There has been some talk about Sachin Tendulkar not attending Parliament as nominated member of the Rajya Sabha. In my view, the right place for Sachin is back in the India T20 side masquerading as a Test team in the recently concluded series in England. Despite his age Sachin would have scored more than Kohli, Pujara, Gambhir, Vijay, Rahane, Dhawan put together.
Just as Rahul Dravid would have played more deliveries in one innings than the entire team minus MS Dhoni and Bhuvneshwar Kumar for the full five match series.
Tendulkar has been pulled up by MPs and the media like a school kid is reprimanded for bunking classes or a coach pulls up his wards for slackening during training. And, we all know that a lot of our media and MP’s are not exactly paragons of virtue or exemplary behavior in their personal or professional lives.
Indian media is robust and aggressive and integral to defining us as a democracy, albeit a shrieking one, but has its limitations, corporate and political biases that need not be spelled out here.
Our MP’s are not very inspiring either. Parliament has been hardly allowed to function for months, years, while our exalted representatives enjoy perks and privileges that are billed to the tax payer who now hope that Modi will deliver on his “Acche Din” promise soon – Roti, Kapda, Makaan and Toilets. No doubt, our basic basket of necessities has evolved, courtesy Modi.
The MPs, meanwhile are asking for another round of salary hikes. Is there any organization anywhere in the world that would pay employees salaries for not attending office? Rather, the employees do manage to reach office, scream at the top of their voices, go home and relax. And, get paid handsomely for the efforts. I am a big fan of Sachin, like millions others.
I do not have a problem if he is awarded the Bharat Ratna as he deserves it. Others, long dead or still alive, Lord Ram and Jesus Christ may merit it as well, but that does not in any way make Sachin ineligible for the award. I do not have a problem if Maria Sharapova has not heard of Sachin as I am very interested in watching the astonishingly pretty tennis player, not her views.
I do not have a problem if our cricketers travel with their wives or girlfriend even if she happens to be the very pretty Anushka Sharma. Given their massive celebrity status, Indian cricketers can be enticed by a million other distractions. Blame lack of technique on seaming English conditions and James Anderson for Kohli’s lack of runs. Girlfriends do not win matches or lose them.
Did anybody blame Irina Shayk when Portugal was knocked out of the soccer World Cup? Portugal was just a bad team and there is only so much that Ronaldo could do. I do have a problem with the kind of money our cricketers make especially after they are thrashed the way they were in England.
I do not have a problem if Sachin does not attend Parliament, despite being a MP. I believe India’s biggest cricketing icon is above reproach and cannot be measured by yardsticks reserved for lesser mortals like us. I believe Sachin has earned the stature over the years as an unmatched world record breaking gentleman cricketer without a whiff of scandal.
It is true that democracy entitles us to freedom of expression. But, it also bestows upon us to act as responsible citizens, except on Facebook. Yet, I want to re-iterate — please do not send me any more Candy Crush requests or Tag me in a photo in which I am not there.
For those who have followed Sachin’s personal and career graph over decades, it can be safely presumed the Master Blaster is not one to allow even a hint of dissonance and criticism to rest for too long. Sachin makes mistakes, even God’s do.
Most of India expected him never to get out when he batted. But, he did. However, his genius was unquestioned. I think he was castled first ball by a rampaging Shoaib Akhtar once. Everybody knew he would go back to the dressing room, mull over a dismissal and come back stronger, like he did in the World Cup in South Africa when he blasted Akhtar out of the attack.
Maybe, taking up the offer to become MP was not the right decision, given Sachin’s other commitments. Becoming a MP is not an adornment, it is a responsibility.
Yet, I believe we Indians need to introspect whether we point fingers too often and too soon. It is best to leave it to Sachin to sort out his role or lack of it in Parliament. He does not deserve to be pilloried by individuals who are not a patch on the man’s greatness.
That would be the dignified thing to do.
(Check out my novel An Offbeat Story)
There has been some buzz about Prime Minister Narendra Modi keeping the media at a distance. Modi, TV channels main pre-election TRP-busting protagonist has gone missing save formal speeches and tweets that do not say much. The new PM has opted not to travel abroad with the usual large press entourage, used to being wined, dined and handed scoops in the form of well-drafted briefs by officials in the loop of the higher ups.
There has been no mandatory on-the-way back interaction with the press inside Air India One. As a matter of fact, there is no appointed media hand in the PMO to deal with journalists. Surely any future insider tome about the workings of the Prime Minister’s Office under Modi is not going to be penned by a journalist, unlike Sanjaya Baru’s ringside account about how the Manmohan government functioned or rather did not function. Meanwhile, an angry Arnab Goswami continues to rave, rant, scold and quarrel on TV on issues considered very important for the nation to survive, in his assessment.
This obviously does not translate into the grand TRP ratings clocked when the TV cameras followed Modi on his high voltage acerbic election campaign trail this summer ruffling the feathers of the likes of Mamata Banerjee and Jayalithaa. The nation cannot be blamed for expecting even more of Modi post the grand victory march in Varanasi just as one assumes more of Salman Khan in the second half of a Salman Khan movie.
Otherwise, the audience would demand a refund from theatre owners due to the missing “Kick.” The latest Salman movie is about action, drama, melodrama, comedy, item numbers, technology and holograms mixed with deft Being Human marketing touches. It’s confusing, just like Modi’s disappearance from media space over the last two month following his shift from Gandhinagar to New Delhi. Is Modi treating The Fourth Estate right?
It is too early to make a definitive judgment. It is not as if the government has not been communicating. The suave Arun Jaitley, god-gifted with the amazing ability to speak many words and ideas at the same time, is often on TV. There have been detailed statements by finance, power or foreign ministers in Parliament that seems to be functioning for a change.
Of course, a couple of comical asides have been Rahul Gandhi caught napping in the Lok Sabha or storming the well of the House. Gandhi needs some serious guidance beyond handholding by his sister and mother, his regular advisors. Either he scores no runs or wants to hit a political six. He needs to appoint somebody like Rahul Dravid to teach him the art of building an innings. No doubt, there is some amount of hearsay about Modi’s style of working.
But, I do believe there has to be some method in the silence. This much is known that Modi plans and plots his moves in advance with clinical precision. Remember Modi is no IITian expected to make it to the top, like the young promoters of Flipkart. He started off as a mere Chaiwala whom Advani backed. The rest, as they say is history, which Advani would like to re-write if he could. No doubt, there is a game plan at play, a deliberate strategy that shields Modi away from the line of direct media fire and the obstreperous Goswami setting the PMO’s agenda for the day, responding to barbs and accusations.
In my opinion, Modi’s loud silence should not be misread as inaction or confusion, as under Manmohan. There are enough indications to show the government is at work adopting a gradualist rather than frenetic approach to change. This is any day better than the guerilla like hit-and-run governance tactics of Arvind Kejriwal. In case readers might have forgotten Kejriwal happens to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader who wanted to become PM of India.
Important decisions, though not game changers, are being taken by the Modi government — movements on labor reforms, changes in attestation norm which is enormous relief to the common man, FDI in insurance, defense production and Railways, amendments to the Juvenile Justice Act. There is continuity in foreign policy, social welfare schemes, while a sensible decision has been taken to persist with Aadhar. Ultimately, what will matter is making a real difference to the lives of people cutting across social and economic strata.
Perhaps the media too needs to evolve and move beyond news sourced from a few high-powered networks in Lutyen’s Delhi, especially North and South Block. While the scoops, scams, snoops, secret dealings and innuendos have their place in a thriving and thrashing democracy such as India, it is equally important to highlight success and failures at grass root levels where delivery really matters. And, often fails. I, however, do think that Modi should reach out to The Fourth Estate. Not too often, but often enough. It is important.
(Check out my novel An Offbeat Story)
Will the Modi government be able to turn around India’s ramshackle, crash prone, loss making Railways? It is a tough ask. There are too many matters to sort out, not least dysfunctional toilets inside trains.
Major rail stations in the country look, smell and are maintained like unkempt urinals. Buying a ticket online is as difficult as admissions in Delhi University. There is 100% chance of failure.
Frequent rail crashes are caused due to basic negligence, lack of track maintenance, unmanned crossings and reliance on outdated manual signaling systems. If a train driver happens to catnap, like Rahul Gandhi the other day in Parliament probably due to watching soccer world cup at night, and misses a red light, it could jeopardize the lives of hundreds. Gandhi woke up, walked away and trended on Twitter. Many in the train could die.
This happens often. Indeed, the dirty toilets in Indian trains are symptomatic of the overall decay of the transport system patronized by millions every day. I remember visiting my village in the 70s. There was no method of flushing or sewage disposal.
A pit was cleaned manually every day by the zamadarni or sweeper. If one happened to be using the loo while it was being emptied, she screamed at you to stop. The process was degrading both for the zamadarni and the user of the toilet. My village has moved on, but Indian trains continue to use out dated squat pots. The cleansing process is worse. The excreta are ejected onto the tracks, even at the stations. Unlike my village in the 70s, there is nobody to clean the human waste on rail tracks except armies of flies.
India’s rail system is a glaring example of the destructive power of narrow and populist politics made worse by rampant corruption. Passengers are treated no less than the rats and cockroaches that infest the stations and trains. The last well meaning Railway Minister was perhaps Madhav Rao Scindia in the 80s when Rajiv Gandhi was Prime Minister of India.
Modi’s maiden Rail budget sets out the agenda for change — Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), Public Private Partnership (PPP) projects, focus on safety, latest track and signaling systems, cleanliness and sanitation, passenger comfort, revamped stations, bullet trains and tickets that can be booked online rather than bought from touts who game the system.
The challenge is to transform India’s heavily loss making and unsafe rail network into a financially sustainable system equally accessible by the poor, middle classes, elderly and rich. It is possible.
The Delhi metro, run by the state government, is an example, wherein a high earning executive, a peripatetic software engineer and a daily wager can rub shoulders while headed to their respective destinations, immersed in their cell phones, in air conditioned comfort. Commuters do not read nowadays, not even newspapers. FM radio headlines suffice.
Many of our airports have been revamped to international levels. Indian kids no longer squeal in delight on seeing walk-alators for the first time in their life at airports in Singapore or Hong Kong. One can enjoy a cup of coffee, quietly read a book or surf the Internet at an airport.
This needs to be mentioned. Try these simple acts at the Rail station. Forget about the cacophony, just the stink and lack of hygiene will kill you, if you can manage get yourself a cup of coffee, that is.
Modi’s Rail budget has taken the smart route of private and overseas capital playing a big role in the proposed revamp.
This is important due to political limitation of raising passenger fares and freight rates already quoting very high to subsidize loss making passenger trains.
Criticisms about bullet trains are misplaced. The argument that only the affluent are going to patronize these due to high ticket prices is fallacious. Extending such logic one should ban planes and airports in the country that cannot be afforded by the poor.
Connectivity spreads growth that benefits everybody, including local businesses such as transport, eateries, artisans, hotels, kirana stores and more. Importantly, the bullet trains are not going to be financed via tax payer’s money. Capital will be deployed from China, Japan and other regions.
PPP and FDI models have been talked about in the past. But, there is a difference this time. Unlike the ideological muddle of the previous government and Rail ministers who played to regional galleries, Modi is clear about the private source of funding to re-build Indian Railways.
Political will is the key to push large projects to fruition. It adds star value, like Salman Khan or Shahrukh Khan to the commercial success of a Bollywood film.
No doubt those who rule the country can make a difference. Even Manmohan Singh ended India’s global atomic isolation once he set his mind to it.
Unfortunately, he could do no more. Modi’s rail budget has tried to set Indian Railways back on track on paper. It is a good start. The real challenge lies ahead.
(Check out my novel An Offbeat Story)
Some experiences can occur later in life. The Hair Raiser roller coaster ride, Ocean Park, Hong Kong, happened to me, courtesy some family pressure, specifically my 12-year older daughter.
It was followed by similar upturned, twisted and turned at high speed encounters at Disneyland, which can be a little rattling for the brain, tummy, ego and self-confidence. My life is not entirely boring. I do have my share of thrilling moments, such as watching T20 cricket matches, safely perched on my immovable couch, eating and drinking. On, under, sideways at the Hair Raiser, my expression was mostly open mouthed in a distorted kind of way. I tried to yell.
I did not hear myself until the abrupt end of the woozy ride. For my 12-year old, it was simply “awesome,” even as she furiously waved her arms, ooooing, aaahing, laughing, like the rest. That’s the way it is in the many Youtube videos she has been watching as a build up to the real event in Hong Kong. An overdose of action flicks such as Hunger Games, Fast and Furious and feverishly paced multimedia games have their impact on kids.
And my kid only wanted more of the rides, despite humid weather and queues of expressionless Chinese Mainlanders patiently waiting their turn. She obviously did not want to do it alone. She wanted me to be by her side, not for support, but for doing things together as family, a theory aggressively propounded by her parents.
I tried to explain togetherness on a roller coaster is not akin to dinner-time family talk, but she would have none of my arguments. Plus, as a father I was also concerned about her doing stuff on her own that I was not fully comfortable about, like hanging upside down from the side of a steep mountain with the sea hundreds of feet below.
My wife cleverly took charge of our three and half year old younger daughter, who can be as difficult about her needs such as Temple Run time on the I-Phone.
Gender stereotypes and biases in real life are lot different than the constant talk in the media. The man has to earn, change nappies and do the roller coaster. There is no choice in the matter. The woman changes nappies, while the rest depends on her mood, whims and interest.
The current status of my younger kid, conveniently for my wife, is the unhurried horse and other animal carousels that I too do not mind. Some of the movements translate to a nice butt massage. My surmise, though, is I will need to do another set of roller coaster rounds some years down the line when the younger one seeks out the high speed thrills.
I am sure the rides will only be worse, longer, higher and with more upside down time. Or, maybe I will let the two sisters handle it between them. I do believe India could do with more roller coasters. It cannot be a priority area like roads, power or hospitals that our Prime Minister Narendra Modi should incorporate into his agenda for change or acche din.
Amusement parks can be a safe entertainment option beyond eating out, pubs and Bollywood movies for regular middle class folks who want more. I also believe there are enough thrill seekers in our midst, who could do with a bit of artificially enhanced adrenalin inside their bodies without endangering lives of others. These would include rash car drivers that can range from young Alto to BMW occupants and call center cabs. They abound. All roller coasters should be made complimentary for inherently dangerous auto rickshaw drivers.
Soothed and satiated of their homicidal and suicidal tendencies they will perhaps drive with some sanity on Indian roads that are far more dangerous than any roller coaster ride around the world, even though my guts crowd about my neck area, threatening to spill out, in the process.
Her look says it all. At the Hair Raiser:
Check out my best selling novel An Offbeat Story
I have lost 12 kilos over the last few months, down from about 82 kilos to below 70 kilos, without being unhappy about a lifestyle that once was. I continue to occasionally binge and drink, not exactly fat burning or low calorie activities, unless one counts laughing loudly as exercise. Last, I weighed about 65 kilos in the 80s, around the time a single party under Rajiv Gandhi enjoyed majority in Parliament. So, I see my achievement no less than Narendra Modi.
I gym regularly, but never managed to weigh less, despite focusing on my treadmill levels and not the fabulous bodied girls in tight attires seriously going about their routines in the vicinity. That made me unhappy, especially since the scale kept creeping up, despite enforced abstinence.
Then, one of those choosing between life and death moments happened that wives and parents aggressively pester about once you cross 40, the age when you have likely lived half your life.
I had to get those blood tests done, which revealed my cholesterol, sugar and BP were borderline alarming. Our wise family doctor warned that my organs (heart, kidneys, brain and many more) were a time bomb waiting to explode unless I acted and neutralized the terror within me. Or like the Indian state so many times, fail to act on the inputs.
Usually action for me translates into plenty of good old Google time collecting a whole lot of intelligence, including reader feedback, Youtube videos, cricket, politics, Sunny Leone, sitcoms and more. I read interviews of superbly fit people such as Hrithik Roshan. I know I have no hope of achieving those sculpted biceps and abs in this lifetime. But, wanted to at least get into those college jeans again and live the bulging 40s just a bit like the roaring 20s.
Following plenty of inputs, I did realize fitness is more about lifestyle and diet rather than just exercise. Warning: all of what I am about to write hereon is personal deduction. I strongly advise readers to use discretion, cross-check with nutritionist or doc before applying my prescriptions. I am no specialist. One advice, however, can be followed.
A good breakfast works. It sets up the rest of the day well. Not high glycemic corn flakes, mind you, but oats, milk, fruits and egg whites. One more action I initiated is to eat out less. This can save a lot of trouble. As I found out, the oil used even at fine dining outlets, forget food courts, is the pathetic hydrogenated variety that clogs the system.
The accumulated fat builds little dams inside the body that inhibits blood flow. Starved of Oxygen the body dies a slow death, leading to a final collapse. I have also reduced to near zero wheat flour or maida from my diet that cut out a whole lot of instant calories playing havoc with the body. Look at restaurants and fast food outlets around, praised to the heaven by mostly very rotund food critics fattened on freebies. Maida abounds in Menus – pizza, burger, chole bhature, noodles, sandwiches, muffin, pastry, pasta, momos and more. This is trouble.
I have not eliminated such delicacies from my diet, but stick to whole wheat breads, pasta and brown rice. Have them made at home, with some good oil, Saffola or Olive using non stick cookware. Make yourself during weekends, rather than order home delivery.
It does not take much time, can be creatively rejuvenating and even sexually stimulating if you can manage to rustle a tasty and healthy whole wheat penne in white sauce using double toned milk, green veggies, some cheese and mushrooms for the spouse.
She will make it a point to thank you in kind. Also, rather than just hitting the treadmill with a vengeance, try some Yoga in the morning. It is like shaking the body for further use during the day. It activates the blood stream.
I was quite stiff when I started. Now I can bend low and view the wall behind my back from between my legs, like Parveen Babi in Namak Halal, which feels quite good. I watch my weight. My benchmark is 155 pounds. Below that, I allow myself a binge, a few drinks.
Frankly, I do not look forward to those anymore as I used to. It does slow down in the 40s. But, it feels really good to fit into those college jeans. I just need to tear them a bit. Maybe, I won’t. And, those blood tests. They are back to normal.
(Check out my bestselling novel An Offbeat Story)
Over the past couple of days, I have watched Narendra Modi’s victory speeches in Vadodara, Delhi and Varanasi. I did not watch Manmohan Singh’s farewell address to the nation, a day after his government was voted out of power, as I expected it to be boring and clichéd. Singh is history, Modi is the future.
Reams will be written about Singh’s 10-year tenure as Prime Minister of India. Most current analysis and literature, including Sanjaya Baru’s book, have not been very kind. Given Modi’s stupendous victory, the country was clearly dissatisfied with Congress-led government effectively run by the Gandhi family. Manmohan will recede from memory, even as Indians will hope Modi government takes the country forward to new highs and achievements, as promised.
However, for a moment I would like to pause and thank Manmohan even as the Modi juggernaut swamps all consciousness and TV moves to the next big story.
As original architect of India’s economic reforms, Manmohan failed in the last 3-4 years when the country needed a fresh dose of change.
However, he has had some part to play, including as finance minister, in getting India to the position it is right now, the third largest economy in the world with several sectors such as IT, auto, hospitality, telecom, knowledge outsourcing at cutting edge and world class.
Millions, including myself, have benefited. Over the last decade incomes and investments for many have grown to levels that our parents could have never imagined even a decade back.
This, in turn, has engendered high aspirations among millions more. The results of national elections have made clear the people of India do not want a paternalistic government that hands out free doles. They find it demeaning. They want much more, like the others.
They can sense and witness prosperity around them, for real, on TV, Internet, word of mouth, especially of migrant workers from Bihar, UP, West Bengal employed in progressive states such as Gujarat or Maharashtra.
They want to afford the cars and air conditioners, travel in planes, send their kids to private schools that function and teach English, access good medical facilities, clean and safe environment. Nobody is going to be satisfied with some free rice, kerosene and few weeks wages for labor. They are not beggars seeking alms.
Manmohan delivered in the past, he needed to deliver more. Unfortunately, he lacked the political support and space. Given his inherent decency, Manmohan chose to remain silent rather than take on Gandhi family and their corrupt cohorts. The Congress party thinking was muddled, uninspiring and random as portrayed by Rahul Gandhi’s vacuous smile when he accepted defeat.
Modi has a big task in hand. Like Manmohan did in the past, he will need to ensure that millions more Indians see their incomes and investments grow exponentially. In these elections Modi has broken many records – the margin of victory at Vadodara, a clear majority for a non-Congress government for the first time in Independent India’s history. This is just the beginning.
Modi will need to break many many more records, plug the gaps and inequalities, efficiently manage India’s natural resources such as oil, gas, coal, revamp infrastructure, roads, power generation, Railways, streamline defense procurement and production, clean the rivers, turn private enterprise even more robust. The nation will watch his every step.
Expectations are very high. I want to thank Manmohan for whatever he did for the country. It was no small achievement.
Retire in Peace, Dr Singh. You can be blamed, but others should be blamed much more for the defeat of the government you headed.
(Check out my novel An Offbeat Story)
Latest exits polls predict a BJP victory. Many harbor misgivings about emergence of a “fascist” Narendra Modi. I have reason to believe it will not be easy for BJP’s PM candidate to turn into a “dictator” as some fear. Though Modi managed to subdue the usually belligerent Arnab Goswami on TV recently, it will not be such a cakewalk always.
The Arnab interview was a disappointment, no doubt. The earlier interaction of Rahul Gandhi too was unexciting, for which the blame lies with the interviewee. There is so much even Arnab can do to enliven a dull conversation. Even a Salman Khan-film and body show can flop if the script and direction are tardy. With Modi, the eye contact was feeble.
At least a couple of times, Arnab referred to his notes on being counter-queried by Modi. That is not the usual Arnab, who otherwise revels in aggressive gesticulations, papers and notes in hand, accompanied by shrill barbs and garbled decibels all round, also good for TRP ratings . With Modi, not once did Arnab utter his signature, “The nation wants to know.”
I was disappointed, like it has been with Chris Gayle in ongoing IPL cricket. But, then there has been a silver lining too. While Gayle has failed, others have delivered the fireworks, like David Miller or Glen Maxwell. Similarly, I do feel there are those who will be more than willing to take on Modi, unlike Arnab, and are not going to let him get away so easy.
This is important for Indian democracy. I believe Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, for one, is going to become a factor against Modi.
Though her campaign and impact has been late and limited this summer, it is unlikely to be so in future. The clamor for larger role for Priyanka will rise, given declining political fortunes of her family that naturally extends to Congress party. Her speeches are good, sharp, interactive, funny, cheesy, unpredictable and spontaneous, unlike her brother who can be consistently distant, abstract, self-conscious, obsolete and boring.
Not a very happy situation when politicians in India need to be consummate entertainers to appeal to huge crowds braving raging summer temperatures. There are signs of a street-fighter in Priyanka. She is a good communicator. These are crucial attributes when Parliamentary elections are being fought Presidential style. There is an innate probably inherited from her grandmother or god-given charisma, difficult to exactly define, but again very important.
Priyanka, of course, will have to set her own house in order before taking the full political plunge. For one, she will need to rein her husband Robert Vadra from making asinine comments, prove some of his real estate dealings are above board and ensure he strictly sticks to playing golf and riding bikes. She also has to convince her brother to be a little less abstract and more specific in his speeches. Priyanka will be playing a bigger political role, no doubt.
Modi should watch out. Another person who can take on Modi, unlike Arnab, is Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal who will probably pay the price of being politically impatient in this year’s general elections. There is one trait about the physically slight Kejriwal that, however, cannot be doubted – he knows no fear. This attribute again is very important to stand up to Modi.
The existence of BJP, Congress and AAP as counterchecks to each other is healthy given their pan-Indian influence.
Due to rising clout of urban middle class votes and city-based populations, these political outfits will need to evolve a broad agenda centered round good governance, economic growth, equity, efficient infrastructure, employment generation, health, education, judicial and police reforms and sound welfare schemes for poor.
This could also mean sidelining of regional outfits that play up caste and religion to win votes, at the national level, at least. No talk of Indian politics will be complete without mentioning the three divas, Mayawati, Mamata and Jayalalithaa, ruthless, acerbic, ambitious, and publicity hungry. Each is quite capable of messing around with Modi.
These ladies will be very different from the women the BJP leader has dealt with so far – a wife who has chosen to remain quiet and faceless and a mother who travels in an auto rickshaw. The three divas will demand much more, arrive in helicopters and are capable of making Modi’s life quite miserable, if they so wish.
Indian democracy is only headed for better times ahead, if you ask me.
(Check out my novel An Offbeat Story)