Oh God, ‘have we overstayed ?’

Australian player Luke Pomersbach of the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) team was arrested Friday for allegedly molesting an American woman in a five-star hotel…..

IPl chairman Rajiv Shukla said: “We are not responsible for behaviour of individuals in hotels …

Shah Rukh Khan, co-owner of Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR),is banned by MCA from entering Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium over his alleged misbehaviour at the ground Wednesday night.

These lines are excerpted from an IANS report that  summed up IPL-related happenings on a given day.  An edit-page  piece by academic Mukul Kesavan  reckons the business model adopted by Indian Premier League (IPL) celebrates decadance of cricket with ‘contempt for convention and procedural scruples’. Glitzy costumes, chorused countdowns, TV commercials that breathlessly talk up individual players,  blur the distinction between competitive sport and Hulk Hogan-style entertainment,  according to Kesavan.

And then my schooldays friend,  S Balakrishnan,  sent me the other day  his take on cricket ,  in  free verse.

The need for this rhyme
Is that in my time
Cinema, cricket and crime
Never were the news prime

Seeing a 7-column front page
Devoted for cricket coverage
In all the Dailies of the new age
It is difficult to suppress my rage

I and my friends are dismayed
Dear God, ‘have we overstayed ?’

When Tsunami lashed Japan’s shore
Our leaders asked, ‘What’s the score ?’
When houses and cars floated like match boxes
Our media lamented for lost matches
And missed catches

They  shout, ‘Over’
When it’s never over!

When crushed by burden of loans
Our farmers commit suicide
For fallen wickets our media moans
And for every run we take pride

Our Appalling moral rot
Illiteracy,  poverty, dirt and squalor
Appear to matter not
So long as our ladies can visit beauty  parlor

What is all this ?
Here everything is amiss
Dear God, ‘have I overstayed’.

Overstayed?  My friend,  at 73,  is  a practicing  Supreme Court senior advocate. We belong to the era of  Vinoo Mankad,  Marchant and Hazare (Vijay).  Though I haven’t known him touch a bat or ball,  Balu closely followed the course of our Madrasi School team in Delhi. And even offered advice, off-pitch, to our captain and mutual friend Kasturi Rangan.  Even without Balu’s guidance we  managed to come close to the bottom of the chart in inter-school tournaments. But then, as Balu would put it,  it’s the spirit of the sport, not the score , that counted in cricket.   Balu still calls me by the nick name – Mankad –  that I acquired,  not so much for proficiency in cricket,  but because I was the only left-handed bowler  in our school team.

Chicken Soup for the Soul : Is Soul non-vegetarian ?

Jack Canfield who co-founded Chicken Soup for the Soul said the title was inspired by his  grandma’s tale that her chicken soup cured anything.  I wonder what Jack would have done for a title,  had his grandma been a vegetarian.  Chicken-soup-for-soul books have been such sure-fire sellers worldwide since 1970s  that it was merely a matter of time before we had a desi avatar –  Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul.  Westlands  are now at it,  bringing out  Soup editions for Indian armed forces,  women,  mothers,  fathers,  teachers,  teenagers,  and desi brides.

The latest ‘soup’  edition,  for Indian corporate souls,  is required reading for office-goers. It’s the kind of book you read on cummute to work;  you talk about with colleagues at office canteen. The book talks about corporate souls experiencing spurts of success,  stifling setback,  and life-long strife to maintain proper work-life balance.  The blurb mentions 101 stories of entrepreneurship and creativity at the workplace. I haven’t counted the chapters;  nor have I read them all.
It’s kinda book that invites readers to taste it,  in bits and pieces  picked out at random.  I remember the school days when we played  ‘book cricket’,  with a book in hand,  to be opened at random for the page number (denoting the runs scored).  With the Chicken Soup book I picked chapters,  as I picked up  ‘runs’  in  ‘book cricket’.  Reading this way was fun.

In his piece Sunil Agarwal wondered if company executives would do well to  have  appraisals of performance at  home – as spouse, parent  –  just as they have work appraisal at office.  Author Agarwal is an investment banker in Mumbai.  Akhil Shahani, born in a business family and an MBA from Kellogg’s  School of Management, writes of  the lesson he learned from failure of his software start-up.   Shahani has an ally in Sabeer Bhatia .  In this   BBC interview   (Hotmail) Bhatia  said  Indian  business community lacked the mindset to accept failure as learning experience.  In the US,  he said , business failure  was seen as a badge of honour,  something that spurs you to try again. The story of Silicon Valley has been that nine out of ten products failed,  but the one that makes it more than makes up for all earlier losses.

In the chapter – A professional Hug – interviewer  Juhi Rai Farmania,  of a corporate recruitment agency,  writes how she came to  give a hug to a job applicant at the end of the interview. I visualised in her account   a touch of  Jaadu Ki Jappi,  from the Munnabahi movie featuring Sanjay Dutt. We get to read about how  Sridhar Seshadhri  got his dream job with Facebook;  how  Sanghvi(Bali D), along with her Nishi Aunty (Nishita Garg)  opened an online library in Kolkata;  how a pipeline maintenance engineer Goutam Datta was saved by his technician from a charging bear in Orissa’s Mahargiri forest;  and how his office peon Rozario continued to hand out Christmas cake to  his office colleagues , and to  Datta even after he quit the company.

And then we have this dog-eat-dog story by media person Ingrid Albuquerque-Solomon.  As a has-been in the print media myself,  I would think media-eat-media stories are  a factor of today’s corporatized media,  in which branding and market share appears to be the driving force;  and editor is reduced to  a name that appears in the newspaper printline.  In the newspaper I used to represent the name appears in the finest of fine-print.  I wonder what Ingrid would say.  Wouldn’t it add value to the series,  if they publish a Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul in media ?

Editor of the book under review Juhi Rai Farmania says her first soup-for-soul story,  on the loss of her dear friend,  was done to share with her readers the beautiful message that changed her  relationships. This reminds me of a  ‘feel’ piece my friend  Vidya Sigamany  did on  death,   explaining why  she couldn’t bring herself to attend  the funeral of a person dear to her soul.  Sigamany’s piece –  Deepest Condolences –  would merit  inclusion in  a chicken soup book for those mourning the loss of their dear ones.

And  if Chicken soup publishers are considering language possibilities,  say a Tamil avatar ,  I would recommend as editor-contributor the likes of  Chennai-based IT professional and weekend writer LakshmiSudha (no friend of mine).  Her  writings can be accessed at Sangapalagai.  Writer  Sivasankari  comes to mind,   if  Westland-Tata wants to set up a  ‘soup-kitchen’  for the Tamil souls under Knit India’

I thank   BlogAdda ,   for  sending  the book for review  under their programme  for Book Reviews by Bbloggers.


TED-India meet in Mysore

TEDIndiaFour-day TED-India conference to be held in Mysore (Nov.4-7) is reportedly sold out. The meet is expected to attract people from 46 countries, according to a media report. With some 40 speakers on the card, drawn from varied fields – scientist, artist, playwright, photographer, marine biologist and sports commentator – the event promises to be a mela (marketplace) for ideas.

As a resident of the host town, my concern, or rather my poser to organisers, is: Shouldn’t local residents be allowed to benefit from the proceedings ? In a global event of this nature local enthusiasts tend to get crowded out by those from elsewhere. And, understandably, the organisers face severe space constraints, however big the venue.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the they could arrange to have the conference proceedings screened through closed-circuit network in another hall – Kalamandira or some other place – for the benefit of local audience ? Or they could tie-up with the city TV channel for live-telecast of TEDIndia, as they do with Dasara concerts held at the Mysore palace grounds.

Would local residents be interested? How would TED proceedings be of local public interest ? I can’t answer this question better than TEDIndia co-host Lakshmi Pratury. She says she would like those attending the Mysore conference to take back three things:
1) No one who sits through a talk or seminar is with it all the time, a hundred percent. Even if they stay focused on what they hear, for a brief moment , they should feel it is a moment when they would rather be here than anywhere else;
2) Her expectation is that on gatherings like this one meets at least one person who becomes a friend for life; and
3) Her hope is that those who sit through the proceedings would pick up an idea or two that is not necessarily related their prime interest.

Cross-posted from Giving It A Shot

Nandan Nilekani ‘on the bench’

Infosys guy Nandan Nilekani found himself  put ‘on the bench’ right on his first day in Parliament. It was his fault, in a way – Nilekani’s.  He came to the House with a laptop without any reserve power.  Besides a power socket he needed a screen and projector to make a presentation on his national plan to give every Indian a degital identity.

What folllowed is best described in Nilekani’s own words: “The next couple of minutes were a complete jolt for me. I was completely in a tizzy… A Joint Cabinet Secretary Committee was set up to judge the feasibility of my request.  The Under Secretaries for the Ministries of Power, IT and Broadcasting will prepare a Viability Report after scrutinizing National Security threats to my request.  This was because the power socket comes under Power, laptop comes under IT and projector comes under Broadcasting”.

I had this account on Nilekani’s ministerial avatar forwarded by a  blogger friend.  The honourable minister for our digital identity has been given a presentation slot three months from now. Which,  presumably,  should also give him time enough to acquire a wardrobe with kurtha  by an Itallian designer. The Milan-based kurtha designer has been recommended to Mr Nilekani by fellow MP Mohd. Azharuddin.  The new minister in the Manmohan cabinet was reminded, by a fellow minister rising on a point of order, that Mr Nilekani was not at Infosys and the corporate dress code he had followed there, flashy dark suit,’ did not go well with the image of a minister who should live to serve the common man and should be less ostentatious in his habits’.

The next time he shows up at Lok Sabha, Mr Nilekani  better be in kutha.  About his Day One in the House Nandanji reportedly text-messaged Murthy, “You won’t believe it but these guys work just like us. I am on a National Bench for the next three months!’

It’s just not cricket

lahore-attack-004The gunmen who attacked a bus carrying Sri Lankan cricket team, on way to the stadium in Lahore,  killed five cops and a van driver. If, indeed, the attackers were Pak cricket fanatics, and had wanted to wipe out Sri Lanka team, they can hardly be said to have succeeded.  If the gunmen  wanted to drive the team out of Lahore,  wasn’t it one heck a way of going about it ?

Punjab(Pak)  Governor Salman Taseer is quoted as saying that those who carried out the attack were the same terrorists who did Mumbai  in November.  But the Lahore job was on a much smaller scale, carried out within  minutes. And what’s more, all the assailants managed to get away – ‘chased into a nearby commercial and shopping area’, to use the governor’s words. ‘We don’t know where they are’, said the Lahore police chief.

In historical terms, we seem to have come a long way since 9/11.  In 2001, the world had some idea as to who were behind the attack on New York; and why they did it. Not so, in the case of Lahore. Does anyone, any longer,  know who these masked guys with a backpacks are;  and what they want by the killings.  We no longer have terrorist PRs calling a news agency after an event,  owning responsibility for an attack; and following it up with  a letter/audio tape listing their demands. As former newsman in Punjab I knew this to be standard operating procedure with Kalistani militants .

lahore-attack-018Lahore, they say,  was the first major attack on an international sporting team since Palestinian militants attacked Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics in Munich.  But unlike in Munich, there was no definable enemy in Lahore.

We know of  no  terrorist outfit gunning for cricketing nations,  though the  attack on a sporting team can be said to have effectively killed cricket in Pakistan.  Which foreign team would want to tour Pakistan now, or in the foreseeable future?  Not many would want to do India either,  because of security concerns.

Cricket as mega-buck business

Cricket industry (zero-sportsmanship venture) has evidently stretched  India’s economic liberalization to ludicrous lengths. We have DLF-IPL flogging 20/20 matches as entertainment product sold to cricket consumers by the seat – costing anything between Rs.200 to Rs.5,000 per fixture in Chennai. A season ticket could set you back by as much as Rs.30,000 (Chennai rates).  

Seven other cities have been franchised by the league promoters mainly to corporates helmed by folk such as Mukesh Ambani and Vijay Mallya; and bollywood celebs – Shah Rukh Khan, Juhi Chawla (joinly holding Kolkata franchise) and Preity Zinta (part-holder of Mohali franchise). These people have paid big money. Mallya is reported to have paid $111.6 mil. for Bangalore and has spent another Rs.15.2 crores acquring players for the city team. 

Someone who plays for Bangalore need not necessarily be from the city or even the state. He could be from quite another country, depending on the bid size and depth of Mallya’s pocket. Players are auctioned and even the game is mutilated in form and substance to suit the requirements of a day/night fixture. Imagine the power bill involved in such a match. Cricket, as most lovers of the sport envisage, used to be a day-light game. Haven’t we seen Test matches being curtailed by poor natural light? I haven’t checked if they have a fixture on April 22; and if ‘Earth Day’ enthusiasts have plans to protest such conspicuous power consumption in the name of cricket. 

As if they haven’t thrown their weight about elsewhere, we hear IPL promoters are seeking to dictate terms to the media , laying down conditions for newspaper coverage and trying to put a cap on the number of  action photographs a newspaper can upload to its web editions. No self-respecting newspaper editor can be expected to accept such conditions. What’s more, the league promoters claim unfettered access to media material and visuals as a free lunch; and this, they demand as a right, to be fulfilled by the media at its cost. 

I haven’t , have you, heard of the corporate sector muzzling the media (instead of the other way about). The Hindu says it all in its edit: ‘Greed and arrogance’. Irony is the IPL franchise for Hyderabad is said to be held by a media group – Deccan Chronicle. 

IPL promoters or the franchise holders don’t appear to care for the interests of spectators. In my reckoning the 20/20 league organizers take for granted a multitude of their customers – cricket-loving public. Maybe IPL is aping the US business model for sports such as baseball, basketball or football. Is anyone addressing the issue whether turning cricket into a mega-buck entertainment business is conducive to our socio-economic reality. Besides, is it such a good idea to let a real-estate developer transplant in India a business model for cricket (which is almost a religion with our sport-loving multitude) for the benefit of a bunch of investors and a select group of auctioned players. If this 20/20 league gets going, it would not be long before we have multinational investors and takeover tycoons evincing interest in India’s cricketing entertainment prospects.