Thursday, October 7, 2010
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Thursday, July 1, 2010
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
First Published : 29 Apr 2010 11:24:00 PM ISTLast Updated : 29 Apr 2010 01:41:27 AM IST
It was the summer of 1964. I’d just been introduced to the intricacies of cricket. The first Ashes test was being played at Trent Bridge. And the first cricket snap I pasted in my scrapbook was that of a debuting Geoff Boycott caught splendidly by Bobby Simpson, diving to his right at first slip, off Corling, for 48. At school, as we trudged back to our Class IV classroom after the assembly, we took great delight in exchanging notes on cricket played the previous evening in Old Blighty. I can still recall our animated discussions when Simpson scored 311 in the fourth Test at Old Trafford, and the masterly 256 by Ken Barrington and Ted Dexter’s dexterous 172 in England’s reply.
With cricket suffusing our young minds and governing our actions, the evenings had to be cricket only — no more badminton or table tennis. But then we’re diehard Anglophiles and we had to be back by 5.45 pm to listen to the BBC cricket commentary. And of course, read the Sport and Pastime. Cricket, Lovely Cricket, the weekly column by Alex Bannister was a must-read and in no time I’d gone through fifty-odd past numbers quickly borrowed from a cricket-crazy uncle. Such was the quick metamorphosis that by the time the same Oz team was in India, I was ready to receive them warmly in my young mind.
Even today, what seems an aeon, I can still recall the second Test played at the Brabourne Stadium. India was chasing 254 to win the match. Nawab of Pataudi had got out for 53 reducing India to 224/8. Hope of victory was quickly ebbing. Out trudged Indrajit Sinhji, the new gawky Indian wicketkeeper preferred over Engineer and Kunderan, to give Borde the company. The commentator’s voice choked with nervousness. Slowly as evening descended and we sat glued to radio, our hearts pounding and with prayers on our lips, the target seemed getting closer. The din meant India was getting there, and there was no earthly reason for us to panic in faraway Cuttack. Then with just two runs required, Borde drove the left-arm spinner Tom Veivers imperiously to the mid-wicket boundary. India had cantered home by two wickets. The sound and splutter of crackers that welcomed the Indian victory refused to die down. It was Vijaya Dashmi Day — October 15, 1964 and history was being made. We were on cloud nine.
The memory of that Dussehra evening is firmly etched in my memory. So much so that decades later I asked Chandu Borde the first thing when we gossiped in the walking tracks of the Poona Club how it felt to be in the middle trying to string a partnership with Indrajit Sinhji and take India to victory. He flashed a most beatific smile and conveyed in his own disarming way it was all very heady.
Borde’s face clouded over in the cow-dust hours of a winter evening as though he was facing the missiles yet again hurled at him by these mean merchants of speed. The West Indians were unarguably the world champions then in the 1960s and boasted of such cricketing legends as Gary Sobers, Frank Worrell, Conrad Hunte, Wesley Hall, Charlie Griffith, Rohan Kanhai, Basil Butcher, Clive Lloyd, Seymour Nurse, Lance Gibbs in their ranks. And more importantly played cricket the calypso way.
“I still remember the two centuries you scored off them at Bombay and Madras in 1966-’67 Test series,” I said, my voiced tinged with admiration. “I shall always marvel at your efforts against the Windies as the best by any Indian batsman in an era when cricket was a sport and not a religion.”
We were chatting this time in the cricket pavilion of the Poona Club now fittingly named Chandu Borde Cricket Pavilion after he had inaugurated a cricket match our two offices were playing. “Today things have changed,” Chandubhai said, and without a trace of rancour. “We didn’t have the comforts cricketers have today. We travelled by train and stayed in humble hotels. And we were paid a measly sum.” He wasn’t complaining; he was only helping me to sketch the cricketing architecture in my mindscape.
Now I still remain the cricket buff of yore. But alas, with a huge difference. My visions of cricket have been in ferment — ever since the World Series Cricket in the late 1970s when it was ‘Kerry Packered’. Channel Nine TV changed all that I’d valued dearly and hugged close to my heart.
The once-gentleman’s pastime of the occident that combined the languid feline silkiness of oriental charm with the romantic English countryside, has now transmogrified into a monster industry of today with Hawk Eyes, Third Umpires, Match Referees, Slow Motions, Ultra Slo-Mos, Hot Spots, Snickometers, Extraaa Innings, Noodle-Straps, T20 cricket, IPL and cheerleaders adding to the cacophony of cricket played in 40-plus temperature, franchisees and big money bickering and scandal, and plethora of ICC rules to oversee quotidian infractions perpetrated by robotic mercenaries.
In throwback nostalgia how I wish I could play it back to my halcyon days and draw the collage in my mind much as I did when Trevor Bailey spoke in his measured, cadenced voice: “McKenzie comes in from the Hill-Port end and bowls… on the middle-and-off stump… the ball swinging away… takes the edge of Edrich’s bat and travels… to the third slip… who… dives full-length to his right and… and o… o… scoops up the ball in one hand… a splendid catch indeed by… Cowper!” and the measured, calibrated claps of the English crowd reverberating around the packed cricket stadium and streaming into the microphone. And I in my mind’s eye following the ball’s trajectory and journeying right off McKenzie’s arm — pitching, swinging, nicking the bat and landing in the hallowed hand of a diving Bob Cowper as other fielders leap cock-a-hoop in delight.
(The writer is Pr.Controller of defence accounts, Bangalore. The views expressed are personal)
First Published : 21 Apr 2010 11:02:00 PM ISTLast Updated : 21 Apr 2010 12:28:24 AM IST
Today we mourn the passing of a dear old friend, Civil Service. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as: codes and manuals, standards and procedures, SOPs and protocols, work and service keeping the nation’s interest in mind and contributing terms of disdain as official and officialese, babu and babuese, mandarin and red-tape. Not to forget such unforgettables as that ‘everyone in a hierarchy rises to his level of incompetence!’
Civil Service started out with the intent of being civil in service. People well-bred and animated with noble thoughts were drawn to it and they set a standard that was accepted ungrudgingly, even when certain decisions went against their own private interests.
But the world began to change and so did independent India. Corruption, nepotism soon raised their ugly heads. The idea of a civil service morphed into something bizarre. Civil Service’s health began to deteriorate rapidly when he saw newer abilities — clever, ingenious, and overbearing — taking centrestage.
Civil Service lost ground when people pooh-poohed his sincerity and ratted on his inability to see the changing world. Civil Service lost the vim to live as offices became playgrounds of criminals who strutted about the world as larger-than-life heroes.
Civil Service took a beating when he couldn’t stop a senior cop accused of molesting a teenage girl from occupying the highest office in the state police and finally gave up the will to live, after yesterday’s villains were hailed today’s successes — if not heroes.
Civil Service was preceded in death, by his parents, Honesty and Truth; his wife, Fairness; his daughter, Neutrality; his son, Reason. Civil Service is survived by his following 11 stepbrothers (STBs) and one stepsister:
Pliability, who jumpstarted the metamorphosis, swaying to every crosswind and tilting at every windmill, testifies to being honest when it is the ‘rule of the honest’ (thank god for the temporary aberration!) and makes up for such aberrant time when the ‘propitious times’ come.
Malleability, who takes any shape. Being good inherently implies he is formless and can take any form the situation warrants. He thus emerges the ‘tall’ guy much as his opposite number is dubbed the ‘fall’.
Flexibility is the third son. He does as others desire — even does what others don’t want him to but dream him to! This is what distinguishes him from others. He is sui generis and destined to go up the totem pole. His reputation of flexibility reaches the pole before he actually goes that far!
Stretchability stretches till he snaps — hence is very altruistic! He allows himself to be pulled in different (even opposite) directions by invisible strings as though he were a marionette.
Magnanimity, is truly a candy stick, believes in giving as much to others as others want him to — even more at times if he could. ‘More’ makes him a star. In the process, he loses nothing but gains everything. It is a veritable win-win for all. This can be in the form of goodwill or money, even both. His Magnanimous GoI is always there to pick up the tab for the magnanimity dished out.
Filthy-lucre believes in making as much hawala transactions as is expected of him by him, and by others. He is the fulcrum that holds all attributes together. In a market-driven globalised economy, as a hardnosed practitioner of realpolitik and real-economism, he knows money is everything. So he does not tarry when the sun shines. He makes hay, which the original civil servant now lying dead called filthy.
Utilitarian is the narrative who sacrifices himself for use by others and for the utility of others; indeed, he is a philanthrope! His utility is his USP and he subsists in making memories of his past services. The beneficiaries are not ingrates. They fondly remember such utilitarian gestures and when the time comes for recognition their elephantine memory rewards him handsomely, often unasked. His climb up the totem pole is assured.
Drainy is the Siamese-twin of Utility, who has the ingenious capacity to drain the tax-payers’ resources for the greater good of his own numbers. It is, in fact, the lubricant that makes the wheels of governance run. Hence, in a way, this is the numero uno of all the stepbrothers.
Partier believes in partying at the drop of a hat and till he tires. A party is a melting pot. It melts the intransigents and melds them after him, who — now like putty clay — are ready to take the shape he wants them to. Of course, the parties have to be bacchanalian. He earns oodles of glory from these parties.
Garrulity carries DNA similar to Partier and has enormous capacity for endless chatter. He is a smoking hotspot of boasts, sleaze; he character assassinates civil servants. He thus has his fill, and endears and wows the august gathering.
Close on the heel of the last two, though born out of wedlock, is Cavalier who displays demonstrative smarts and derring-do. This is actually an outflow of the throughputs that the last few possess. Which is why, to the layman, it may border on magic realism and take one back and forth in rapid-fire motion to things that may seem and sound very surreal. But that is what it is meant to be: to put people in a trance.
I am not finished yet as Hallucinogen brings up the rear what with its Teflon-coat waiting to be given a fresh coat of paint. This stepsister shows the fertility to further fellow civil servants’ causes: promotion, scales of pay, cadre expansion — all at taxpayers cost.
The funeral procession was noticeable for the thinning attendance. None of Civil Service’s step-brothers-sister deigned to attend. They were busy in their own worlds. But the media in its curiosity (some say, even perversity) was present to tell the tale.
(The writer is Pr.Controller of defence accounts, Bangalore. The views expressed are personal)
Since this piece has the potential of offending the devout and the devotees and raising their hackles, I must begin with my personal disclaimers. I am not a religious person; in fact, I am an agnostic. I pride in imagining myself a rationalist, though my incisive nephew Pronab has serious misgivings about my pretensions because of my fondness for Brian Weiss, and belief in the eternal soul and the transmigration of the same from one material body to another. I don’t visit temples on my own but I am not averse to visiting them when with others.
But we were determined — to make our experience count. We knew there was no battery-operated car since they don’t ply after six in the evening and we didn’t want to take the mule or pony or palki. So we trudged up.
Not so my legs. They cried for rest which I dutifully provided as Jai Mata Di, Jor se bolo, baithke bolo, haas ke bolo, pyaar se bolo rent the air. We were nowhere near the halfway mark to Ardhkuwari, which itself was only halfway to the Mata’s abode.
Reaching Ardhkuwari felt blessed. Now on, the incline wasn’t as steep as the one to it. The mules took a different route, so our path was cleaner and freer to walk. The thought of getting closer to the destination spurred us on. We quickened our steps and reached well past midnight and after a quick wash headed for the darshan.
“Leave medicines here,” the CRPF policewoman bellowed. “But they’re my BP medicine.” I protested. “No medicine can go to the Mata!” she fumed. Our darshan of the Mata was for a nano-second. My daughter Priyanka couldn’t see the deities as we were commandeered out of the tunnel. Back in the open I saw the same jostling. Around us, the din and bustle of pilgrims kept the place agog with wild excitement.
(The writer is Pr.Controller of defence accounts, Bangalore. The views expressed are personal)
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
By Sudhansu Mohanty
Published in New Indian Express on 25 Mar 2010 11:59:00 PM IST
IT may be rather facetious to suggest but I’m quite tempted to say that nothing amuses me more than a ringside view and watch the world go around. It’s fun to observe the Indian circus — an endless game of twists and turns, blows and counter-blows — as the protagonists hold centrestage and amuse and bemuse the bystanders.
It is so well-scripted and choreographed that often in one such moment of trance one may be forgiven for living in a surreal world of magic realism that any fiction writer would dare capture and conjure in his novel. This, the hypocrisy of being — the charade of our everyday existence — that passes off as bravura and grandstanding.
Look around you and all you see is pure and unadulterated hypocrisy. It is everywhere — omnipresent, omnipotent, even omniscient. Be it the brouhaha over padma awards or the tragi-comedy called SPS Rathore with his Nehruvian smile or the Sukna land scam and many such others, the underlying impression is the same: all these are false accusations with the fourth estate the favourite punching bag for carrying out a scurrilous media trial that’s no better than a trial in a kangaroo court! Their argument: An accusation doesn’t make anyone a criminal till proven so only after decades of judicial foot-dragging. Till such time the party must go on. And, of course, honour be showered!
That’s the India, Hamara Bharat Mahaan we live in. Where hypocrisy rules like a potentate — untrammeled, unflustered, and unquestioned. A senior IAS couple caught with wads of currency notes running into a few crores at home. Another IAS officer raided and found with wealth far beyond legitimate earning. A chief justice of a high court stopped in his track to elevation to the Supreme Court bench upon intense clamour of legal luminaries. Yet every such public servant in the dock keeps protesting his spiel of honesty. Swap the protestations of honesty with protestation of efficiency and see where it takes people up the totem pole: often to the gubernatorial office as a post-retirement sinecure.
It is as if today’s India is run on this high-octane fuel of hypocrisy, chicanery and claptrap. Nothing else matters except the ability to network. If you are a highly networked individual (HNI) your ascent up the greasy pole is assured. This is not only for the public servants. This holds good also for the corporate honchos, business magnets, technologists and everyone in society who aspires for instant gratification and nirvana: sanskritization and upward social mobility in a closed class- and caste-laden social order. People in position are respected, even feted — this regardless of their feet bogged in clay and their hands in the till.
Make no mistake — this cocktail is headier than any potent combine of the spirits. Take the issue of networking. Close to two decades ago I worked with a senior officer whose only claim to fame was to show the path of how not to work in government; he was indeed the apotheosis of this craft. He did no work, didn’t have the inclination to, but somehow “managed” to sail through. To be fair to him though he was an excellent networker who hosted lavish parties and managed to get invited to parties thrown by the powers-that-be. I wasn’t surprised in the least when he went up and up the slithery path to occupy enviable posts in the government of India.
To be honest, he is not in a minority, let alone minuscule. Not long ago there was this gentleman — dumb, asinine, and inarticulate — who understood little of what was going on in the ministry he headed. To call him a half-wit would be an offence to the genuine nitwits; he was a no-wit, or, at best a “quarter-wit”. In all fairness he kept long hours in the office slouching over files trying to unravel the mystery wrapped in sundry unwieldy, nettlesome cases that were simply beyond his humble cranium’s comprehension. But that didn’t come in his way — pre- and post-retirement — and he too like other highly-networked blessed angels landed himself in successive gilded sinecures. This is what networking does for you. It makes leaders out of monkeys. There is a plenitude of such impulses doing the beat in all fields. How else do you explain the rapist Rathore being made the DGP of a state after the molestation case had been filed? Or, how else an intellectually dishonest Pachauri (who artfully flaunts himself as a Nobel laureate and acts as a consultant to financial institutions like Deutsche Bank and Pegasus, an investment firm) be flaunted as India’s answer to solving global climate change?
If you still have any doubts about the goings-on, look at the padma awards that kick up shindig year after year for a few days (mercifully!) shortly after its announcement on Republic Day eve — to be quickly forgotten thereafter. It is largely a game of spoils — with much lobbying and jockeying that is endemic to the system — showered to reward newly “discovered” merits lying hitherto unrecognised till the high and mighty are benefacted and feel obligated to confer the spoil.
Of course, the high and mighty too often award to themselves honours, forgetting (did you say?), Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad’s vintage words: “We cannot attach to our achkans the awards that is our job to confer on others”, but whoever today cares about these obsolete moralities.
This issue of immorality, nepotism, and venality is not confined to the government functioning alone. It is very democratic and equitable, it is everywhere. Satyam is certainly not the last case we have heard about from Indian Inc. We have struck such levels of moral depravity that MBA schools are today asking students to take a variant of Hippocrates oath to maintain moral rectitude in professional career, not realising that it is a vain, vapid ask.
Morality has to be appropriated from within, not taught or imposed from without. We modern-day Nostradamus are purblind, and we refuse to see the writing in the wall.
Morality and law are not exactly strangers to each other. Nor are they antithetical. While morality preaches, law imposes. Sadly both are major failures — one for lack of takers, the other for lack of will. The endgame is the same: upward social mobility where get-rich-by-any-means is the mantra and the open sesame to entry into this cloistered world that is a strange amalgam of feudal values, socialist preaching and capitalist Epicureanism, and where sunlight is not the best disinfectant simply because it is shut out.
This is the hypocrisy we live, breathe, and eat that no noonday iridescent will be able to lift. There is no light of any affirmative action on steroids. Because today it’s the being and everything-ness! Stranger still: we manage to survive amid this conundrum of being and times of glib hypocrisy, even without scalding India’s soul. And this is not a radical fringe statement. Pray, did I go wrong somewhere? Touché!
Monday, March 22, 2010
In the wake of myriad scams, probes, malfeasances, and involvement of exalted worthies in the sleazy world where Mammon is the veritable God, much light has been thrown on the bumbledom that babudom is. What though is often missed is the existence of a clutch of honest mandarins who — a microscopic minority — are as inured to the allurements blandished about much as the scandalous ilk are in love with.
© Copyright 2008 ExpressBuzz
(Published in The New Indian Express dated: March 12th 2010)
Friday, January 8, 2010
James Boren once wrote tongue-firmly-in-his-cheek, thus: “When in doubt, mumble; when in charge, delegate; when in difficulty, ponder. A job of a good bureaucrat is to cut the red-tape — length-wise!” And more: “Every bureaucrat has a constitutional right to fuzzify, profundify… it’s a part of our freedom of speech...”