Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Cricket: There’s life after World Cup for Team India

Let’s look at the positives. We beat Bermuda, didn’t we? Why not build on this win. Let’s now try out Outer Mongolia (trust they have a cricket team), and thus, strike a winning streak. I don’t see the great idea in India playing the same teams – Sri Lanka, Australia, Pakistan etc. – year after year. If Indian cricket has to survive (for the benefit of sponsors and live telecast right-holders) we need to look at fresh pastures beyond our sub-continent.

We under-rated Bangladesh, which has been one of our unfailing failures. It is time India started playing sure winnables. I already mentioned Outer Mongolia. We could tour Indonesia, Malaysia, Burma and Brunei. That would be a morale booster, and give our boys the feel of victory, so that our team members can come home to a grand airport reception. This time I visualise our team flying home from Jamaica, on a late night flight, and be whisked away from the airport by the personnel on bandobast duty.

Speaking of airport receptions, newspapers carry a photo of Pak team transiting London’s Heathrow under police escort, presumably, to guard them from being ambushed by enraged fans. Heathrow has a sizeable staff strength of Asians, including Pakistanis. I guess, there is scope for bilateral exchanges with Pakistan on ways to improve cricketing fortunes to the mutual benefit of both countries. I don’t mean we play a World Cup losers’ Cup tie. In fact, an India-Pakistan series at this time would not be a good idea. If only because, we can’t ensure that neither India nor Pakistan lost any match. We could resort to match-fixing by which every tie is made to end in a draw.

I have an out-of-the-box idea. Let us hold a joint selection camp of cricket players from both India and Pakistan; split the top 22 into two opposing teams, comprising players chosen irrespective of their national colours. In fact, the ‘blues’ and ‘greens’ on the field would be replaced with plain old white, the only colour our old-fashioned cricketers knew.

Speaking of old-fashioned cricketers, the opposing teams should be led by legends such as Zaheer Abbas and Sunil Gavaskar, as non-playing captains. We could call it the Sadbhavana Cup. Legend has it that during an India-Pak tie when Abbas got into a seemingly unending run-spree, the then India captain, Sunil Gavaskar walked up to him to say, “Zaheer bhai, Ab-bas karo”.

Zaheer Abbas, interviewed on an Indian sports TV channel, didn’t confirm this story, but said that Sunil was his good friend. So was Bishen Singh Bedi. During their tours overseas both team members socialized. Zaheer recalled the match in which he completed 100 centuries. That evening Zaheer hosted a party – “every member of the Indian team I invited turned up at the party”.

Former Pak captain, referring to an India tour of Pakistan, said he didn’t sleep during the entire five weeks of the tour. Indian bowling trio, said Zaheer Abbas, was so much on his mind that he spent sleepless nights thinking of ways to cope with Bedi, Prasanna and Chandrasekhar.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Catalyst on Water

Dr Bhamy Shenoy has mailed the following note on Catalyst magazine, an NRI initiative, that devotes its current issue to Water.

Four years ago, some residents of Chennai were leaving town due to water shortage. The Hindu, in an article 4 months ago, said Chennai had too much water now. If you open the city corporation tap, water actually comes out, instead of plain hot air four years ago.

A contributing factor in Chennai’s transformation is Rain Water Harvesting. We still (in Chennai) have a long way to go in order to ‘mainstream’ rainwater harvesting in our daily life. Other southern states have followed the lead taken by Tamil Nadu.

Water for life and water for livelihoods’ is the maxim expressed in the 2006 United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Human Development Report (HDR). Water insecurity violates the basic principles of social justice. Access to water is a basic human need and fundamental human right, yet more than one billion people worldwide are denied the right to clean water. Water pervades all aspects of human development; when people do not have access to clean water their choices and freedoms are constrained by ill health, poverty and vulnerability. Thus, water gives life to everything, including human development.(“Jal hai, to kal hai” in Hindi means “If you have water, you have a tomorrow”)

Catalyst for Human Development’s latest Water issue has articles ranging from sustainable rural water management to rainwater harvesting. You can DOWNLOAD the full PDF file (5.9 Meg) at www.afhd.org . If you need printed copies, details are given in the magazine. You may contact editor at editor@afhd.org with any questions or comments

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Scrapbook Jottings–4

JFK killing wire copy: Associated Press story sent to newspapers through teleprinter sold at a New York auction in March 1997. Seven-foot paper roll of AP story, giving a moment-to-moment account of the first 90 minutes after the JFK killing (Nov.22, 1963, at Dalles) fetched $10,000, for a disabled Vietnam veteran Donald Zammit, who had found the wire copy in an envelope after his father’s death.

Newspapermen: Most of what they do is superficial, out of balance, prejudicial when they claim impartiality, and riddled with inaccuracies. They blame inaccuracies on an obsession with speed, which is used the way a cripple uses a crutch. Being slower, checking facts before they storm into print might be better public service. They are critics, self-appointed judges of everybody’s failings except their own. (Do not know who said this, where, when and in which context.)

Friday, March 02, 2007

Peru, India and the punctuality drive

It was Ecuador in 2003. and it is Peru today that is poised to combat chronic lateness. The Latin American late-running nation has launched a punctuality drive. After hearing the news on the BBC, I wondered when, if at all, we in India would look at chronic lateness as a serious issue.

I have been flogging this message on the web ever since I read in 2004 a New Yorker piece on the campaign in Ecuador. The magazine feature - Punctuality Pays - said, "At high noon last October 1, the citizens of Ecuador did something they'd never dreamed possible, they synchronized their watches". They did four other things:

1) Ran a nationwide poster campaign to convey the message that punctuality pays

2)Public and private institutions - from local councils to major industries - took a pledge to keep time

3) Late-comers were turned away from offices and factories, with placards reading 'Don't Enter; Work Started on Time'

4) And newspapers published everyday a list of dignitaries and public officials who turned up late at public events.

Peru, emulating Ecuador, has clocked in its drive - 'Peru on Time'. At noon on March 1, President Alan Garcia sounded a bell signaling the nation's 28 million people to synchronize their watches. Peru and punctuality have been incompatible; and chronic lateness was often overlooked by Peruvians who considered it an endearing cultural trait.

How Indian, I thought. It's in fact also a very Mysorean trait.

Another similarity between the two countries: nothing in Peru - wedding reception, funeral, social dinner or a business meeting - ever starts on time. Travel guides for western tourists observe that Peruvians expect friends to be late for an appointment.

So tourist brochures advise foreign visitors, rather thoughtfully, not to arrange to meet a Peruvian on a street corner - make it a café or bar. If, for some obscure reason, you want someone in Lima to turn up on time, you will be well advised to stipulate that the meeting is a la hora inglesa (by the English time).

Peru has now officially declared that to be late would no longer be fashionable. The Forum of National Consensus, a government-led council of business and citizens' groups, which is steering the campaign has directed schools, businesses and government offices to stop tolerating 'Peruvian Time", which usually means an hour's lateness. We have such close commonality in our bad habits, Peru and India.

Peru has chosen to do something about it. When will we in India do the same? For a start, wouldn't you like to see our media and corporates sponsor a public interest message recognizing punctuality as a civic virtue that represents respect for the other person's time?

This piece is cross-filed in Desicritics; and evoked following comments:

I understand your concern for this cultural level change. Unfortunately going from A to B involves lot of challenges! Bus, traffic, political rallies. People get used to this and becomes a habit. Make no mistake. I am not justifying this. I am all for coming on time. But it is upto the individual to correct himself in a country like India. Nationwide changes require the concerned people to lead by example which they are never going to do. I myself am guilty of being a little late for some unimportant events. But things like interviews, meetings i am always ahead of time.

Oh, to be late is an institutional thing in India. If you are invited for a wedding and the time says 8 PM, and you reach there at 8, you could literally help in setting the place up.
In fact, at my marriage, the whole procession reached around 30 minutes after the written time, and my bride also was not ready since no one expects the groom's party to arrive anywhere near time :-)

why is punctuality a human virtue? Its likely to help machines when they synchronize activities, communication, etc.
all those poems written about waiting, a waste? :)

BUG - The Brotherhood of Unwelcome Guests

Desicritic Uma Ranganathan's much-commented piece on an unwelcome guest, inspired me to recycle this piece that was written four years back. But I reckon it will stay valid for the next 400 years. My piece was written in a spirit that if anyone were to be shown in an unflattering light, it better be yours truly in the interest of maintaining domestic harmony. So, here it goes:

Athtiti Devo Bhava. I don't know if such a thing is really in our scriptures or it is just something made up by an inventive mind advocating the cause of the Brotherhood of Uninvited Guests (BUG). Whoever thought of it knew how our middle-class mind works. The three-word sloka is so embedded in our belief system that few of us can bring ourselves to turn away an unwelcome guest who appears unannounced at our doorsteps. You wouldn't want to drive away the Lord, would you?

Someone did just that, to me, in the US. They called the bluff on that devo bhava nonsense. Suffice it to say that those involved was a desi family well known to us. Giving away much more would not be in the interest of my domestic harmony.

It so happened that my wife and I were at loose ends on a Sunday afternoon and so our son took us for a drive. Some 40 minutes out of our home I was told we were close to where this desi family was staying. I suggested we drop in on them.

"Unannounced?" asked my son, "Without as much as a call?"

"Why not?" I thought my son, having stayed in the US for some time now, had forgotten the three words in Sanskrit that would open Indian doors even to strangers. After all, this desi family was so well known to us that they should be happy to see us any time.

My son tried to reason with me. I was firm. My wife didn't say anything, maintaining an enlightened neutrality in a disagreement between father and son.

I prevailed. And as we neared the driveway of our friend's suburban house we noticed the family of four was leaving for some place and the lady of the house was closing their front door. We stepped out of our car and met them on their driveway. They were nice and syrupy, but made no move to ask us in.

"What a surprise," said the lady of the house, "I wish you had called before coming."

I mumbled something to the effect that we had not planned this visit, but decided to drop in, on the spur of the moment. After a few more minutes of small-talk, still on the driveway, we exited as gracefully as we could.

"You must come again," said our host, "we must have a meal together." She was polite, but firm in slamming the door on us.

At our place I let my wife handle a sticky situation by letting her answer the door-bell. I do not intervene in her door-step inquiry into such unwelcome intrusion. I pretend not to hear my wife when she calls me to the door to greet an unannounced visitor. Of course, I sulk and usually take it out on her whenever we are lumbered with a visitor we could very well do without.

An unwelcome guest often gives cause for domestic discord in our otherwise peaceful married life. The snag is, my wife relishes her reputation as a gracious hostess, particularly among fair weather friends and relatives. Such is her hospitality that those who come to our place once would want to come again. I keep reminding my wife, "We are running a household, not a 'Welcomgroup' outfit."

The last 'guest' we had stayed only for a night, mercifully. We have had people coming in groups, including unmanageable children, without as much as a phone call announcing their arrival, and staying for days. Our overnight 'guest' dropped in around 8 pm, and promptly settled into the only rosewood armchair in our living room that doubles as my study. It was not yet our dinner time; it was the time my wife and I spend reading a book or magazine in companionable silence. With our evening so rudely interrupted, my wife went to the kitchen to get dinner ready, leaving me to cope with the lady in the rosewood chair.

I don't remember the details of the small talk we indulged in for the next 15 minutes. But my wife rescued us from what seemed an interminable 15 minutes by announcing dinner. To be fair to the lady, an out-of-towner, she didn't drop in on us unannounced. She gave my wife a few hours notice when they met at a common friend's place earlier in the day. The lady had told my wife she was inviting herself to our place for the night. When my wife sought to explain that things at home were in a mess the lady said, "Don't worry, I will adjust." I thought it was the host who would have adjustment problem in the circumstances.

When it was time for her to leave my wife sent her off with the traditional offering of the kumkum and an invitation to visit us again. My hunch is that the lady took my wife for her words. I don't suppose our guest had any inkling of my smoldering resentment at her for having taken us for granted. .

Cross-filed in Desicritics