Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Another series.... same story !!!

So finally the rain gods came to the rescue of the Men in Blue at Lords, and we managed to leave London with the series level. For Indian fans though, the fragility of the Indian batting lineup is nothing new. The first test of any series outside the subcontinent has always been our Achilles Hill. Examples are plenty: Edgbaston 1996, Lords 2002, Bloemofontien 2001, Port of Spain 2002. (have not counted Brisbane 1999 and the series against New Zealand in 2002 since we lost everything there). The only abberations have been Johannesburg 2006 and Brisbane 2003 (thanks to Dada's ton and partly the weather there as well). We invariably surrender the intiative in the first test itself, from where it is very difficult, if not impossible, to bounce back (especially in today's 2-test and 3-test series). In light of this, it is truly staggering to have the BCCI reject Dravid's request for extra practice matches before the 1st test of the Australian tour later this year. One can only imagine the plight of India's famed willow-welders having been told to bat first on a quick MCG pitch in front of the Boxing Day crowd. While the BCCI's inclination towards commerce are long known (one famous Marathi scribe always referred to the former BCCI/ICC president as 'Dollarmiya'), denying your team the chance of getting good match practice tantamounts to absolute insensitivity towards the players as well as the fans who invest their time and money in watching good and competitive cricket. Hopefully, Santa will give the Indian batsmen the gift of quick adjustment come this Christmas !!!

Its also quite ironic that the 3 fifties from the Indians in the Lords test came from the supposed weak-links. The 'famed quartet' had a highest score of 40 in the 8 combined innings that they had. So much for the myth of the best line-up in the world !!!


One great joy of watching the India-England series on Star Cricket (apart from the great picture quality) is to listen to Ian Chappell. Easily one of the best commentators in the business, it is a pleasure to listen to him air his views candidly and unbiasedly (well mostly). In a good article here, he describes how the increasing referrals of decisions to the third umpire are a) robbing the credibility of the two gents on the field and b) again being in batsman's favour (since the bowler cannot request for an lbw appeal turned down by an umpire to be referred). Quite good stuff.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Monsoon Trip !!

Finally managed to get a break last weekend. Took Friday off from work and went with Anjali on a 3-day extended weekend trip to Lonavala. The start was more dramatic than the trip itself. Was a bit lazy in leaving home on Friday morning and then got stuck in Mumbai traffic (always an emotional topic for me - refer previous post) while going to Dadar station. When finally the cab stopped outside Dadar station, the train had arrived on the platform and the announcement asking passengers to board and take their seats was already blaring. As we started descending the railway bridge taking us to the required platform, the train started moving. And just as u miss the local train, I missed an outstation train for the first time in my life (thankfully, decided not to do anything filmy by trying to catch a moving train as it happens in the Bollywood movie climax - in any case, the lady to run after was besides me and not in the train :)))

Thankfully, we were going to Lonavala and had the option of buses readily avaliable. So that was not a problem and we reached Lonavala by bus at almost the same time as the train would have taken us. Lonavala on Friday morning was comparitively quiet. But come Saturday morning, and it changes completely. Suddenly, thousands of people descend over the town like a swarm of locusts, especially in the monsoon. Restaurents are full and the roads are jammed just like in Mumbai (we took an hour to cover a 4km stretch between the Valvan Dam to Lonavala station). While Lonavala is certainly beautiful (check out the pics), the abuse it bears every weekend certainly does not do it any good. It must be acknowledged though, that its economy is very much dependent on Mumbaikars and Puneites and the money they bring in. That said, it is still quite distressing to see garbage (prime amongst them were the left-over corn cobs) thrown nonchalantly on the road. Which is why I believe that the Taj being amongst the seven wonders will do us no good until we have an attitude that respects nature and our heritage.

So the next time you plan to go to Lonavala, do Lonavala and yourself a favour. Avoid the weekends !!


Sunday, July 08, 2007

Dream Car in Nightmare Traffic ??

The dream 1-lakh car of the Tata's is once again in the news. And no, this is not because of any farmer unrest. The MMRDA chief, Mr T Chandrasekhar has proclaimed that he will be the first to file a PIL against the launch of the car in Mumbai. The theory behind it being that the sudden spurt in car traffic would completely throw the city's (already stretched) transport infrastructure out of control. The reactions to this have been quite predictable. Tata's have retorted that the public should be given the right to choose whats good for them, while the state government has distanced itself (evidently to avoid any controversies) from the statements, saying that the government cannot come in the way of aspirations of the citizens.

At first glance, it appears as though the MMRDA is trying to solve the wrong problems. Instead of providing better roads and transport infrastructure, it is throttling people's ambitions and dreams of owing a car. But, on giving the issue a deeper thought, there is indeed some merit in the argument that a slew of small cars (not just Tata's, but there are atleast three other players aiming to launch such cars) will spell doom for our cities. Consider this:

Assume that the price of the car which the Tata's will finally launch would be Rs 1.3 lakh (as the press is reporting - though the company is feverishly working towards the Rs 1 lakh target)

Now, the second assumption is that people generally buy a car whose price is about 30-50% of their annual income.

Third, the minimum price point in the Indian car market is around Rs 2.5 lakh (Maruti 800 not withstanding).

Fourth, assume that the 1.3 lakh car is fully functional and has all that any self-respecting basic car should have.

Now, because the entry price point is being brought down by almost half (from Rs 2.5 lakh to Rs 1.3 lakh), consider the income segment that will come under its spell. Individuals with a minimum income of Rs 2.5 lakh will also consider buying the car (and will no doubt be helped by attractive loan schemes). Now, tell me, who has an annual income of Rs 2.5 lakh ??? My estimate is any engineering grad joining a software company has (atleast in a year's time, if not starting). Every morning, there are several dozens of buses leaving Andheri station to SEEPZ full of such recently joined software engineers. Now lets suppose that each bus is replaced by 25 odd such '1.3 lakh cars' (assume only half of the bus and imagine what it will do to the already chaotic traffic conditions there. And forget Mumbai, consider some of the other places. Anyone who has been to Bengaluru bears testimony to the poor traffic infrastructure there. And many more grads move to Bengaluru every year than to Mumbai. Imagine the state there. And this is only about one section of the potential takers of the new 'dream' car. I am sure there will thousands of relatively more affluent shopkeepers, small-time businessmen etc who would also want to be a part of the car-owners club. Now one might argue that such a car boom and the subsequent traffic chaos might actually spark off infrastructure improvements at a much faster rate. But we do not seem to have learnt the lessons from 26 July 2005 and 11 July 2006. So what guarantee that this will lead to infrastructure reforms ? And the Tata's seem to have overestimated the maturity of the average Indian consumer in saying the people should be given the right to choose. Also note that I have not even talked of parking space here. Where is the parking space for thousands of such cars ? I remember when I was in school, almost the entire open space between our building and the society's compound wall was ours to play (many a great game of cricket has been played there ;). By the time I went to college, cars had gobbled up the space. Then, they started spilling out on the street outside. I am not too sure that today's children have any such place to call their own. No wonder they are forever glued to the television set and their regular doses of cartoons.

In summary, while any legislative effort at curbing people's freedom to choose might be improbable, the only hope atleast a small fraction of the potential car-owners might stop to think about how their decisions will affect the quality of life in our cities.


Friday, July 06, 2007

Tommorrow is the day !!!!

Tommorow, the day will finally dawn. The fate of the nation's pride would be decided. In far-off Portugal, UNESCO (with our very own Bipasha Basu in tow) will at last lift the curtains and unveil the new 7 wonders of the world !!! And will put an end to the seemingly endless propaganda by all and sundry in India, exhorting us to display our collective lung power (or is it 'sms power of our near-200 million mobile users' ??) and catapult Shah Jehan's monument of love to its 'rightful' place amongst the seven marvels of the modern world.

If we win, it is bound to raise a celebration like few witnessed before. I am sure you will be inundated with countless mails, SMS's, and scraps (the new way of conversing) congratulating all Indians. Media channels will work themselves into a frenzy proclaiming that our country has finally arrived. The tourism ministry and the industry will relish the prospect of increased tourist inflows and the benefits it would bring the country at large (are there any tourism-based stocks ??? go and add them to your kitty !!) . But, dare I even say that, just consider, what if ???? Insult !!! Sacrilege !!! Apocalypse !!!.. The nation will go into mourning. Our collective Indianness would have taken a huge beating. And post the mourning, like the old story of the fox, we might just shrug and say 'it really doesn't matter' !!

But frankly, before you cast in your vote either online or through sms, please ask yourself, Does it really matter even now ??? Does an online poll, even with the backing of UNESCO, with an audience of essentially the small fraction of the world's population with access to the Net or mobiles, really have the credibility to decide the world's 7 wonders ? And what about a small country, with hardly one-tenth of the mobile population as ,say,India's, with a monument to rival any in the world ?? Does it really have a chance ? Even after that, will the crowning of the Taj as the seven wonders of the world really change things on the ground ??? Sure, you might see a few more tourists checking in Agra, but the Taj has always been known across the world. It hardly needs the certificate from an online poll to reinforce its charm and status. So, apart from a few ministry officials and over-zealous media men, it will hardly matter to anyone whether 'we' (and not the Taj, because that is what it is all about, isnt it ? ) make it or not. I doubt if the fishermen who sail across the Taj on the Yamuna or the rickshaw-wallahs in Agra who drive the tourists down to the monument would even notice the difference post 7th July. And it sure as hell would not even slightly alter our opinion about the Taj. For me, it will always remain the enduring monument of love and devotion, 7 wonders or not. All this propaganda is nothing but a media created campaign (like many others) just to mobilize public opinion and action. Sadly, it is on a cause that is as relevant to society and social life as the mayor's office is to the standard of life of Mumbaikars.


Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Queen's language or Rashtra Bhasha ???

Whenever I see any interviews given by Bollywood stars and other celebrities, one thing always amuses me. And that is the inevitability with which the language of communication becomes English. Even if the channel is Hindi, it is quite strange to see the anchor asking questions in Hindi and the celebrity answering in English. Even if someone tries, the most he or she can manage is two sentences. After that, its back to the queen's language. The reason I specifically mentioned Bollywood stars is because they are supposed to work in the Hindi film industries and mouth dialogues in Hindi for a living. And yet, when it comes to facing the camera without a dialogue sheet, they are back to the language that they are most comfortable with. This is not to say that other celebrities are whizzes in Hindi. But atleast sports stars and politicians converse much better in Hindi as compared to them.

Now one might think that I am being too touchy on a small issue, but I really feel about our national language and the way we have neglected it, especially someone like me whos mother tongue is not Hindi. I used to like, and still like, pure Hindi, the way Premchand, Harivanshrai Bachchan and others used to write (and which were an integral part of our school textbooks). But somehow, have we virtually stopped the use of Hindi in our daily life, to the point where we are no longer comfortable speaking in front of others ? Or is it that it is no longer considered 'cool' to converse in Hindi ? Either case, it is a sad state of affairs. Now two questions that might occur to you: Does Amit consider himself a stud in Hindi ? and if so, why is this post not in Hindi ?? The answer to the first question is an emphatic 'No' and as regards the second one, I need to master the art of typing in the Devnagari script and someday, I hope to blog in Hindi and Marathi. Infact, I am so un-used to writing in the Devanagari script that I can barely write a line in a decent handwriting.

Talking to conversing freely in Hindi, last week's episode of 'Koffee with Karan' was extremely interesting. The guest on this show, which I consider bastion of the Chopra-Khan-Johar coterie, was none other than Rakhi Sawant. It was indeed refreshing to see her talk in Hindi (not withstanding its corruption by the Mumbai lingo) just as we do in our normal conversations. She was also candid in admiting that she was from a vernacular medium school and hence not comfortable in English. Bravo Rakhi !!! If only some others can take a cue from her and promote the use of our beloved national language.

Till the next post,