Jul 26, 2010

Tribute: Murli

So Warnie boy thinks no one will be able to beat Murli's record in test cricket. As much as i like Warne or admire Murli, there is something depressing about this statement. When you cap the range of human accomplishments, you are limiting freedom, you're limiting aspiration and all that makes us truly great. Anyway, only time will tell.

While statistics are important and a vital way of proving ones supremacy, they never tell the entire story why guys like Murli, Ganguly, Sampras and yes, even Sachin, stand out. HT did a feature on the number of times Murli was attacked by prominent fellow cricketers, columnists and even ex-stars of the game. From Nasser Hussain to Bishan Singh Bedi to Steve Waugh - they all called him names, ridiculed his 'throw' and all but wrote him off. Even when he was declared innocent of ball throwing charges in an independent inquiry, then Australian PM John Howard declared that Murli had been proven guilty of foul bowling tactics! How does one emerge from such mess and go on to record such feats? What about self doubt? What about the burden of being publicly shamed? Is this simply the magic of indomitable will or something deeper - a spiritual awareness, a deep seated knowledge that one must simply keep doing what one was sent on earth for? I dunno.

There's a wonderful scene in 'Dead Poet's Society'  - that wonderful film about  John Keating, an English teacher at a uptight Brit boys boarding school who encourages the hitherto over-disciplined boys to think for themselves, seize the day and try all the things they ever wanted to, before they finally find their place in the world. There’s a scene in which Keating leads the boys out into the school courtyard and orders them to start walking about. As the boys shuffle out, you can see some of them are unsure, some skeptical, some plain bored. Their strides unmatched, they walk around the school yard and then gradually fall into rhythm and start marching together. Keating asks them to stop. He explains how when they’d first started out, they were all trying to walk about in their own way but the power of conformity is so overwhelming that it seduces us of any iota of individualism and we fall into stride with others. He says, “Now we all have a great need for acceptance, but you must trust that your beliefs are unique, your own, even though others may think them odd or unpopular, even though the herd may go.” 

We spend so much time teaching numbers and letters and days of the week to our children. Hell, we even teach them about BT Brinjal and Swine Flu these days. But what of this? Am i able to make her understand that there is a world within her that is precious, private and no less worthy of consideration for being ordinary? 

Self doubt is a luxury for the assured, for some it is a curse you live with every minute. Second guessing and pushing to better what was left undone. Sometimes words help:

"You are my angel,
Come from way above,
To bring me love.

Her eyes, she's on the dark side,
Every man in sight.

To love u, love u, love u"

Jul 5, 2010

Freebie Junkies: on SOPs

So we celebrated a bharat bandh today. From the look of it, it’s been a spectacular success. Going by the reasons behind the protest, it seems we are a nation of freebie junkies. We frequent restaurants during happy hours and haggle about the free samples to be given when we buy expensive perfume at duty free shops. Hell, Indians even ask for freebies when they attend garage sales in the U.S.

We think we own the country by paying taxes and are entitled to an endless range of services and commodities in lieu of that. Such things as fiscal deficit, fuel subsidy and price rationalization mean very little to the average Indian. Which is why I wasn’t at all surprised when Khetia aunty mourned the hike in fuel prices and spoke in support of the bandh. They are small-time traders and have been hit bad. Her angst, though misplaced, is understandable. Those I cannot quite fathom are the educated, left leaning liberals. I had the opportunity to lock horns with such a character during my recent visit to Lucknow.

Bhaskar Chaterjee is an IAS officer and a distant relative; one of those hitherto-unknown influential people who you bump into at social gatherings and immediately note everybody paying obeisance to. I was in a spot of trouble with my return tickets and my uncle was kind enough to approach him for assistance which he dutifully offered. I was introduced to him and we kinda took to each other. On my part it was pure desperation as I saw him as a refuge from the endless introductions and hugs I was being subjected to. He had it even worse, poor guy. Also, without really being immodest or a snob about it, I don’t think apart from me and my uncle, there were too many people at the venue there who the poor soul could really talk to. So, anyway, there we were, strangers in a blind, two ships faffing by and all that.

We were chitchatting about this and that when the question of subsidies arose. I don’t recall exactly how but the question of free water to the Punjab farmers arose and predictably enough, I started to rant and rave. This has been a burning issue with me for a while and with media reports about the debilitating ground water levels, the ire has simply increased. He started off by defending the cause of the agriculturists as an exploited minority, but backtracked fast when I jumped at his neck with some Green Revolution facts. Point is, only an imbecile can uphold the Punjab farmer as a prototype of the Indian peasant. Bhaskar had conveniently overlooked the fact that the maximum number of Mercedes and Audis are sold in Punjab.

After arguing for a considerable period of time (we debated things like socialism and welfare state and Marx but that’s another story), the great IAS divulged that as a mark of his professional excellence, he had been given some land near Ambala which he’d leased out to a sugar major. So much for neutral perspective. But the encounter with Bhaskar has stayed on in my mind. If educated, prosperous, privileged Indians think they are entitled to freebies, why blame the poor?