aussies today and guess what? The covers are out. Divine comedy, I must say, once put it in context of the plot of the movie 'Lagaan'. An team of Indian villagers play cricket 'coz it hasn't rained for four years!

It all comes back, it all comes back.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Hungry Tide

Amitabha Ghosh's "Hungry Tide" is being made into a film. Suman Mukhopadhyay, the director of "Herbert has taken up the project. Names like Zuleikha Robinson (of The Namesake fame, of course, otherwise who the hell has heard of Zueikha Robinson!), Rahul Bose, Abhishek Bachchan, Prosenjit and Jaya Bhadhuri are being bandied about. Now are these 'expression of interest' by the director in a public forum or actual actors who have been contacted?
Needless to mention, "Hungry Tide" is the one of the best novels to come out Amitabha Ghosh's pen. Set in the Sunderbans, spanning two generations, it is a human document par excellence. It was also probably the start of Ghosh's love affair with the delta, the outcome of which was a tirade against the Sahara group's efforts for a resoert in Sunderbans. Our kudos for the man for raising the issue, although one doesn't know what is the current status of the project. Hopefully, good sense prevailed on the Left Front government or perhaps the Sahara Parivar had other demons to fight.
So we will all wait till Pia comes to Canning. Of course, there will be others with reasons, different.

Which states in India have you been to?

I have been to these ones!

States visited in India

Which states in India have you been to?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Swing bowling

Swing bowling is now a scientific study. NASA scientist Dr Rabindra Mehta explains.

Friday, September 01, 2006


Rajkumar Hirani thinks he can change the world by making a movie. Just like John Sculley thought he would change the world by selling PCs. (Well, Sculley changed somewhat). What are we talking about? A movie called Lage Raho Munnabhai.

Which brings us to the latest trend in movie-marketing. The 'cause' movie. Aamir Khan did it to fantastic effect with RDB. The movie as a cause. Sounds wonderfully novel. Big-hearted. Inspirational, really. But tell me really, do you think in these days of cross-promotional marketing, media partnerships and brand integration, is it believeable?

And when the hype is over and the DVD has been launched, the 'cause' is notch on the bed-post of these cause-pimps. In the mid-90s, a popular way to ensure repeat viewing was to add a song and then re-release the movie 6 months after the initial hoopla is over. I guess 'causes' are the new additional songs.

You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things. It's just another way of selling tickets, dammit. And you fell for it.

Wake up

Some people host blogs and then keep quiet about. Others start a blog. And then stop.

A blog is not an end. Make it one of the means to an end. Let it out into the world. Let it grow. Let it get dirty. Let it live.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Gems I StumbledUpon

Human stupidity is now a serious study.

But have you ever wondered how Google manages to serve up the best possible search results? In compliance with SEC guidlines, last April the guys at Mountain View disclosed a few details about their technology. Amazing, isn't it?

And as a parting shot, if you are cribbing about your job as you read this, thank god that you are not of these guys!

Order! Order!

It's quarter to twelve in the morning and greater forces are hard at work to make me hungry. What should I order for lunch? This? This? Or this?

Monday, August 28, 2006

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Woody Allen Quotes

There are worse things in life than death. Have you ever spent an evening with an insurance salesman?

Thought: Why does man kill? He kills for food. And not only food: frequently there must be a beverage.

To you I'm an atheist; to God, I'm the Loyal Opposition.

What if everything is an illusion and nothing exists? In that case, I definitely overpaid for my carpet.

When I was kidnapped, my parents snapped into action. They rented out my room.

Why are our days numbered and not, say, lettered?

You can live to be a hundred if you give up all the things that make you want to live to be a hundred.

What if nothing exists and we're all in somebody's dream? Or what's worse, what if only that fat guy in the third row exists?

More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.

The lion and the calf shall lie down together but the calf won't get much sleep.

It's not that I'm afraid to die, I just don't want to be there when it happens.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Gems From India

Kodak, Fujifilm, Pepsi, Cock, Soda, Leman.
Signboard of Akash Audio and Cold Drink Shop, somewhere between Uttarkashi and Gangotri

Remove Outer Packing Before Consumption
Printed on plastic that is used to individually wrap Britannia Processed Cheddar cheese slices

Ya malik kyon banaya motor banane wale ko?
Ghar se beghar kar diya motor chalane wale ko.
[Attempted translation]
Oh Master why did you make the car makers?
You took car drivers from their homes and made them homeless.

Sticker on dashboard of taxi, Bombay.

Life is precious, don’t give up, try once more, try us.
Ad for a 'suicide' clinic, seen at Kalighat Metro Station , Kolkata

Frigid Corporation
An aircon shop near Dover Lane

Name of a furniture store in New Alipore.

Pent House
On the sign-board of a paint shop in Selimpur

Don't whistle at the girl going out from here. She may be your Grandmother!!
Sign on a famous beauty parlor window:

Those....drinking to forget... please pay in advance.
Sign in a bar

Success is relative. More the success, more the relatives.
Seen on a bulletin board

Cholonto dhaatu
Heard at IIT Kanpur from Hall 5 jonota, Progressive Rock, ie.

Dhora porley Dhononjoy..naah porley enjoy.
SMS text msg

Jaata obostha...oshomoy-ey maa hoyey gelum.
[(Attempted translation]
In dire straits, have gained motherhood at wrong age)
Girl calling up home from Delhi after M.A. exams)

Show-case-e bhodrolok
Godown-e goonda
From political campaign poster pasted on a JU canteen wall

She turns me on.
A 48 year old man on why he prefers Mallika Sherawat to Aishwarya Rai (on Radio City 91 FM)

God is love. Fixed price.
Asha Saree Centre, Gariahat

Biyebaarir doi, Banglar koi;
Shobai kheye bole, bor-bou koi?
Sales pitch for 'Dushtur Mishti Doi', sweet-yougurt flavoured candy, 234 Bus, Calcutta

Entering and playing by non-authorized persons is strictly prohibited.
Notice posted at Gate No. 3, Jadavpur University.

Why can't my son answer the English deparment admission test in Bengali?
Insistent parent at Presidency College, Kolkata

Is it absolutely necessary for my daughter to come for her admission test herself?
Asked by confused parent trying to submit admission form, heard at Presidency College, Kolkata

"Go see a shrimp!"
helpful advice from a friend over MSN.

Electricity theft is a crime. Do not be a hooker.
Placards put up by the CESC, seen all over Calcutta

It is far better to be pissed off than to be pissed on.
People tell you to trust your gut feeling; until you realise that your gut has no feeling.
The mind is like a drunken monkey. If you titillate it, it wants to get higher.
Heard in Kolkata

Ees Your Tooths Strongaar Than My Feest?
Exchange in a Calcutta minibus fight

Trinamool, Padma phool.
Before election, beuatiful.
After election, April fool.
Election related graffiti seen off Gurusaday Road, Kolkata

Bankura sohorrey Booby asee-chey! Lach-lachi tey Rissi Kapur, dholla-dholi tey Dim-paull . Bisess akorsson! Bisess akorsson! Leddiss der jonno pissup er alada byabostha achchi!
[Attempted ranslation: Bobby is coming to Bankura. Dirty dancing, Rishi Kapoor! Steamy sex, Dimple! Special attraction!!! Special attraction!!! There's a separate place for women to piss!)
Movie promotional campaign in Bankura

TMC candidate, Mamata Banerjee
Press this botom.
Election-related Graffiti seen near Rabindra Sarobar, Kolkata

Monday, August 21, 2006


TOI's headline for a Ganesh idol arrival newsphoto.
"Ganesha begins his annual trunk call."
Makes me wince that I used to read this paper once.


After some 'inspired' posts, here's a real one.

Last night we celebrated Mi's birthday at S and Mi's place (corny as it sounds). Hoping we will have a chicken dinner, thanks to D's condition, we had carried a bottle of Sula white. Which we promptly polished off. And that's when the Bengali curse of alcohol-at-any-cost got the better of subtler points about the correct way of drinking wine. Throwing the menu to the wind, we opened another bottle of Shiraz red and polished off that too.

We exchanged vacation snaps, found new ways to download/exchange/post more vacation snaps. Plans are afoot to make a vacation 'film' with jpegs, grainy videos and 'post' interviews. Dunno how it will turnout. But it should be edgy, hilarious and creepy. That's my brief. (Note to myself: learn how to use MovieMaker)

Mc came back home with us last night. Was very sleepy and groggy on the way back, thanks to all those wines mixed up. Was still feeling sleepy this morning and the rest of the day. Which immediately reminds me of a bad thing I caused this morning. G insists it's ok and nothing to feel perturbed about. But thanks to a quasi-Freudian feeling, I am in a tearing hurry to fix it. Clean it. Erase all trace of it.

Methinks, I am going mad.

I Love Controversies

Moral maze at the heart of one man's small judgment
By Simon Barnes, Chief Sports Writer at the Oval
The Times August 21, 2006

IN EVERY walk of life, there are offences that are against the law and there are offences that contravene a higher morality. To be caught speeding is regarded as rotten luck, too bad, too many rotten cameras. Driving while seriously drunk is (these days) regarded as an immoral act: irresponsible to the point of wickedness.

Cricket is tremendously keen on the higher morality. That is why controversies in cricket are so virulent, so far-reaching, and raise such extraordinarily high emotions. Yesterday, a small judgment about a small infringement of the laws created a day of outrage, distress and fury at the Brit Oval yesterday.

Pakistan were not accused of ball-tampering yesterday. They were judged and found guilty by the umpire, Darrell Hair, as they sought to halt England’s second-innings resurgence. This is a profoundly serious business in cricketing terms. It is not like calling a woman a tease. It is like calling her a whore. Well, there are women who are whores, but you’d better be bloody sure of your facts before making the accusation.

It’s not the legality of her actions you are calling into question, but the morality. Pakistan were punished not for breaking the law but for — as cricketing people see it — attempting to subvert the higher morality of sport and human conduct. No wonder there is a fair amount of distress.

There is inevitably an undercurrent of racism here. Pakistan is regarded by some people in cricket as a nation addicted to ball-tampering. Pakistan players have been reprimanded and punished by fines and suspensions for the crime before. There is inevitable resentment at this. Pakistan feel hard done by: that they have been punished not on action but reputation.

For the first time in cricket history, a Test team have conceded five penalty runs to the opposition for the crime of tampering with the ball. Interestingly, five is also the number of penalty runs a fielding side concedes if the ball strikes a discarded helmet. But striking the helmet is not regarded as an immoral act, while tampering with the ball is an instant scandal. More than in any other sport, there is a requirement that cricketers act not according to the laws but to a higher morality.

A fielder who falsely claims a catch is regarded as a cheat. He is not clearly breaking a law, but his action is seen as immoral. Scuffing up the pitch to help your own side’s bowlers is regarded as — well, a bit naughty. It’s done with the same intention as roughing up the ball: to give your side a bit of an edge. It is also illegal. It is less certain, and so is regarded as a venial rather than a mortal sin.

But tamper with the ball and the consensus is that you are tampering with the very essence of cricket. This is a very curious and strong reaction. Cricketers play with the ball all the time: polishing one side of it, drying it, spitting on it, rubbing sweat into it, cleaning dirt from the seam. You are allowed to alter the condition of the ball in a manner unthinkable in baseball.

But cricket has carried its heavyweight moral baggage since it was regarded as essential to forming the moral characters of potential Empire-builders. That is why, when the line is crossed from cleaning and polishing the ball to picking of the seam, raising the quarter-seam and roughing up the ball, the offence is regarded as destructive not just of cricket balls but of cricket — and by extension, of morality itself. From there, it is but a short step to say that: well , the Pakistanis have never had any regard for morality. This is a particularly bad time in the context of the great world outside sport to be implying such a thing. No wonder, then, that deep offence has been taken.

One of the reasons for the deep emotional response to ball-tampering is the fact that if it is well done, by both tamperer and bowler, it is extremely effective. Yesterday, the ball had, indeed, begun to reverse swing, which is a devastating ploy when carried out by a suitably devastating bowler. But when it is achieved by illegal means, it is regarded, simply enough, as not cricket.

Not cricket! What a wealth of genuine decency, oppressive rigidity, moral confusion and out-and-out hypocrisy has been inspired by that phrase! And how curious to think that the breaking of one law of a game (but not another) is regarded not as naughty but as genuinely degenerate.

Players from all over the world, England included, have messed about with the ball since time and cricket began. Ball-tampering is part of cricket, a bad part, and therefore it needs policing. And it has indeed been policed. But because it is regarded morally — though not legally — as one of cricket’s greatest possible crimes, the reaction is out of all proportion to the punishment.

All this, Hair, the umpire at the sharp end of this extraordinary incident, knew when he made his decision. He knew it was nothing like telling a batsman: look, you got a touch, you should have walked, now I’m telling you to go. He knew that it was going to cause a massive rumpus. He knew he was calling the Pakistan players the equivalent of a whore.

He also knew the scandal he would cause by refusing to come out and umpire a game when two teams and several million people were ready to carry on. Was it a taste for drama in a drama-prone man? Was it demoniacal moral rigidity? Was he standing unforgivably on his dignity? Or was he right about the decision he made?

Sky, not short of cameras or curiosity, was unable to find any footage of a guilty player doing some sneaky thing to the ball. All we have, then, is Hair’s judgment: Hair’s punishment: Hair’s abdication: Hair’s creation of one the great periodic scandals in cricket history. All I can say is that he’d bloody well better be bloody well sure that he was bloody well right.

Attack on Inzy's 'izzat' was the final straw
By Mihir Bose

At the heart of the crisis that hit the Oval Test are two simple factors. The first and overriding one is that the relationship between the Pakistan cricket team and the Australian umpire Darrell Hair has completely broken down. Indeed Hair is the 21st century equivalent of David Constant, the English umpire through the 1980s who so infuriated Pakistan that it led their captain at the time, Imran Khan, to call for neutral officials.

The other is that Hair's action in deciding that the Pakistanis had tampered with the ball, though without naming a player who might have been responsible, meant that for the Pakistan captain, Inzamam-ul-Huq, it was not merely a questionable decision but a slur on the entire team and therefore the whole nation.

As far as Inzaman was concerned, what Hair was doing was to call into question his own, and Pakistan's, izzat.

Izzat is an Urdu word that can be translated as 'honour', but it means much more than that, and izzat is a much prized comodity in the subcontinent. It is something that Inzamam, a quiet, deeply religious man, values highly.

Inzamam is one of those Pakistanis who passionately believes that a man can lose everything he has, including his life - but not his izzat. For him, the manner in which Hair took the decision as much as the decision itself meant that Inzamam's personal izzat, and that of his beloved Pakistan, had been besmirched.

It was in order to assert that he and his team were still honourable that the Pakistanis decided that they would delay their entry on to the field after tea for a few minutes to signify their protest and reclaim some virtue.

Unfortunately, this protest backfired.

Hair took it as a sign that the Pakistanis were threatening not to play. He came off the field and, going to the Pakistani dressing room, told Inzamam that if his team did not take the field as the umpires walked out again they would forfeit the match.

While this was entirely correct according to the rules of the game, the manner in which Hair delivered the ultimatum further infuriated the Pakistanis. Still recovering from being seen as men without honour, they felt further humiliated, and for some time stood shocked in their dressing room wondering what was going on.

As they did so, Hair and Billy Doctrove walked out on to the field of play - followed by the England batsmen - and then decided the Pakistanis were not coming and so took off the bails. It was only after they had returned to the pavilion that a still bewildered Inzamam started to lead his team out, only to find that the umpires had walked off and were not coming back.

In the Pakistanis' eyes, if Hair's initial decision was a slur on their nation, then his subsequent warning that they would forfeit the match was hugely insensitive.

All this would not have mattered had Hair got on with the Pakistanis. Imran used to say, comparing Constant with Dickie Bird, that Bird also made mistakes but unlike Constant did not rub the players up the wrong way. Players accepted his decisions even when they did not like them because they liked the man.

Not so with Hair. Pakistan and Hair have a history going back several years.

A story common in Pakistan cricket is that back in the mid-1990s, on a tour of Australia, Hair lectured the then Pakistan captain and told him: "I hope you people will not in this series carry on appealing like monkeys."

This may be an apocryphal story, but it is one that is widely believed in Pakistani cricket and, of course, has racial overtones.

Things worsened during last winter's tour of Pakistan by England, which Hair also umpired and where some of his decisions did not please the Pakistanis. They made their feelings about the matter very clear.

So the Pakistanis were most surprised when they found that Hair was to umpire in this series.

His appointment raises questions about the choice of umpires made by the cricket department of the ICC headed by former South Africa wicketkeeper David Richardson. Some Pakistanis are all too ready to see a conspiracy here. This may be fanciful, but it exposes the curious nature of inter-national cricket, where the ICC have nothing like the power that Fifa have in world football. They appoint umpires and match referees but the match is basically between the two countries and while the match referee can sanction players, it is the umpires that are supreme and whose authority cannot be questioned.

The ICC are powerless, and this match may expose that cruelly.

Spirit of sport defeated by pride and prejudice
By Derek Pringle

England (173 and 298-4) beat Pakistan (504) after Pakistan forfeited the match.

Pride, principle and prejudice replaced runs, wickets and catches as the final Test of the summer reached an extraordinary climax at the Oval.

With one official day to go, Pakistan, on top here since Thursday morning, traded their winning position in favour of making a protest after the match umpires had punished them for ball tampering in mid-afternoon. But it was not just about them and by the close there was the farcical situation of the umpires refusing to restart play despite Pakistan having been persuaded to soften their original stance.

The controversy spoilt the day for the 23,000 sell-out crowd, who should have been kept informed. Inevitably there were boos and some parts of the crowd threw their beer into the outfield when play was eventually called off at 6.25pm. With 12,000 tickets already sold for today, and with cricket's reputation at stake, the match needs to be resumed, weather but not light permitting, at 11am.

The nature of Pakistan's stand-off first became apparent when Inzamam-ul-Haq and his team failed to appear at 4.40pm, the official restart time after a period of bad light, and some 70 minutes after umpires Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove penalised the visitors five runs and changed the ball.

It was that initial incident that proved the tipping point. England were 230 for three at the time and still 101 runs from making the visitors bat again, when the umpires saw fit to confiscate the original ball and replace it with another in the 56th over. Umar Gul had just bowled the previous over and his instant withdrawal from the attack pointed to his guilt as the culprit, though there was no immediate evidence to back this up.

Kevin Pietersen, at the crease at the time, was given the choice of choosing which ball Pakistan should continue with (a playing condition agreed by both sides), though there was some irony in that when he was dismissed with it 50 balls later for 96.

Pakistan have previous form when it comes to ball tampering, with Shoaib Akhtar and Waqar Younis given short bans for doing it, but most teams are guilty. Unfortunately, the stigma attached to it means that the very public action of the umpires was tantamount to an accusation of cheating, a humiliation for Pakistan and their captain in front of such a large audience.

According to the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board, Shahryar Khan, the intention of his team was to delay coming on to the field by five minutes, so that the crowd knew there was a protest being lodged. But if that were true, why did Inzamam and his players fail to appear when the umpires, this time with England's not-out batsmen, Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell, tried to restart play for a second time 15 minutes later?

That second no-show led Hair and Doctrove to remove the bails. It was a move that many felt meant Pakistan had forfeited the match, though surely they would have removed the stumps as well if that were the case. Pakistan's protest, which had many sympathisers, looked resolute until some behind-the-scenes diplomacy saw them take the field on their own at 5.25pm, though by then the umpires - perhaps sensing a U-turn would compromise their own sense of pride - refused to join them.

The presumed ogre in all this is Hair, the big umpire with a correspondingly big ego. He is a fine umpire but has been involved in all manner of controversy over the years and is stubborn to the point of intransigence. Many sides feel he is prejudiced and it is no secret that Pakistan had complained to the International Cricket Council about him after the series against England last November, over what they see as bias against them.

Those concerns appear to have fallen on deaf ears at the ICC, for Hair has umpired two matches this series. More likely, though, is the ICC's pathological fear of setting a precedent - for once one country is able to influence which umpires can or cannot stand, the floodgates are open.

The umpires' refusal to stand is not without precedent and Arthur Fagg and Shakoor Rana are two other umpires who went on strike during Test matches. Rana's protest was over the infamous finger-jabbing incident with Mike Gatting in 1987, while Fagg's stance came after the West Indies had criticised him for giving Geoff Boycott not out during the Edgbaston Test of 1973.

Hair's feelings, and he will maintain he has played it by the book, should not really be part of the equation. ICC have five officials present at every Test and match referee Mike Procter should simply have replaced him and Doctrove, if he was in sympathy with his colleague, with the third and fourth umpires present and got on with the game.

Hair could and should have played it differently. Unless he saw a player deliberately altering the condition of the ball, it is difficult to claim tampering by condition alone. While there appeared to be scuffs and striations when television zoomed in on the ball, Pietersen and Alastair Cook could have caused those when hitting it into boundary boards and beyond.

There was also no context for Hair to suddenly stop play. There had not been any massive reverse-swing, though Cook will claim the yorker that upended him swung a touch. There should also have been more sensitivity and Hair could just as easily have dealt with his suspicions at the end of play.

The playing conditions allow for protest, provided it is not permanent, with the time off the field getting added on. It has happened in the past, with the West Indies refusing to take the field against New Zealand in the acrimonious 1979-80 series. The game got finished, but the bad blood between the sides persisted for another decade.

Ironically, given the history of conflict between the two sides, this is not a result of animosity between the sides. In fact, relations have been good, which is why the umpires, sole arbiters of what happens on the field, should be by-passed now, so that spirit can be upheld.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


Looks like the first shots have been fired in the War Against CapsLock. Come to think of it, who needs CapsLock when you type everything in lower case anyway, especially in informal emails and IM programs.

Death to CapsLock! Join 'em here.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Stumble Mumble

I have discovered StumbleUpon. From now on I will entertain your otherwise sad, sorry, mundane electronic existences with bursts of Internet brilliance and spice up your otherwise dumb lives. I know that none of you ever visit Shundi any longer. In case you do, you prefer to keep your gab trap shut like a 60-year old spinster's orifice. So from now on, I will insult your devolved state of cyber existence with this pearls like these.

The first of the two. The Big Lebowski Random Quote Generator. And the second is despair. Serves you right.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Of Blogs, MSM, Rants and Raves

If you thought blogs were just about finding an outlet for your less-pluralist points of view, you are so jurassic. There is a new kind of blogging in the air. It incorporates a bit of yellow journalism and penny press with the old-fashioned peer-group talk board. Case in point: War For News.

It is a cut-throat, take-no-prisoners, uncensored insider story on the electronic media...specifically, the three English news channels, CNN-IBN, NDTV and Times Now. And with an ocassional rant about CNBC-TV18, Headlines Today and the vernacular channels. (There is obviously a class struggle, even in our quasi-leftist media!)

Going by the kind of insider information that gets posted in this blog, the three anonymous bloggers obviously work for the first two channels. On a good post you will find internal memos from Rajdeep Sardesai, inside scoops on which well-known business anchor can't stand the sight of another leading anchor who also happens to be the wife of the Managing Editor. The posts go down as far as 'incidents in the terrace' involving well-known faces.

But what is of obvious interest is the kind of dirty competition that goes on behind the glossy graphics and signature tunes that greet us every day on the telly. Strangely, War for News is visited by every member of the electronic news media fraternity, including the top ones. And I am talking posts by the likes of Rajdeep Sardesai and Arnab Goswami. Which anchor looks tired on screen, which Managing Editor will stop at nothing to get a story, which lead anchor sucks, who threatened to quit...nothing is taboo.

What we are seeing is the Stardust-ification of the blog. The debates are hardly about which channel is good or which program is making a difference. Personal reputations are torn apart, rumors surface and die. And it all happens in a very public forum much similar to ones that these scribes attach themselves to. Only this time, they are the lead story.

Albeit, the 'readership'/'viewership' of this blog is nothing compared to that of the MSM (mainstream media). But the eyeballs who matter are there. And it's only a matter of time before it's gets into public domain.

Which brings us to the bigger question. How long is it before we see a similar thing being replicated in another industry. Imagine a blog for the doctors in Mumbai, or a rant and rave address for the film-industry. Imagine you can write whatever you want. There's no fear of a defamation suit or a black list. It's a twin-edged sword. No misdeed will go unpunished/unpublished. And no reputation is unquestionable.

As an aside, the Indian government is planning to give accreditation to bloggers. The US Govt. already does.

Move over MSM. You are yesterday's news, before you can say 'breaking news'.

Monday, July 31, 2006


Maity Sen

Here's to you, Mighty Man.
This post's for you.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna ** 1/2

(22nd floor is a blog I read religiously. And it’s latest post is a review of Kara Johar’s latest. I reproduce it verbatim)

There's some good news and some bad news.

The good news is that Karan Johar is growing up finally and thankfully, to show that he doesn't need to kill Shah Rukh Khan without giving him the girl.

The bad news is that he decides to kill Amitabh Bachchan merely eighty-three minutes into the movie. And in a film where the rest of the actors act like themselves (think Abhiskek Bachchan do a Dhai Akshar Prem Ke), we needed Amitabh till the end.

The story revolves around two married couples, Dev Saran-Maya Talwar and Rhea Saran-Rishi Talwar. Sorry, make this Dev-Rhea and Maya-Rishi. The senior partner in each one of them (Shah Rukh Khan playing Dev Saran and Rani Mukherjee playing Maya Talwar) start falling in love with each other. Then, the couples fall into a web of lies and half-truths. Reminds you of Closer? No, not quite. As here, Amitabh Bachchan saves the day, using sophisticated weapon made of corny language.

Also, in Closer, the web was spun deftly by interesting characters (a stripper using a faux name, a writer writing obituaries for a living), living a life which was dangerous, violent and malicious.

Here, we have an injured retired football player and a woman who can't bear a child running around a few trees. The woman, Maya Talwar, is as big a cliche as any in Indian cinema.

The character is symptomatic of what is wrong with the movie. Karan Johar over his last two films, is trying to find India in New York and has turned the art into an assembly line production. While on the outside, these Indians are rich, urbane and designer-clad and speak in a modern diction, they have not been able to find a modern idiom of their own. Their values stay comfortably in the 1980s. They espouse respect for hoary traditions.

Hence, while Rishi (Abhishek) has no issues in referring to his father, Samarjit Singh Talwar, as Sam, he would listen when Sam tells him, "Saccha pyaar tyaag mein vishvaas zaroor karta hai, par pati-patni ka pyaar sachai ke liye tyaaga nahin ja sakta." (While true love believes in sacrifice, a husband and wife can't sacrifice their love for truth). Thus, he would go into the bad, bad world of people being true to their emotions to save his ill-fated marriage. And, he succeeds.

Similarly, after Rhea (Preity Zinta) walks out on her husband and does a dance called "Where's the party?" with Rishi, she soon realises her folly. Not because she wonders why she is doing a dance surrounded by extras, instead of drinking her sorrows away or doing a cathartic strip dance. But because she wants her husband back, so that she can throw herself into his arms and cry.

Scene after scene unfolds in a setting borrowed from American sitcoms and end with Saans Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi or Silsila. Where the film could have been the breakthrough "in which Karan grows up" film, it doesn't even try.Instead, what we are left with is a rehashed story which doesn't live upto its promotion. Or probably does, since Preity Zinta is appearing in Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi as part of the promotion.

The music is refreshing, though. Mitwa is probably going to end up as the "Kajra Re" of this year. Plus, Arjun Rampal, in a cameo, has the best dialogue of the film, "Don't be a football of other's opinion". Watch it if you must find out how New York looks like through the eyes of Karan Johar. Watch it if you have to see a movie that everyone else will see (which will happen inevitably).

Otherwise, read the reviews and hire out a copy of Closer.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Mental Disintegration

The subject today is the (now) one of the most famous headers in footballing history, that was not aimed at a ball. Enough puns have made about butt, buts and if I may, I will desist from making another one in the heading of this post. We will talk about mental disintegration.

A lot has been said Zizou's action in newspapers, websites and even blogs. The first wave of articles had disbelief coupled with a question as to what drove him to such a reaction. Theories came with the second wave. They ranged from Zizou's Algerian parentage to homo-erotic fantasies that involve mammaries. Finally came the third that carried facts. Materazzi spoke out about what he said to Zizou, accompanied by what was FIFA doing about it.

Reactions to these incidents have been varied too, depending the level of alligience to the French superstar. Some have sympathised with his fate. Others have cried foul. A few have questioned the furore. And a handful were as opinionated as this one.

"I mean sure, he had to be red-carded, no question about that. But did you see that head-butt? If you have to end your career with a head-butt, this is the perfect way to do it. It was as graceful and effective and beautiful as everything else the man has done in his entire career. Marco is a hulking six-footer and he went down like a tree. And what’s with this idiot Times correspondent going on about how Zidane’s career didn’t end on the poetic note he was hoping for? Has the man ever actually read any poetry? Or was he talking about Westlife songs? What happened with Zidane here was positively Homeric."

I am one of the last but one group. Yes, I know the nature of the insults hurled at Zizou. And I also know that football is not a game played by people wearing polo Tshirts with umpires saying 'Quiet please' in the middle of the match. This is football, a hard physical game that is supposed to test your physical as well as mental skills.

I mean, there's this other game that is played between twenty-two players in white flannels. And it's a pretty mature and civilized game at that. And even those blokes indulge in verbal chicanery to provoke opponents. It's called 'sledging' and the Australians have made a fine art out of it. Today, it's part of 'gamesmanship'.

And pulling up a player for indulging in it is plain and simple stupid. You don't headbutt if people say unpleasant things to you. Imagine Sachin walking to Shoaib and try to clobber him with his bat, because he passed a comment about Sachin's parentage. Sachin doesn't do that. He does something better. More fitting. Like clobber the next Shoaib delivery for a sixer.

Zizou did something wrong. And he knew that himself. That's why he kept quiet. That's why we only heard from his fans, his agent and his countrymen...

I frankly think it is unfair to put Materazzi on the dock because of his 'insults'! Then you are opening a can of worms. Today mental disintegration is a part of the game. It's a part of every jock's armory and hey! It works both ways. Sportmen openly taunt opposing sportsmen to destroy their concentration.

If you can't handle it, get out of the kitchen. Just like Zizou did.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Check this out!

A little piece of pop art. Kinda reminds me of the Sergeant Pepper's album cover. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, July 06, 2006

So much for Shanghai!

That Mumbai cannot hold a candle to Shanghai - not anytime in the next 15 years - is a debate that has been put to rest a long time ago. What is debatable is the sheer apathy of Mumbaites in the face of complete breakdown of governance.

Middle-class India is witnessing a sort of silent revolution these days. Albeit driven somewhat by media, middle-class Indians are opening their eyes and ears to causes that do not directly affect them. Be it the Jessica Lal case or the Mattoo murder, 'causes' are no longer the exclusive domain of jhola-carrying neo-leftists or bleeding heart NGOs. Today People Like Us are playing their part in ways that range from sending a flame-SMS to taking part in candle-light marches and some even more.

In light of that (no pun intended), Mumbaites seem to have resigned to the cause of a liveable city. In the last three days, Mumbai only experienced about 150 mm of rainfall. Compare that with about 900 mm of rainfall over a period of 24 hours on 26/7 last year. Yet, a strange panic seems to have gripped the city. Roads were submerged, complete localities were cut off from civilization, trains came to a stop, schools and colleges were declared shut, man-days were lost...yet the Mumbaite was more scared than outraged.

26/7 was an aberration, a freak show, courtesy nature. But the last three days were not. How can a modern city come to a standstill?

That the administration has failed us, has been established beyond doubt. What does not cease to amaze me is the silence of the Mumbaite? How can we take this lying down?

Or are we too selfish to react? Too immersed (intended!) in our own woes to act for redressal?

New York has 9/11. London has 7/7. Not to be left behind in the disaster lexicon, we have 26/7. Perhaps that will remain Mumbai's sole punch at big-city superstardom. As for Shanghai, Mumbai should set itself an attainable goal.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

KL Journal #4

6/23/2006 2:31 PM
Somewhere over the Malaysian sea coast

Our trip to Malaysia is finally coming to an end. We are now on a flight to Mumbai, via Singapore, Colombo and God knows where else! Budget travelers cannot be choosers. I told you about our trip to Melaka. Last Friday, we managed to visit another Malaysian destination. We went to Penang.

Yes that famous British colony of the ‘Penang lawyer' fame. We did manage to get ourselves to a good introduction to delectable Penang Chinese cuisine. Dimsums, prawn mees, claypot rice, murtabaks (not Chinese, Indian)…we went on a gourmet overdrive in Penang.

Penang is a little island off the coast of North east Malaysia that is now connected to the mainland by a bridge. It was a very famous British settlement that fell to the Japanese in 1942. I suppose that’s why Georgetown – the old town part of Penang – still wears that Colonial charm.

A very important aside. Just like India, Malaysia was a British colony. But a friend tells me that unlike the Indian freedom struggle, the Malaysian freedom movement was pretty intrepid. In fact, compared to the Indian movement, there was no Malaysian freedom struggle at all. Self-reliance was handed to the locals on a platter sometime in the 50s. The relations are amiable, needless to mention. Malaysia is a proud member of the Commonwealth. And most importantly, the British phase here is not something the Malays want to phase out. That’s why Georgetown is still called Georgetown and not TAR Negara or something like that… And most importantly it looks a lot like the way old Georgetown looked, I suppose.

We are landing in Singapore. More later.

6/23/2006 6:52 PM
Colombo International Airport

The last few hours have been extremely tiring. For a good part of the last two hours, we are waiting at Colombo Airport. Our flight was supposed to take off at 6.20 Colombo time. But we are still waiting at a no-smoking airport lounge with a gaggle of Pakistanis. The flight is a Colombo-Mumbai-Karachi flight.

The Singapore-Colombo leg was quite forgettable. Another gaggle of Tamils got on at Changi. Started drinking. One couldn’t handle his whiskey. Ending up puking and chewing his cutlery packet. I have seen worse. The thought of another human being throwing up in an enclosed space was too much for us. We had to change seats.

Met another Tamil. This one was quite decent and one of those temporary friendships were struck in the middle of this fiasco. He said he was traveling from PNG. Penang, I supposed and was about to impress him with my newly earned knowledge.

Papua New Guinea, he said.

Papua New Guinea of the South Seas, Gauguin paintings, the Mutiny on the Bounty. This is actually the first time I have met someone who has been to Papua New Guinea. Clearly thrilling.

Looks like there was a bomb scare in Colombo. So the crew was not able to reach the airport. Our flight has just started boarding.

Over and out.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

KL Journal #3

6/15/2006 9:15 AM

Why do people gamble? I always had this vision of gamblers. Desperate people, who are trying to reach out to that straw of hope. But at Genting Highlands, last Sunday, I saw real gamblers for the first time. Real people. Old Chinese ladies who you would otherwise see selling their merchandise in a night market. With the obligatory cigarette dangling from their lips. Quite the opposite of a suave James Bond playing roulette in a Nice casino. I guess it somewhat brought down the glamour of gambling in my eyes.

Next day we went to the see the KLCC Mall below Petronas Towers. Malls. You see one and you’ve seen all. Mannequins, the smell of plastic, shiny shop windows and the silent collective sigh, that you can hear if you listen a bit hard. I think malls are the confessionals of these times. You wash away your sins, make new resolutions…to drop a few pounds to get into that dress, to drop a few expensive habits to afford that dress.

One odd thing though. Kinokunhiya (I guess that’s the spelling) is the largest bookshop at KLCC. And 90% of the books at the shop were sold sealed. Yeah, I know you are supposed to judge a book by its cover. But where’s the charm of buying a book, if you can’t leaf through a few pages, read the first line? Where’s the charm of reading something like "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again," for the first time? It’s a kind of flirting that romances you into buying that book. To take it home that night. To make it a part of your consciousness. You can’t do that with a sealed book.

And then we went to Melaka. Melaka is a melting pot of cultures. Portuguese, Dutch, English, Malaya, Chinese…a perfect example of what really South-east Asia is all about, if you care to look below the Sony Handycams, pirated DVDs and tiger economies.

We saw Buddhist temples that double up as karaoke bars and Portuguese townhouses that double up as hotels.

Clearly the highpoint of our trip so far.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

KL Journal #2

Amy's Kitchen, Bayu Angkasa
6/11/2006 10:15 AM

Ok. It’s official. Those veggie Gujjus are taking over the world. On the way from the airport, we had this chatty 3rd-generation Indian cabbie. And he was talking about this veggie Gujjus who would come to KL and go mad ‘coz they haven’t found a veggie place!

Otherwise KL is great. Wide roads, lots of greenery. Swanky cars. The airport looks more like a mall than anything else. I mean, as if, ‘forget collecting your luggage, check out Prada first.’

Every road is called Jalan. Extremely friendly people, things are organized.

Oh, I had frogs last night. Ok. Slightly bony chicken-like. I did it and got over it. Let’s move on.

KL Journal #1

Mumbai Intl. Airport Lounge
6/10/2006 1:20 AM

Lounges can be very boring places if you have forgotten to pay a visit to the friendly airport bookseller. I have not, but the point is Gini has just disappeared somewhere and I am left holding the bags. So I cannot go anywhere till she comes back. So I am left staring that the boring information screens, sleepy kids bawling at their irritated jet setting Moms and totally bored airport attendants. Gini’s back. So it’s now my turn to go for a walk!

Even more boring. The only shops open at this hour are the duty-free shops and the coffee shops. As if some Greater Force has ordained that at this hour, the only stimulation that one can access is either alcohol or caffeine. Shit! I should have brought a book along. In the absence of that I read baggage tags, information kiosks. Shit! I can’t even smoke. For the next 8 hours!

Monday, May 29, 2006

What's the rumpus?

Watched a Coen Brothers' movie called Miller's Crossing last night. Very noir. Gabriel Byrne plays a mobster who is trying to double-cross his boss, his boss' moll (with whom he is having an affair) and his boss' rival. Everybody is smoking and drinking whiskey all the all time, brooding and talking in expression-less voices.

Ok. 11 plot points you HAVE TO HAVE in noir movies.

1. Talk in a cynical, deadpan voice.
2. Drink whiskey and smoke.
3. Have a plan to quit the 'game' before it's too late and flee town as soon as you get the 'dough'.
4. Drink whiskey and smoke.
5. Fall for a woman who may or may not be double-crossing you.
6. Drink whiskey and smoke.
7. Get slugged in the face and be completely non-chalant about the attacker.
8. Drink whiskey and smoke.
9. Stare at a ringing telephone.
10. Drink whiskey and smoke.
11. Get killed while trying to do Point no 3.

Is it possible to make a noir movie without any of these elements?

Friday, May 12, 2006

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Now What Was All The Hullabulloo About?

Just came back from Goafest! Two days of advertising washed down with beer, vodka, whiskey and other assorted forms of alcohol. Actually, you can make that two days of scam advertising. Except for the NDTV, TOI and Air Deccan films, almost every piece of work was a scam. The entire print and outdoor section looked like the portfolio of an overenthusiastic summer trainee! I mean there were clients like The Corner Bookstore, Dr Malpani's Fertility Clinic, Maneland Jungle Lodge. If this is the case, we have a potential Phil Knight lurking in every corner of the Indian landscape. The Campaign of the year was a scam. In fact, one of the creatives on the campaign was gracious enough to mention on which single day the film was aired in which single channel. So at the end of the day it ended up being just like the Abbys. Except that there was no Scrutiny Committee. So everyone's scam was in the reckoning for a gong. Not just the ones blessed by Mr P.

The Advillage was a great idea! Great for hanging around, trying to feel cool, get that poor man's Cannes-like feeling, open bar, networking, tip-toeing up and thumping on the backs of unsuspecting out-of-touch ex-colleagues, pass around cell nos...generally feel good about an almost all-expenses paid junket in Goa. (All-expenses paid junkets are so 90s! In these post-recessionary times, they are only for the senior management. AAAI was thoughtful enough to have a special package for under-30s. Kudos there!)

The barge party on the first night was a bad idea that can be put down first-timer blues. Reminded me of Mohammed Ali Park during Pujo, Calcutta. The food ran out as the night went along. There was no easy transport back. Cabbies made a killing. They should have continued the party at the AdVillage.

The watersports on the second day was a runaway hit. As for the awards function later, it could have been better co-ordinated. VJ Yudi could not tell the difference between Hanes and Heinz and rechristened the MD of Leo Burnett into a Tam Bram! Gary Lawyer performed later. Good to hear a real rock show after the usual techno-shit that is dished out at gigs like these. LA Woman on a Goa beach sounded effin good.

The next day, we were flying back. So we all went looking for pickled pork sausages in the morning. Got pickled mackarel instead.


1. Kingfisher's come out with a bottle-size that smalled than the pint. It fits your palm grip snugly and contains exactly the right amount of beer for a hot Goa day. You swig it cold and finish it comfortably before the last few swigs go warm. It's called the Kingfisher Stubby.

2. A commercial for a certain internationally-renowned innerwear brand created by a certain Mumbai agency won an award at Goafest. Turns out the commercial is frightfully 'similar' to another one for the same internationally-renowned innerwear brand, but created by another agency in another market about two years ago. Expecting fireworks. Watch this space.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Breaking News

In the last 48 hours, an event has taken place in Mumbai which can have long-term repercsussions. It has been a year now that Maity has been looking for a place. He wanted to move out of his Worli place and finally, like a true Bollywood scriptwriter has moved to Bandra.

Bandra! The dream suburb, cool 'joints', happening people, proximity to the sea, a quaint Goan/Christian culture and now Maity's home. It's a 2 BHK apartment. But Maity will use only 1B. And the other B is (drumroll) is shared by two works in an NGO and the other is an aeronautical engineer.

Okay. Repercussions.
1. Dadu's biye gets postponed.
2. Ronnie decides look further.

1. Mac: Guru ebaar amaake ektu pass barao!

Monday, April 10, 2006

22nd floor: The Bong

Since the subject has turned to mod mangsho and maagi, here's an anecdote on the idiosyncrasies of the Bong language. The author Sanjeeb Chatterjee says:
"Like in all languages, it is completely natural for a Bong to ask, "Apnar koto chelemeye?" (How many children do you have?). However, a slight interchange of a few words can give the question a whole new meaning. Like "Apnar kota meyechele?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Life in the 1500s

The next time you are washing your hands and complain because the water temperature isn't just how you like it, think about how things used to be. Here are some facts about the 1500's:

Most people got married in June, because they took their yearly bath in May and still smelled pretty good by June. However, they were starting to smell, so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor. Hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting married.

Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children! Last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it. Hence the saying, "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water."

Houses had thatched roofs-thick straw-piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof. Hence the saying "It's raining cats and dogs."

There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That's how canopy beds came into existence.

The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt. Hence the saying "dirt poor." The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they added more thresh until when you opened the door it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entranceway. Hence the saying a "thresh hold."

In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while. Hence the rhyme, "Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old."

Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man could "bring home the bacon." They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and "chew the fat."

Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.

Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or "upper crust."

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky. The combination would sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of holding a "wake."

England is old and small and the local folks started running out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a "bone-house" and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive. So they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the "graveyard shift") to listen for the bell; thus, someone could be "saved by the bell" or was considered a "dead ringer."

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Heart of the Matter

Rahul Bhattacharya reflects on the most fascinating Indian cricketer of our time
Love him or hate him, you just can't ignore Sourav Ganguly © Getty Images
At some stage, hard to say when, Sourav Ganguly no longer remained a cricketer and turned into a folk hero and a folk villain. Averages and the rest came into it but with Ganguly things became a matter of convictions of the soul. Anything he did or did not do could provoke an outcry. Everything that was done to him or not done to him could provoke an outcry. Ganguly issues took the form of movements. In many ways he is the cricketer-phenomenon in India's modern pop culture.
A year of sustained chaos, encompassing several riots, numerous u-turns and countless epitaphs, has now led to a predicament of superb absurdity. In a recent column the satirist Jug Suraiya was badgered by his partner to attend yet another festive-season party. "You'll meet lots of interesting people," he protests. "I'll end up as always like a spare Sourav; present and accounted for, but no one quite knows what's to be done with him." Indeed, no one quite knows.
The Ganguly situation is impossible. No answer is a solution, not even the one of respectfully putting him out to pasture, because he isn't going, and if he isn't going he is almost certain to be back. No, the situation must resolve itself and the rest is commentary. The fashion is to be exasperated, if not disgusted, by the whole affair. Personally I'm not tired of it. Not in the least. I'd be lying if I say I'm not fascinated: as human dramas go, there's too much in it.
And the situation could not be what it is were Ganguly not what he is. On braving my surname and referring to Ganguly as the most fascinating Indian cricketer of his generation in a recent article, I was ticked off by a reader: "I am sure no person, living or dead, on earth outside people of Bengali origin thinks that Ganguly comes anywhere close to being one of the most fascinating cricketers, let alone being `the most'." Another put it more succinctly: "A f***ing Bong standing up for another f***ing Bong."
Never mind the enlightened. The reactions Ganguly evokes comprise a phenomenon broader than Bengali parochialism.'s diarist Siddhartha Vaidyanathan reported from Pakistan that the first thing locals asked him after the khatirdaari was about Ganguly. They were unhappy with the treatment meted out to him. They related to his naked passion. In one way or another Ganguly speaks to watchers. At once he compels you to assume both the best and worst about him; at once he can prove you both right and wrong. In short, he makes you feel. I have not spent quite so much time discussing, debating, any other cricketer. What is it about him?
In ... out ... in again, the going has been tough for Sourav Ganguly in the recent past © Getty Images
I suppose Ganguly came to symbolise individualism and rebellion. Individualism in that he was given to flouting norms, yes, but also in the way he could not be bothered about members fitting into or giving energy to the group. To him match-winning talent was match-winning talent and that was that. Type was important: the brasher the better. In his book Aakash Chopra and Mohammad Kaif were meant for walk-on parts and Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh for glory. This could not be scoffed at because, as much as the attitude may have bred hubris, at the time the team was being built there exuded from it a rawness of belief that was both effective and appealing.
A journalist recalls being phoned by Ganguly to watch a youngster in a first-class game that was being televised. "Aap is ladke ko dekho. Badaa khilaadi hoga yeh. Mujhe khilaana hai. (Watch this boy. He is going to be a big player. I want to pick him right away.)" A few months on, Mahendra Singh Dhoni smashed 148 against Pakistan from No. 3. One player put it this way: "If you capture Dadi's imagination, he will do anything for you." And vice-versa, for once he'd captured Dadi's imagination the player too would do for anything for Dadi. Yuvraj on his first comeback to the team was quoted saying: "I'm ready to die for such a captain." Harbhajan's unstinting support can in some way be understood in light of the fact that, feeling defeated by disciplinary issues, the chucking saga, an ordinary international track record, and economic pressure at home, he was contemplating moving to the US to drive trucks for a living at the time Ganguly fought for his selection.
Generally Ganguly fostered angry or reckless young men. To him "good behaviour", a broad term espoused by the present team management, belonged in school and probably not even there. He himself had been summoned to the match referee no less than 12 times in the last decade. His approach was bound to precipitate what could possibly be termed a cultural conflict in the world of modern sport. For Ganguly, like for Arjuna Ranatunga, competitiveness involved brinksmanship rather than training. As far as they were concerned Australia were not to be aspired to. They were simply to be toppled. England were not to be appeased. Victory lay precisely in their disapproval. In other words, Ganguly and Ranatunga wanted to do things their way. Both carried a resonance of the anti-colonial rather than that of the savvy global sports professional of the age (in Pakistan, Ganguly blithely sported an oversized beanie bearing a logo of the wrong corporate). If it was limiting it was also inspiring. And it invited, from Western observers especially, a ludicrous mix of suspicion, ridicule and condemnation. Much more easy to be gracious about well-mannered fellows who toe the line.
So far so good. Ganguly quenched the thirst for individualism, which is an essential allure of sport; he had an effect on young players and followers similar to that of a rock concert, and all the while kept a successful team together thanks also to a wonderful set of seniors and a fine coach.
And yet, after a point every day for him became a day of decay: the uncorrected technical errors, the sinking fitness levels, the sagging fielding, the jaded tactics, the lowering of standards for himself and by extension for the entire side - not least the gifted youngsters over whom he had so much influence. Finally, his almost politician-like desperation to hold on to power manifested itself in an insecurity - or was it the other way round? - that tore away at the very fabric of the team.
The deterioration looked all the more stark because of the contrast with that most outstanding of cricketers, and Ganguly's exact contemporary and heir, Rahul Dravid. Simply, Dravid built himself on stronger foundations. Ganguly batted pretty as a butterfly but, distracted, found himself blown away by the winds of high pace. Dravid opened up once his base was sufficiently secure. When it came down to it, Dravid had the rigour to last. Likewise, where Ganguly the leader powered on bare-chested with the belief that with flair on his side nothing was impossible, Dravid appreciates that any group must have the safety net of work ethic, discipline, punctuality, enthusiasm - the finer things. Dravid's brand of risk-taking is more cerebral. With Ganguly there was always the element of danger, of losing it all. Ganguly was not about systems and processes. Ganguly was about whims and instincts. This was the thrill, and a great thrill. But I suppose when you're losing, the thrill is gone.
Personally, commenting on the Ganguly situation has been challenging because it involves a tussle between the heart, which wants the individual, the rebel, to beat the odds and win, and the mind, which cannot help but log the slow, sad decline. Then the watcher and the journalist in you battle and they can be, but are not in every instance, the same.
Besides, this was a situation like no other. The more I dwelled on the issue the more I stopped dwelling on the rights and wrongs (there were so many that there weren't any) and the merits of the case (which became too tiresome). They didn't matter so much either. Simply, I just wanted to see how it would unfold on a human level.
I suppose in effect I was choosing the simple intimacy of the watcher to the powerful insider-ness of the journalist. I couldn't see why a nebulous "what's best for the team" should become a pamphleteering cause with me - that was merely a parameter to be considered while trying to pass honest judgement on the actions of the men responsible. Beyond that it was neither my duty nor my inclination and I felt foolish for harbouring any guilt in this respect. At a deeply personal level it did not matter a great deal to me whether India became the next Australia or not. Cricket was at once a massive joke and the most significant human theatre and all the joy ultimately came from the universal stuff and would be fulfilling regardless. And banging on either way missed the most crucial point of sport - that we really don't know what's going to come.
It was with this sense of freedom that a colleague and I jumped on to a spontaneous train to Rajkot on the eve of a Duleep Trophy fixture in which Ganguly would need to prove his form and fitness. It felt like something special might happen, and it did. On a municipal ground, in an environment so anti-climactic that it was melodramatic, the soon-to-be-deposed Indian Test captain hit a rousing century. It was lovely to watch, not so much because of his strokes, some of which were indeed vintage, but because of all the other layers to it.
That evening I met Ganguly at his hotel. I was apprehensive. I had written critical articles about him over the past few months and these things have a way of getting around, often in exaggerated form. I had nothing specific to ask him. I only wanted to try and gauge what he might be thinking, how he might be reacting to the uniqueness of his dilemma.
Sourav Ganguly was largely calm through ups and downs, but his fans certainly were not © Getty Images
There was an air of complete serenity about him, heightened because he was initially sitting on a swing in an open courtyard. He looked the perfect bhadralok: crisp white kurta pyjama, hair neatly parted, thin-rimmed spectacles.
It was an easy, enjoyable, and in some ways warm, conversation. Broadly, three things were striking. One was that retirement was very far from his mind; how others might like to remember him seemed to be their own business. Another was his sense of hurt about allegations of "divide and rule". But the most remarkable was his aura of calm. His family members would later tell The Hindustan Times that he has always been so, that he had never ever lost his cool off the cricket field, that nothing ever fazes him. He himself would say that he believed in destiny and expected to be playing the World Cup of 2007. In that short little meeting I could appreciate more properly than ever before the temperament of a man who at any moment of time has more knives at his back and more garlands at his face than a cabinet of ministers.
A week on, Ganguly was dropped from the one-day squad altogether. Then stripped of Test captaincy, then deemed a Test allrounder, then... you know the story.
The most revealing moment came in the response to his being dropped after the Delhi Test against Sri Lanka. He could have retired right then a saint, all sins forgotten. The man who a few months ago was among the most reviled in the land now had the undiluted support of the nation. It was extraordinary that he would pass up the opportunity and choose instead to put himself and the team under so much pressure and run the risk even of humiliation - were he to return and flop. As ever he left you grappling with mixed feelings: to admire his self-belief or to dismiss him as delusional? What to make of such a man?
And so there he was in Lahore in India's first Test of the new year. He probably should not have been playing at all. Despite the denials to the contrary, it is learnt that his inclusion in the touring party had more to do with the wishes of authorities other than the selectors and the team management.
Late on the second afternoon: Pakistan 668 for 6, India wilting. Ganguly had just made an impressive dive at the boundary. Now a high ball swirled above his head. An initial misjudgement, frantic back-tracking, a final, flailing leap, a one-handed catch both spectacular and comic, a slow-motion backward roll on hitting the ground, and off like a bomb upon regaining poise, injecting humour and spirit into a weary side. It felt like he was one of the boys again. Even Greg Chappell smiled. It was by a distance the most contagious moment of the game. He did not bat a single ball and humbly carried drinks in the next Test.
He was back again for the final match. He made 34, 37, and two errors which were each to be - as luck would have it, and since this story has a strain of tragedy running through it - his only error of each innings. Both times the team required a big score and in the final analysis these were a pair of letdowns. Still it was not an illusion: he indeed batted beautifully, more fluently than any other Indian in the match and as fluently as he had ever done in his career. Few could have expected it. Among those few was Ganguly.
Two days later he flew back home as Dravid turned his mind to the upcoming one-dayers and, some part of it no doubt, to the batting order for the next Test series. And that's where the Sourav Ganguly saga rested at the last opportunity to update.

Monday, February 20, 2006

It's Quiztime, folks...

It's that time of the year. BEQ is about a month away. So start brushing up. Answers? In about a week's time? Unless you answer first

Janet Jackson, Hurrican Katrina, Tsunami, Xbox 360, Bradd Pitt, Michael Jackson, American Idol, Britney Spears, Angelina Jolie, Harry Potter: What is being described?

The 60 year old Indian IT industry honcho is all ready to put a luncheon date with himself up on auction on eBay as part of a fund raising campaign that this gentleman has got his firm to do for the Society for Rehabilitation of Crippled Children. Identify the gentleman.

Connect Publishing and Broadcasting Limited, Crown Casino and World Series Cricket to a gentleman who was in the news for his demise.

Which Indian politician has been invited by UK’s Warwick Manufacturing Group to come on board as a professor to apparently teach international affairs because of his vast experience in the matter.

The famous statement "... is idiots price our devices...” was among the many that were seen on the Internet when this company launched a product nearly four years ago. Which product are we referring to?

A piston fires.
The next piston fires at 315 degrees.
There is a 405-degree gap.
A piston fires.
The next piston fires at 315 degrees.
There is a 405-degree gap.
And the cycle continues. What is being described here?

In 1935, the then Governor of the US State of Kentucky, Ruby Laffoon made this gentleman born in Henryville, Indiana an honorary Colonel. The Colonel's exploits included not only at the battlefront but elsewhere too. Name him.

One of the oldest trademarks, this was introduced in 1898. It takes its name from the slogan meaning "Now is the time to Drink". It is also used to describe the appearance of someone obese or wearing comically bulky clothing. Who am I talking about?

Where in India (specific location) is the TJ Brand of Confectioneries (including Potato Chips/Wafers) manufactured?

Every member of which business group is encouraged to practice the Vedic Principles of work: ‘Service with devotion’ and ‘Willingness to see fulfillment of one’s self interest in the active promotion of the interest of the collective’?

He graduated with degrees in Economics and Sociology from Bombay University before going on to Oxford to complete his post graduation. He played for the Oxford cricket team alongside Michael Atherton and averaged 27.75 from 7 matches. Who?

Antoine Lavoisier was given charge of producing gunpowder for the revolting Americans in 1776 by the King of France. Irenee-de-Nemours, one of the apprentices at the factory, later migrated to Wilmington, Delaware, where he set up a gunpowder unit of his own. He felt deeply grateful to Lavoisier and wanted to name the unit after the scientist. His family eventually persuaded him to give the company a truncated version of his own name. Which company originated thus?

This is from the memoirs of someone’s wife. When he went to meet his would-be-wife's father, he was wearing a bright red shirt. He told him that he wanted to become a politician with Communist party and wanted to open an orphanage (though his salary was not enough to support his family). He proposed to his wife saying "I am only 5'4" tall. I come from a lower middle class family. I can never become rich in my life & I can never give you any riches." Nonetheless, she married him and rest is history. Who is this person?

Which logo or emblem has been chosen by the most number of people in the world to be tattooed on their body?

Guarantee Trust is the first and so far only non-South African insurance company to do what?

When this project was launched as a public- private venture- with the Kerala government, non-resident Indians, financial institutions and airport service providers joining hands- many people thought it would not take off. It was a first of its kind in the country, yet 10,000 NRIs from 30 countries became its shareholders or ‘donors’. The venture is now a dividend paying company. Just name this venture which proved every skeptic in the country wrong.

This 1975 Ford Escort has no radio, hub caps or air conditioning and still contains carved rosary beads, a box of matches and a tin of sweets and a dashboard medallion of a saint. Its new owner is millionaire John O’ Quinn who plans to put the car in a private museum. Now the question: who was the car’s earlier owner?

Graduated from IIM in 1971. He is the publisher of ‘India Abroad’, a weekly newspaper in New York. He won the DataQuest Pathbreaker of the Year award in 2000. He co-founded Rediffusion in 1972.

An apt question in this time of a Sensex boom. A Raipur boy, was rusticated from school. He started as an employee of New India Assurance Company which he later quit. He propounded the ‘Replacement Value Assets Theory’. Whom are we talking about?

Named after the first mate in Herman Melville’s book, Moby Dick, this company was founded in 1971 in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. From its humble beginnings, the chain now owns coffee houses in North America, Europe, West Asia, Latin America and the Pacific Rim.
The chains success is credited to Howard Schultz who first joined the company in the early 1980s. He turned the company from a local roaster and retailer of whole bean and ground coffee to an international chain that served liquid beverages. The chain through its company-owned and franchisee outlets-9671 at last count- now employees 90,000 people. Identify brand/company.

X's death is officially determined by Y by gently tapping his head thrice with a golden hammer and calling his name. Y then retrieves X's Ring that he usually wears in his right hand and cuts the ring in two, and X's seals are defaced so that they can be never used again, and his personal apartment is sealed. Who are X and Y?

This legendary figure, who died sometime back, had made a will stipulating that Jack Nicholson and Michael Jackson must preside over his funeral service. He also wished his body to be ‘fried to a crisp’ and scattered over the palm trees on an unidentified island in Tahiti. Who?

One of the first questions Nelson Mandela asked on being released from prison in 1990 was, “Is Sir ________ still alive?” Who?

Which trading house started as a collaboration between Tata Sons and Volkart Brothers in 1894? It is now a leading manufacturer of air-conditioners and refrigeration equipment.

Which company was incorporated in 1968 as a wholly owned subsidiary of Blow Plast Limited by the name of Aristoplast Limited? This brand is now the market leader in the luggage industry in India and is the largest moulded luggage manufacturer in Asia.

This breed of dog was known as the 'Firehouse Dog' as it was the mascot of American fire stations for a long time. Their popularity surged after a Hollywood film of 1996 and lead to a widespread demand from households for the particular breed to be taken as pet. Which is the breed in question?

The Nobel Peace Prize for the year 1948 was not awarded to anyone. On November 18, 1948 a statement was made about the award not being given because “there was no suitable living candidate”. Why?

The award for bravery in journalism instituted in 2001 by the Los Angeles Press Club is named after whom?

Sticking with awards. The inventor of artificial testicles for dogs, Nigerian internet scammers and a team that calculated the pressures created when penguins poop have won these awards. Believed to be spoof prizes, these are awarded by science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research. Name the awards.

He recently resigned as the managing director of a BPO company that deals with payroll and HR functions, owing to differences with the board of directors. He was also the president of the US offshoring services of the group. He’s also been associated with films. Name him.

Based on a bamboo exercise toy that the founders of the company. Wham O saw on a trip to Australia, this toy notched worldwide sales of more than 100 million within 6 months of its launch in 1958. The Japanese banned its use in public because of impropriety. Which toy?

Was recruited to perform as a backup singer for Michael Jackson on his Bad tour, where she was forced to change her name to Shirley, and asked not to make eye contact with MJ except when onstage. In 1999, also made her acting debut as ill-fated drifter Laurie Bloom in the suspense drama The Minus Man. Who?

He came up with his most famous invention while covalescing in a military hospital around 1941. When asked what he felt about his name becoming an almost household name on account of the invention, he said “I wish I had invented the lawn-mower”. Who?

Vinton Cerf, who was instrumental in co-authoring the paper that gave the world TCP and IP has recently been appointed by Google for internet innovations. The post accepted by Cerf is very creative. Just name the post.

Mercedes Benz withdrew all ads for about a month in September 1997.For what reason?

Corriere Della Sera, the country’s leading newspaper, consigned the impending war with Iraq, Page 1 news elsewhere, to page 20 on Jan 25th 2003. The first 19 pages were devoted to coverage of this giant’s death. Who? (Name the company he used to head, if its simpler)

This was an offshot of Monkey Brand scouring soap .Takes its name from an English colloquialism meaning ‘force’ or ‘vigor. Marketed by Unilever. What?

1909: $950, 1912:$780, 1913: $600, 1916: $440. 1917: $360, 1926:$290. What?

The product sold for only around $3.00. The real money was made off the accessories. Individual items cost between $1..-5.00 and the entire collection used to be sold for $136.00 in 1963. Identify product.

Richard DeVos and Jay Van Aandel, sales reps for Nutrilite, quit in 1948 to start a soap selling venture that now employs 3 million reps worldwide and sells more than just soap. The company’s name was apparently chosen to appeal to patriotic interests. Identify.

Connect the movies – The three musketeers(1973), Superman(1977), King Solomon’s Mines(1985), Lord of the Rings:Fellowship of the Ring(2001) and Kill Bill(2003).Please note this may not be an exhaustive list.

This Hollywood star of the 1990s died of pneumonia at the age of 27 in December 2003 at the Taknes Fjord, near the Halsa Municipality in Norway. Who? (Clue: He’s a different kind of a hero)

San Francisco based Maurice Kanbar the inventor of Skyy Vodka, the vodka without a hangover has applied for a license from the California state authorities to introduce something that would be exported by the Bajaj Group. What?

This high-profile lady from the corporate world became India’s first brew-master, after specializing in malting and brewing technology from the Ballarat College, Melbourne. She is also the author of a book called ‘Ale Arty’. Who is it?

Founded by David H.McConnell in 1886 as California Perfume Company (CPC) in New York. In September, 1939, the name was changed to its present name. Traditionally a direct-selling company, the company’s fastest growing markets today are in China and Russia. Currently, the company is headed up by Andrea Jung, the company's chairman and CEO, who was promoted to the position in 1999. Which company?

This company was founded in 1931 by Shojiro Ishibashi, whose family business previously made tabi, a form of traditional footwear. He derived the company’s name by reversing his own surname, Ishibashi. What was the name of the company he founded?

In 1978, sports announcer William Rasmussen set up this channel in order to broadcast New England Whalers hockey games and University of Connecticut sports events. Which company did Mr. Rasmussen thus set up?

When the inaugural flight of Virgin Atlantic Airways was about to take off, the cabin cinema screen began showing what was supposed to be a view of the cockpit as the aircraft actually took off. The passengers looked on in surprise as three men in the flight deck seemed extremely casual about flying the aircraft. They later turned out to be two famous cricketers, Ian Botham and Viv Richards, along with ________. It was actually a video clip that had been recorded the day before, in a flight simulator. Just tell me who the third person was? It’s very workable.

He was apparently considered for the Nobel Peace Prize five times during the first half of the 20th century. The prize was never given to him on account of Norway’s close ties with Great Britain. Who?