Best of India vs Best of Pakistan

I have a dream. I get back from work at 6 pm (someday, that will be possible in Bangalore!), get fresh, turn on my TV and jump to a sports channel. A match between Bangalore Bombers and Mumbai Marathas is on! Munaf Patel and Andrew Flintoff open the bowling for Marathas, and Rahul Dravid and Andrew Symonds open for Bangalore. Watching from the stands are famous personalities with last names Mallya, Bachchan and Khan. The stands are overflowing with people, and ads like “Britannia Khao, Goa jao” are flying past my TV screen.

How do you like UEFA Champions league? Even if you are not a football (or soccer) fan, chances are you have heard of it. How about the FA cup? Hope you know about this premier ‘import’ from England, thanks to the marketing blitz on TV.

But when the best team of cricket-crazy India played a match with the best team from cricket-mad Pakistan to decide a champion of the subcontinent, there was no such marketing on TV. Forget coverage on TV, there wasn’t even an ‘official’ mention of the event (BCCI is still in the process of putting up its website). And these star studded (Mohd Asif, Suresh Raina, Mohd Kaif, Shoaib Malik, R P Singh, Piyush Chawla, Imran Nazir) teams played at a venue so obscure that they had to sit through a 10 hour bus ride to get there. And that bus ride made their key players fall sick on reaching the venue. Uttar Pradesh beat Sialkot with a handsome margin, but notice the absence of Mohd Kaif (out sick), and Sialkot’s 2nd innings scorecard (3 players sick midway during the match).

Now, I know you got questions about my dream. That match starts at 6 pm because of an “I respect viewer’s time” format – any variation of the Twenty20 thing. Andrew Symonds plays for Bangalore because 20 million fan-strong Bombers contract gives him more money than 5 million TV viewers of Queensland can ever pool and provide. And let us say that Andrew Flintoff is doing it because he truly loves Kingfisher bottled water :)

So, when will my dream come true? Soccer has Euro cup, a hugely popular World Cup, and still has a bunch of very successful national leagues. We have more cricket fanatics in our subcontinent than all of Europe’s soccer fans combined, yet, not one truly successful and commercial domestic setup? Money is here, so are hundreds of potential stars hiding in the streets, but India only has 10 to 20 cricket stars at any given moment, why?

I don’t really like these internationals played around the year. ICC Champions trophy drama every 12 months, then various bilateral and trilateral series, and once in a while, a World Cup. I don’t need this needless tension and international politics so frequently. I don’t want to get up at 4 am, and bunk college or work to catch good cricket on TV.

Just give me my Bangalore Bombers versus Mumbai Marathas and a 6 pm start, will you.


Burning flesh and silent Newsmen

When I wrote about the Gaya self immolation incident (“Did they burn him alive“) more than a month ago, I thought I caught a budding ‘controversy’ early enough to earn my blog a lot of traffic. But that wasn’t to be :) and I have tried to figure why.

See, that story doesn’t have the necessary ingredients to make it to the 6 to 9 pm news slot each evening.

First up, the person who died happened to be a man. When women play lead ‘role’ in a homicide (accused or deceased), the story has a better shot at popularity. Actually, if good-looking women die, it’s a given.

The incident took place in a Tier II city (Gaya) of a Tier III state (Bihar). That is a big no no! A person dying in a mid-rung city of Bihar, we don’t care. Tell me if more than 20 die one shot. Or tell me if the deceased or accused had anything to with Mr Laloo Yadav. Otherwise, get lost. We do care for singular deaths, but only if those happen in Kashmir or by RDX. Terrorism ‘sells’ better you know.

There is one other way stories from places like Gaya can make it to prime-time national news. The deceased should be an alumnus of IIT or IIM. Yes, that sells well, ask our newsmen. If you are smart, you may get the hidden message here, which is this. If you aren’t from IIT or IIM, and you are fast turning into a crusader against corruption (road work, petrol adulteration and all that stuff), your upcoming death may just not count. Just beware, that’s all.

And now for the last, perhaps most relevant thing about this case. Media itself is the ‘accused’ party. Then, how do you expect them to delve deeper into it? I mean they are under trial (I hope the Gaya FIR has lead to a trial), and it is our justice system’s long-standing tradition that once the case is underway, accused don’t make their stands and contentions public. Our goody good media is honoring the tradition, “accused must be tried in courts, not in public media“.

What say, did I miss anything? I mean do you have any more reasons for why the “Gaya self-immolation case” is not seeing more glory in our news media?

RDB vs Lage Raho

The last line of this post at Mutiny sounds so ironic.

Seems that the Mahatma loses out to a bunch of violent youngsters

Well, yeah! Haven’t the guns won over Gandhi in this decision to pick Rang De Basanti over Lage Raho Munnabhai? So while a movie is making masses adore a concept that is so hard to sell or preach, our intelligentsia prefers a polished rehash of mid 80s’ angry youth curry type stuff (Sunny Deol’s Arjun, Ankush, Amitabh’s Inquilaab etc). Okay, I may be over trivializing the RDB phenomena a bit, but isn’t that concept relatively easy to make and sell?

Also, why not think a bit ‘higher’ here. Why do we have to send entries to Oscar and make such a big deal of it? When we don’t make movies for the western audience (except Karan Johar ;) ), why and how do we want the west to judge them for us? Bollywood may think an Oscar entry from India markets Indian movies to the west, but what ends up happening is the reverse. It is a Hollywood marketing game stupid, they want us to watch Oscar ceremony and their stars live on TV.

How about having Oscar like awards instituted here, and picking out ‘foreign’ films for awards judged by us? That may be a confident move – geared towards selling our movies to the world. But to do that, Bollywood will first have to move out of this web of Haldiram, Pan Parag, Cine Blitz, Lux, Sony, Zee and Filmfare awards :)

Capitalism: Air Deccan and the good old MRP

So I went to this nearby grocer one morning. Purpose, to buy milk. 1 liter of milk and guy asked for Rs 15. As always, I couldn’t find packaging date printed on Nandini milk pouches, but the MRP (Maximum Retail Price) was loud and clear, Rs 6.50. That meant the grocer was breaking the law by asking for an extra Rupee on each pouch. I pointed out and he apologized. Victory!

Next scene.

I am flying Air Deccan. “Will you like to buy some snacks”, asks an air hostess. I pick out a pack of potato chips (the one that Saif Ali Khan sells, I like Saif) and ask, “how much?”. “20 Rupees sir”. I glance at the bag of chips, letters printed on which tell me, “MRP Rs 10”.

What do I do now? Report Air Deccan to a Consumer Rights Advocate?

They still print MRP (Maximum Retail Price) on consumer goods. I learn that is the law. It was designed as a deterrent against hoarding, ‘manufactured’ shortages and retailers cheating unaware consumers. But does the MRP make sense now?

Going by my example on the ground, I mean at the grocer, you may say yes. But going by the experience in the sky, I would say no.

All in the name of Lord Ganesha

Yes, use of loud speakers is something a lot of bloggers complain about. I have something else here.

Somewhere in Bangalore, this society was organizing a Ganesha Festival. A makeshift but pretty grand door with dancing lights was erected to welcome onlookers like me. The well lit bamboo structure was certainly very impressive.

While I was walking in, I took a look at the legs of this huge makeshift gate. Oh no! There were scars made on the road, must be at least 3-4 feet deep, and were all permanent. Damage of public property, plain and simple.

What do you think, is it okay to do a thing like this in the name of Ganesha? Do people even pause and wonder that someone has done a ‘wrong’ here? No they dont. And neither do they complain or object when our government does similar stuff.

Raja or Praja, we are all like this only!

Dancing hands and leaking two-wheelers

It’s been a while since the last post on Indian traffic terms. Time for some more in the series.

Dancing hands: Ever tried to overtake a truck the wrong way, I mean from the left? When you do this, you invariably find a hand dancing out of co-driver’s window. This ‘dancing hand‘ flashes out a multitude of signals, but no traffic manual has them documented. So, a hand going in sine waves could either mean ‘go ahead, pass’, or say ‘oh wait, the truck is cutting left’. The fun is in interpreting a dancing hand the way you want and then taking a chance. A frantic hand going in circles is usually the signal that this lorry is in the mood to race you. I haven’t figured all the signals, but know for sure that absence of ‘a dancing hand’ usually means the co-driver is busy having a drink or meal.

Leaking two-wheelers: Our powerful ‘red lights’ do manage to hold a lot of vehicles, but while the counter ticks down, and as and when opportunity arises, ‘drops’ of two wheelers sneak out from the ‘ocean’ of stationary automobiles. I call this the phenomena of ‘leaking two-wheelers‘. It is on display at every intersection in Bangalore, Pune and every other city. Sometimes, ‘leaking’ isn’t a luxury for two wheelers alone, three wheelers and city buses try it too.

Double stop intersections: These are aplenty here in Bangalore. These specially designed intersections have two funnels for the traffic. One is the red light itself. But as soon as the red light turns green with envy (hey hey hey, that neighbor traffic light is letting people go, why shouldn’t I!), you bump into BMTC buses parked right ahead at a bus stop. These bus stops have been designed with a purpose. The idea is to not let any vehicle just speed away like that. Speed kills you know. And these double stop intersections help.

Examples? Silk board itself has one, try going under the flyover towards HSR layout. Airport road ORR overpass at Marathahalli is another one with a bus stop on airport road in each direction, both carefully designed to ‘choke’ traffic. Okay, I told you two, you tell me more.

Coca-Cola and Pepsi suing state of Kerala?

Keral high court set aside the ban imposed by Kerala state government. I am sure you read news about the verdict here, there and everywhere.

But now what? If this is the end of the ‘pesticide controversy’, then I am not happy. Why are either of Coca-Cola or Pepsi not suing Kerala government for damages? They did lose some money and consumer goodwill during this period of uncertainity in Kerala, didn’t they? If a similar thing were to happen in the US, these two cos would have claimed millions of dollars to compensate for lost sales and market goodwill. Why not do that here in India as well?

Is it because our legal system isn’t seen to be mature or trustworthy enough to handle such trials? Or is it because ‘socialists’ will hit back at these companies – look at these MNCs, they are asking for tax payers’ money to fill their ever so full coffers.

The point is this. If the commies of Kerala have indeed acted in their commie-nationalistic ways to simply send an unwelcome message to businesses around the world, then they must be taken to task. If CSE (the sarkaari lab that did those pesticide tests) did goof up with their test-results, then someone there has got to be fired or exiled.

And by the way, I am just going by Kerala High Court’s ruling here. I trust them on their judgement in calling the state government or CSE’s bluffs. I have no special affinity for MNCs, nor any hatred for CSE and Kerala Government.

Just that I want us to move out of this ‘soft-punishments’ and ‘let-us-move-on’ (a.k.a. chalta hai) culture – irresponsibility deserves punishment! Sue them Pepsi and Coca-Cola, and to counter the socialists, once you win the case, just deposit all those millions in Prime Minister’s relief fund. But please, do more than just quietly resuming your sales in Kerala.

Okay to copy-paste, but how about a link and credit?

[Update, Sep 25: ‘Easy Drive Forum’ has since updated the posts in question to include hyper-links to original sources]

While looking at some referrer links just now, I ran into this site called ‘Easy Drive Forum’. Read a post there, and my two month old post (The bad driver again).

Please, if you do a copy-paste operation like that, take the time to provide credits with a link pointing to the original post, like this other post on the very same forum has, thanks you.

Online plagiarism is rampant, what with so many blogs and forums around. Most of us don’t blog to make money, so don’t have the time, interest or bandwidth to use Copyscape everyday. But, guys, it is only decent to not take credit for other’s work, whether trivial or big. That is “blogging 101”, isn’t it?

I try to follow certain self-prescribed rules, only to feel a bit better.

  • Whenever quoting, mention the source.
  • Never just copy-paste newspaper articles (like this other Bangalore blog does)
  • If scanning newspaper clips or photos, wait at least till the next day (because they don’t sell stale newspapers)
  • If ‘borrowing’ image other than trademark/logos etc, mention the source. (have broken this a few times)

Aaha, easy to say!

Time for a sporting break. Some day earlier this month, I read two similar sounding bits of news printed next to each other on the sports page.

One went: “Kiran More criticises BCCI’s selection process”. He did this the day after he quit.

And another: “V Bhaskaran blames lack of communication (or was it coordination) amongst players”. This was in connection with the Hockey World cup debacle.

Well well well, talk is so cheap! If arm chair critics like us say those things, fine. But who the hell gives you the right to crib about stuff you have had a chance to mend?

Hai hai Mr More. Chairman of selectors for 3 years. And not a thing said or done to reform the same things you criticized. But the day you leave office, your big mouth opens loud and wide?

And Mr Bhaskaran, aren’t *you* the coach of our Hockey team? If it is not you, then who exactly is responsible for teaching communication and coordination to those players? Me?

If this is how respected officials from premier-most games of the country behave, wonder what is the state of affairs with other sports bodies. Actually, no need to wonder, we all know and see it loud and clear.

Stifled yet growing, how?

I am sure you read all those ’emerging India’ stories everywhere on the net. There is a full spectrum of those, from the ones that sound emotionally and overly bullish about India (rediff/ET types), to the ones that say India/China have a long wait before they get to be super powers.

Sitting here in Bangalore, India, one way to think about all this is – oh my God! Such big urban rural divide (as that Yale article mentions), such horrible infrastructure, so many people to feed and house, do we have a bleak future or what? I am sure my willfully-NRI readers can add to that list of miserable observations.

I am not giving you the classic ‘cup is half full or half empty’ story. Though you may say that being a stakeholder (a resident), I will tend to see the cup as half full. And as many NRI bashers say, those who dont have ‘real’ stakes, will justify their choices by seeing it has half empty.

Whatever. But I have a simple observation that I cant explain.

So much red tape and corruption, but somehow things run, and your work does get done. Short on power, third world roads – yes most of it, serious shortage of skilled labor, visibly poor governance and ever so slow justice system (which, incidentally, is seen by many as our strength). But still, industrial growth was an impressive 12-13% the most recent quarter. Even with such horrible conditions for doing business, entrepreneurship seems to be somewhat thriving, even in many small towns and not just the metros. And it shocks me that people are thinking of talking big time manufacturing in a country where 24-by-7 electricity is still unthinkable.

Look no further than Bangalore, the city has been sucking – most say – for over 8 years now. You hear this talk of X shutting shop and Y moving out every day. But there still are no signs of a serious slowdown. On the contrary, I only see growth.

Okay, alright, it is all a matter of luck. These are the days of low cost IT and BPO organizations. But these companies still do business here, in these harsh environments, don’t they? And by the way, IT still accounts for only 5% of our GDP, and employs no more than 1.2 million workers.

What I am saying is this. What would happen if all these shackles of laggard infrastructure, red-tape-ism, snail-paced justice and inept legislators were to loosen up? Going by what I see, do I predict a possible economic explosion?

BTW, I am no economist. But from the little I have read and heard, I figure economics to be a complicated thing, so complex that things can mostly be explained after they happen, you can’t predict many of those.