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Sunday, November 15, 2009

THE FALL OF THE WALL, I and 15 years later...

One of the many events that happened nationally and internationally in recent times that affected me severally is the 20 years celebration of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. For various reasons. Combine with it my recent re-reading and re-watching of Henry Porter's BRANDENBURG (a 2005-06 novel) and the 2006 movie THE LIVES OF OTHERS respectively. Of course, a movie such as GOODBYE, LENIN is always at the back of my mind!

Leaving aside the drama, the sentiment, the euphoria, the pyrotechnics and the laser show that sorrounded this event, the sheer monolithic monstrosity of the history behind the wall's existence leaves me breathless and disturbed... more because when I visited Germany the first time, it was hardly 5 years after the re-unification, when the old habits and memories of a land lost by a tribe of people who had set their store by a system - whether they liked it or not - through sheer habit still hung around like hangover from previous night's party!

I went back and dug into the net, dug into my shelf of German literature, German magazines and newspapers I had brought back upon that first visit. Memories come crowding. At that time, I was just a keen-eyed first time visitor to Germany. I did not comprehend the enormity of my stay. I am now trying to put all the shards of experiences and observations of my day-to-day existence over 8 months in places such as Magdeburg, Berlin, Halle, Leipzig, Wernigerode and other quaint little erstwhile East German towns - irrespective of long or short my stay or visits was/were! I even visited the Staatssicherheit's (STASI) headquarters in Leipzig, which was a very very eye-opening and cleansing visit for my soul.

To see the Nikolaikirche, visit Auerbach's Keller blessed with Goethe's feet, body, spirit and sould, walk about the Denkmal and have an esoteric experience of a Russian Orthodox Church Sunday Mass and then to spend about 2 hours on the Open Day at STASI hq in Leipzig - now to think of all these - I do not know what to do with all these accumulated experiences. This is but one day of the several days I visited Leipzig, when I was not collecting materials for my research or visiting famous and not so famous, but experimental theater houses or tourist sites in the rest of Germany or taking advantage of my several friends inhabiting all sorts of towns and cities all across Germany from Schewerin to Constance, Aachen to Frankfurt-Oder, Aurich to Dresden. This is but one of the 3 visits to Germany over a decade between 94-95 and 2004. How many, how many experiences, how many, how many memories, how many, how many memories now come flooding as a result of waking through the night of 20 years of Fall of the Wall celebrations on the Brandenburg Tor! Thank you DW-TV for bring the event live and better than BBC or CNN or anyone else outside of Deutschland.

I think I shall create a new blog exclusively dedicated to recapturing my German days. One post or even 10 posts won't be enough in the next coming days. For now, after 15 years since my first day, when my friend Thorsten picked me up at Berlin-Tegel, I realise it is a complex socio-political and artistic as well as cultural broom that I am trying to assimilate straw by straw that shall ultimately help me clear the cobwebs of my existence! It is humbling, to say the last word.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Angst and Anguish of an English-patient

We Indians know not the art of war neither information dissemination that the west has mastered through their media... nor for that matter the craft of propaganda that socialist states quite successfully undertake!

I was watching CCTV today and this thought arose in me. I thought this too would pass like a lot of thoughts that have struck me recently, gently nibbling at my sides like an acupressure foot-massage in a pond full of hordes of little fish, asking me to post a blog.

I had successfully resisted those. I had decided a while back, not to abuse the blogspace by posting frequently random thoughts about random things. I have stuck to it, with the vehemence of a leech on a skin... but no! This one would not pass! So I gave into it as it started gnawing at me like a restless rat on a tin roof over a dingy attic. Hence this post. A while back I had this post on my Facebook about why we don't need Slumdog Millionaire and how it is not a great movie and all those who praise its Oscar-worthiness are lickers of white backsides because this is the latest tool of exploitation of Mother India by the Colonials. A great many gen-xers of the school I teach at rose up in arms in a Sepoy Mutiny against this anti-British stance of mine. I stood like the steadfast tin soldier then, as I stand now. Search me! What I explain below is God's own truth as witnessed by me and heard by me.

Since yesterday, the CCTV has been televising CCTV 2009 National English Speaking Competition. It must have been already a long-drawn process typical of any National level competition, which must have started at germane levels, at Colleges where hordes of people participate at the intra-college and -University level challenges and have arrived where they are.

23 participants are being pitted against 3 challengers and judged by a 9-member Jury about the English speaking quotient of each of them. THREE of them - after a three-day ordeal (the last day being tomorrow - 14th Nov, 2009) - would go through to a Grand finals. What is the competition about? Speaking English. What is the message it holds for us? A lot actually. At the moment we pride ourselves with our BPOs and Call Centres being the cash crops of our country's foreign revenue harvesting. Soon, this would vanish if what I witnessed was true.

A quiet little revolution has taken place. A lot of Chinese are starting to speak English. With an accent that would be much much more acceptable among the Western countries who want to transact with Asia - India or China or Japan or South Korea! With an accent that the English native speakers as well as the European english speaking businessmen would be comfortable. Add to it, the Chinese spoken English grammar may turn out a zillion times better because most Chinese go to language schools where English is taught by native English speakers. The grammar as well as the accent and the command is bound to be better in comparison to ours.

We had earlier in the recent past seen or read how the Chinese were being coached in English to serve the visitors during the Beijing Olympics. Further additions to this point: by its sheer volume and numbers, we all know China is bigger in population than India; in terms of the percentage of youth population, China is equal if not higher than India, if Indian statisticians and demographers are to be believed when they say that in 2020 or whenever India would have the highest youth population in the world!

The projection is: in three to five years time, when these college and university attending youth of China pass out and graduate to the world of business, China will have more English speakers in the world than even United States, which is the single largest English speaking nation and contains the most number of English speakers in the world. What will happen to our BPOs and Call Centers? How much of Green Bills would migrate home then?

I remember the times when I was in the IT sector, working as an in-house translator first, then as in-house full-time language consultant for German, then after as a free-lance consultant, when at the best of times a translator could spin more than a lakh of rupees in a week's time. That was the height of the IT boom when Indian IT industry was preferred in the West due mainly to our ability to do transactions not just in English, but good English. Even the European market - inspite of the lingual-cultural barriers and difficulties would come to our doorstep as a preferred business partner than China - though both our labour charges were cheap equally - simply because of our English abilities. The way school education is headed these days when, leave alone the students, teachers cannot communicate properly in English shows how badly communication suffers.

Communication is not just about content, it is more. It is the art of speaking a language, the art of structuring thoughts in a language through which the thoughts are presented, the art of having command over a language and presenting it in an effective manner. The Chinese are starting to master it, we are losing it - much like Arunachal Pradesh. The Pakistanis are (according to some of my young friends who have debated at the international levels, where the Pakistanis have a longer and stronger traditional and respected presence) mastering it and we are losing it - much like Kashmir!

What do we do? We are having internal skirmishes over haves and havenots. We breed petty politics and politicians and deliberately keep the population illiterate. We cannot say China is fully literate or totally prosperous; nor that it lacks corruption or internal political hassles; but... what they do not do is shoot movies that show our badness or our slums or our past glories alone! what they do not do is sell our souls to foreigners - who once ruled us - who shoot our undesired side and pitch it at Oscars. How many films or documentaries are made about the other side of China. All of us have the other side, but do we have to project that to claim material glory?

We have this biggest joke called Prasar Bharathi - they are celebrating 50 years of existence, the first 20 years of which it never reached the masses. When it is now reaching the masses, we know its quality. Supposedly, Doordarshan is beamed in 30 different languages, but look at its digital quality. Look at the packaging of programs. As an avid watcher, I can vouch for the heterogeneity of Doordarshan's content. Its content variety far outstrips any 10 of the private cable and satellite channels put together. Sadly, though, DD lacks in quality packaging. The latter these days is very important. It is just not what you give, but how it is given!

I am unaware of the following fact. Like the BBC or DW-TV or TV5 or ABC or VOA, do we have any television network that is beamed primarly targetting the countries we should be targetting and packaging a politically correct picture of India? Please let me know. I am as Adam as before the toad did its job!

Coming back... it becomes doubly our duty to take up communication seriously. It is quadruply important that the current tweens and teens and gen-x learn communication tools properly and master the common language of the world so that we do not lose out on progress. After all, speech is the one unique ability that humans possess; having been subject to 400-odd years of English-rule, we cannot afford to squander that advantage because our northerly and Dravidian politicians do not want to make the effort to learn Angrezi. Crazy, isn't it? Of course, when we reach out to our own masses, let us speak their language, both in spirit and letter, but we have to push ourselves to extremes to polish our communication. After all, true challenge lies in going beyond the basics and mastering the aesthetics. Would we? Do we have the grit to rise above our self-excavated rubble?

A small winding up info. There is this international competition for schools called World schools Debating Championships (hereafter WSDC) that is held annually in some city of the world or other, where teams representing countries, with participant-representatives drawn from schools of the respective countries, brandishing their Debating abilities and debating in English over a range of topics that bother the world at large on areas social, political, cultural, economic and artistic. As a curtain raiser to that, they have a mini-WSDC, which is a sort of whetstone for aspirant teams, novices and debutants to the field. This year it was held recently in October-November, as a prelude to the forthcoming WSDC at Doha, Qatar in February 2010.

Know what? China would be a debutant at Qatar2010. They participated in the mini-WSDC and wound up 4th in a field of 10 teams that contained some of the strongest debating teams in English such as New Zealand, US or Chile! As a rejoinder, after what I saw on CCTV... this is a strong foreboding. If you care to, and you receive this channel I am referring to, follow the CCTV English Speaking Competition if you happen to chance upon it.

JAI HIND!

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Rain Rain Stay Along... Keep Coming another day!

I really am loving it! The rains. Finally, I could get back to my DVD closet and my Book bureau. Today: The Bourne Series with bowls of Haldiram's Aloo Lachcha. Yesterday - was on Bhasa trip. Finished reading Karna Bharam, Uru Bangham & Duta Vakyam. The last one especially rocked! Been on a trip of Sanskrit works (of course in English translations). Last week - Chandrapida Charitram (for the uninitiated KADAMBARI by Bana Bhatta of the Harshvardhan court fame!) The poetry is spell-binding, to say the least. And last weekend - Mudrarakshsha. Intriguing and tempting you to stage!

Well, lemme see what tomorrow brings!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Some time at last to post...

That seems more like it. It looks like another age and era when I used to post regularly. It looks like another millennium since I posted anything worth-while. School's really hectic. It doesn't give much time for intellectual existence. You're always preparing or correcting something or making someone regurgitate things from those CBSE books. Poooh! Shithole existence.

Nevertheless, I have accumulated like another dozen fiction, a handful of scripts for both mainstream and adults... and another shelf full of classic dvds of movies from before 70s. Some interesting Charlie Chaplin and Ingmar Bergman collection. Besides, recent European movies. And I am back at my long-forlorn-into-extended gestating novel - DARKEST BEFORE DAWN! It has taken a new avatar and has started sputtering and staggering to a re-start. Some improvements to the plot. I am not sure I will post any more on the web. I don't want to be pointed fingers at for plagiarising my own stuff at any point of history in the name of someone else's work! I am giving myself another year before I am going to approach a publisher with some serious aspirations to becoming yet another Indian writer in english!

In the meanwhile, we (Masquerade) have finished premiering 3 productions and played 13 shows in a space of 5 weeks between the first night of NIB and the last night of Dystopia. Three new artistic directors - that's exciting. Even more exciting, I am not pressed to churning out shows to keep up the annual 4 shows from our stables. Come to think of it, after Jigsaw early this year, the next event I was involved was recently the launch of the CHENNAI DEBATING FORUM at the Oxford Bookstores on 26th Sept. That was fun. We performed some story telling - subverting and repackaging Indian mythology in contemporary terms, read some steamy Roald Dahl for adolescents and Carol Ann Duffy. At the end of it all, 8 people debated in a combination of Worlds and BP style about "The Need for Reinventing, Rediscovering and Repackaging Culture". Not too many people in the audience. About 15 people at the small Cha Bar beside the Masquerade and MYT people. So it looked like about 50 people. Though... the floor debate we generated at the end of the speaker debate was like 100 participants. Quite interesting. We have quite a lot of interested people wanting to be part of the Chennai Debating Forum and we meet again on October 24 - 4.30 pm to 6.30 p.m at the same Oxford Bookstores, Haddows Road, Chennai.

I have been reading heckuva lot. There's a performed reading of all 6 short-list nominees on the eve of The Man Booker 2009 at the British Council. Of course, we are reading on Oct. 10, while the winner would be announced on the night of Oct 6th. So, we would really be reading from 5 nominees and THE WINNER. I am in the middle of two books. The other 4 I would have read before 10th. So, lot of work happening. No complaints. Or perhaps... one: not able to sit and put that pen to the paper and post some articles. Hopefully this should leave a hangover and I should post one tonight later or tomorrow latest!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The RIGHT side of SAFFRON and the LEFT side of RED

Everything, it seems, is a question of hysteria, conversion and expediency. Does it naturally follow we are talking India: be it Cricket, Culture, Politics, Religion, Entertainment! The mandate - I thought long and hard - is not in favour of UPA or Congress or against BJP as people are led to think. The mandate is in favour of the ability of any person who is projected as an icon and possessing the ability to sway people's emotion than intellect. Example: Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi, Mamata Bannerjee... the list is long but not endless, because there are also failed icons and cheats. The example of former being L.K.Advani and the latter being P.Chidambaram. 22 Recounts? They recounted until the counting minds and hands tired and gave up, knowing Chidu's will to retain the constituency is stronger than the will of the others to gain. Power Play is the game of those who are afraid of losing, not hate losing. Look at what happened in the Sivaganga constituency. I am sure there is a scenario that transpired yesterday in Sivaganga that is similar to what happened in Florida in the year Cousin Bush recounted and won. So... 

In the middle of all this, the LEFT finds itself in a mess. Lalu issues a statement obviously repenting the wisdom of non-pre-poll alliance. Expelled speaker Somnath Chatterjee conveniently blaming Prakash Karat. UPA believing that they are more secular than others and hence they won! BJP claiming that there was oil all over the body but not on the mustache enough for dirt to stick on it: "Oh! But look at the seven states where we have done well!" 

The sum total of inability to convert the figures to form government is higher in ineptitude than the parts that constitute a whole new political dharma, dear Jaitley. It seems more than anyone else, the Fourth Estate, especially the TV News channels seem more bent on using the fall of BJP and the LEFT to their TRP best by vilifying the former and mourning the latter as though they finally moved Lenin from Dzherzinsky Square to the inner precincts of some seedy museum. Axes continue to fall through the press on figure heads who deem themselves culpably responsible for the fall of their bastions. In this context, I think, Mr. Advani must be either the most qualified drama person or the most naive politician. He says he wants to quit. He reminds me of the Soccer team managers who are either axed or take moral responsibility and quit because their side lost. Is he so naive to believe that he could have made the party's march to Parliament happen were others not to be there? He did realise years back that he was not as charismatic as Atal-ji. Barely had he said he wants to own moral responsibiity and quit, the idiomatic lip-service that he should not quit rose inside the party; but in just over three hours it died at the same speed it rose with and now they are already clamouring among themselves, WHO NEXT - You or me? 

The trouble with all those who are magnetic enough but not charismatic is that they lack that extra moderation. Atal-ji never did anything that was politically flamboyant. Manmohan never has either. Sonia doesn't too. The ability of a leader in India to retain the mass hysteria to their side, today, comprises of a certain quality to be in the middle and yet not get emotional. In some cases the lack of emotions or intelligence can also be helpful, which leads us to the burial of Left. 

More than anything else that happened in Elections 2009, it is not the so-called end of Advani that will be remembered, but people's faith in democracy and the eradication of superstitious belief that socialism can exist in India in the garb of communism.

Communism calls itself a rational and social way out of religious beliefs that generate superstitions and lack of thinking as well as gives rise to capitalistic inequality. Accepted, the commies have their right to whatever they want to think. After all, we believe in Freedom of Speech and Thought. Have people forgotten the old axiom that anything that is an "ism" is not very different from religion! They also seem to have not taken notice of the fact that since the liberalisation era India has been inexorably catapulting and inevitably spiralling downwards towards the nadir of a free market economy that would lead its Dow Jones and Hang Seng listings ultimately towards its own little share in the global meltdown of economy when it would happen. We may today say proudly that India was not as affected as other and developed nations. The lesser the share the less the damage, but... it did, didn't it not? 

We do live among a generation that believes in everything being material and everything is there to be questioned. More suicides and more harassments and more ills than positives. The other day I had an argument with someone about how there are more unhappy people in the current generation than ever. He said that statistically there are more happy people. It also statistically means that the population has increased several fold over a period faster than rabbits fornicate and profligate and populate! When the number of happy people increase, the number of unhappy people also increase by that same logic that where there are more people being born there are also more people dying, if you go by number theory; and where number theory comes into play, capitalism sooner than latter overhauls any other belief because it becomes the Right of the Might and not the Might of the Righteous. 

This is where Communism and Communist parties got it wrong. They thought that they had the UPA by its proverbial balls during their last reign. The Left blackmailed UPA with its one-point agenda of "NO to Nuke Deal" if it is from US! The UPA strongly proved them wrong. 

It looked, from the LEFT angle, only for a while. After all, the elections were round the corner and there's enough sluice gates that could be damaged across the country. Then again, the LEFT has not delivered to the people what the capitalists have not either. I strongly think the one single favour the Indian voters did to themselves in this election is that they threw the Left; but are they finally and totally out or just bloody and broken, not yet battered and defeated? The coming days would prove that. 

One thing is certain: Life is not that bad on the RIGHT SIDE OF SAFFRON as they still are the only other national party and they do have the best single majority this side of Congress and hence shall continue their seat-warming on the bridesmaid side. They have been the best Opposition party in the history of our 60 plus year old democracy and we need them in the opposition. If they are good enough to do positive developmental contribution economically and politically in their respective areas, there is no reason why they cannot have a better cheer next time around. Their statement that they are willing to be a constructive opposition seems earnest for the moment... unlike THE LEFT SIDE OF RED who are already sliming their heads together as to how they can dismantle their Third Front and go Back to associating themselves with a secular governement in the face of a fundamental opposition. To give a little twist to the Giorgio Moroder song of the distant past in what could become an NDA post-poll song of woe, "YOU ARE LEFT, SHE's RIGHT, I AM WRONG".

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Illogical Mandala of Indian Politics...

...and the sad plight of the Indian voter!

Yes... this must indeed be the saddest day in the life of an average voter of the world's most populous democracy!

Bharath is 2000+ years old. Hindustan is as old as the Moghul invasion. India is about 62 years old. In the middle of this confusion are caught millions of millions of people who do not know which concept justifies their geographical existence.

And today... it is all becoming very clear. The so-called world's largest democracy is after all the world's largest monarchy. Back up at the centre until the EIC came to rule us, we were always dynastic. Which ever way we look, our country had always had dynastic and monarchic rule. Down south, the Cholas, Cheras, Pandyas, Pallavas, Chalukyas... and now it is the Karunas. The fact that today the Indian voting majority has just about ended crowning Congress at the centre and the Tamils the DMK is proof of my proverbial pudding. Not that the BJP or the AIADMK are angels and the Congs and the DMKs are demons. All of them are the same flea abuzz the pee. But, the question is, are we the pee? or the peed? One good thing in the middle of this electoral melodrama is the Left is left behind and the Third Front has been put in its place. This just goes to show that if you desert those who depend and believe in you, Divine Providence takes over. The Mayawatis and the Karats and the Yechuris of the world can take a flying trip to moon and fall back or stay in the orbit. 

It is always my belief that an ideal state to have is a two-party system, where one ascends power for the development of the country and the other becomes the watchdog opposition that criticises constructively. Not that my belief is unique or invented. It is at the root of the spirit of democracy. So, it is good in a way that the Congress is retaining power and without this time having to resorting to the barter-minded pimps who are ready to sell their ideologies for the sake of key portfolios or minimum common programme in their or their party's or their state's interest; or for that matter this time Congress is not going to be blackmailed by two-timing commies who won't even be respected in a communist state. I am glad for Congress for this result. This is one reason I feel it was better that BJP must not come to power this time... for they would have come to power only with the help of such species as we discussed above, although in different name packages! Now the Third and the Fourth are just that in the Houses when the parliamentary sessions would begin. The debate would happen primarily between the Party in Power and the Respected Opposition. The Third and the Fourth cannot topple any motion or there won't be no more armtwisting at no-confidence motions. Good for them, good for us. 

Talking of the Opposition: yesterday, during my conversation with a long-time friend of mine, who also happens to be a psephologist - those guys who analyse elections and try justifying the statistics of ballots in retrospect! - I happened to mention that I had a feeling BJP would end up and must end up in the opposition because they would never get an absolute majority to go up the pedestal. Some of the reasons are: 1) Advani is not your ideal moderate head that is fit to be a Prime Minister of the country, 2) BJP is yet to come up with a prospective incumbent to that post (and Nitish is an ally, not an incumbent of the party and has also expressed his self-doubts), 3) the Mayawatis and the Sharad Pawars can only tug at the bit but not hold it - they are all too regional in their presence whatever said and done (and in Maya's case it has been proved so) and 4) the Congress orchestration is so fine-tuned and well-oiled a machinery that is almost 100 years old that they can sway sentiments and put together that vicious combination of pseudo-secular indoctrination and the image of Gandhi in the minds of the unsuspecting mass of the North... AND 5) they have too many more alliances to hammer up the 2/3rs majority that UPA requires. Look at what has happened. 202 out of 543 just by themselves. Give them another 3 months of campaigning time, they'll get 275 themselves!

How true! I have never been proved true thus in my entire life on any issue. I don't like the fact that UPA is forming the government, because I keep asking, albeit rhetorically, are these the choices before a voting Bharat-putra? The trouble with Indian politics is our Constitution. We need to urgently topple it over its head and scrap the IPC and build a fresh preamble and a constitutional rule book. We are stuck with the British colonial legacy, only we call it IPC. It could as well be EPC.  Who better than Congress to run the legacy! Are they not the ones who connived with the British and made us A NATION DIVIDED? And then went out of their way give separate existence to the two physically divided parts of our neighborhood Spiderman Pakistan? After all, these Congressmen and women of the Gandhi family are all Britain educated, no? I have to digress here...

Today, at my MYT workshop, there is this 9th standard kid who thinks the Gandhi - like a lot of uneducated people of India - in the Indira, Sanjay, Rajiv, Rahul etc. belongs to Mohandas Karamchand! I had to take her through a short course in history to clear where the Gandhi comes from! And there is someone else who has not heard of Win Chadda or Ottavio Quattrochi or the Italian antique dealer connection of Sonia. How much of history would Congress continue to dress up with 123 and Nuke Deal and Aam Aadmi and NREGA? I talked, also today, to a folk theatre activitist who gives me statistical take of how much of NREGA's 80 bucks a day reached the Aadmi. All this would look like Cong-bashing. So be it. They are not fit to rule even the come-full-moon submerging islands of the far coasts of Lakshadweep. Then again, neither is BJP. 

Coming back... if this is the case of the country's only two national parties caught in the regional party politics, what way out for you and me? We keep alternating between these two parties and most people vote for Cong because they hate BJP because they have been so glamorously indoctrinated against BJP for what the Sene and the Sena and others do. One doesn't understand how easily the allegedly educated (because being educated seems to be a sin and crime to me as we don't take anything but reactionary measures) and urban Indians fall prey to well-orchestrated press campaigns of breast-groping men in Sene outfit which gets equated with Bhartiya Janata Party that also incidentally shares the saffron colour with other religiously Hindu in belief outfits. Why is it that an average Hindu has to shirk from the very terminology that defines his existence because every one who is not a Hindu and in a position to doctor things through their access to press is power-mongering and thus rally behind any one else who is not a Hindu in the name of secularism? Is secularism only Hindu bashing in this country? When the sewerage goes into the Bay of Bengal or Arabian Sea, does it gets separated on the basis of Hindu shit or Islamic shit or Christian shit or Dalit shit? Why then should we vote on the basis of secularism or the lack of it? It just dawns on me that the average voter of the world's most populous democracy is no better than that shit he shits, according to these politicians. And we continue to vote... and we continue to believe in the democratic process that extradicts the Quattrochis and the CBI that abides by a Supreme Court decision that always favours Congress. Is the Supreme Court also Congress' hand-puppet? How does Congress continue to keep its stranglehold so long? Will the allegedly educated urban Indian who is more bothered about his space to fornicate with or without reason and choose to consider morality as a conveniently changing view point depending on his inebriation levels ever wake up to ask the right questions even if the issues that bother this nation does not touch (leave alone affect) him/her? Don't get me wrong! I am not asking you to vote for options open besides Congress here! What use is the choice we have? Only remember... because one doesn't like the deep sea one can't dive into the devil's mouth or vice-versa.  We need to create options, we need to take well-argued and analytical stand.  How do you do that, ask you! I hear. I shall give one small example.

On my way to cast my vote, at the gates of my electoral booth, I ran into a friend who came out having voted. I asked him casually if he had done with the process. Inspite of my not asking, he volunteered that he had voted for Congress. I asked him aghast when he is going to change his family tradition when he - who used to work high up in a leading Chennai newspaper and as opinionated as a jehadi can get about Indian politics - countered me by asking what is the option? I told him several, one among which was 49(O). He said he was not willing to compromise on his physical security since 49(O) requires that you should disclose your identity! Now, if you do, that is what taking a stand is! Assuming that the goondas of the parties of India would sorround your house like the NSG during the Mumbai Taj Siege and hence do not want to compromise on your security is what I call the spinelessness of an educated urban Indian! Do we think that the powers that be are watching us like the Big Brother of 1984 or the Overseers of Zamyatin's WE and send people to destroy all the 49(o) voters? How shallow can we get? For god's sake, this is a country of 1.2 billion and 49(O) as of today can't usher India-shaking changes. But at least, one would have taken a stand! I really do adore all those who voted for the Independent candidates because at least they chose an option, winning or not! This is probably how we could begin.

We have FIVE GOOD YEARS TO DO THAT STARTING TODAY... let's begin... NOW!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Curious Case of CSK


What is happening to Chennai Super Kings at IPL 2? The question that surfaced the other day in some column or some TV channel crops up again: Is MSD a lucky captain or is MSD an anagram for MDS (read MiDaS)? Well... at least for now, looking at 1 out of 5 wins and 1 washed out game that was a certain win (against a beleagured KKR), CSK's ante looks to be up and out.

If one took a closer look at The Curious Case of CSK, there is nothing strange. History is only repeating itself, only so! Last year it was Deccan Chargers Hyderabad, this year it seems to be CSK at the moment. At the moment because, they still have 9 matches to go and if they make the semis, which is not a very BIG IF, but an IF... then anything is possible. As the prosaic and hackneyed adage goes, cricket is a funny game!

Let's get back to what the curious case is. Last year DCH was doing everything right and still ended up the bottom of the table. It was the inability to put together the extra oooomph of winning touch. The problem was that they probably possessed too many big guns.

Adam Gilchrist, Andrew Symonds, Herschelle Gibbs, Rohit Sharma... and yet they couldn't wind it up! Similar problem for CSK this time around: Matt Hayden, Andrew Flintoff, Albie Morkel, Jacob Oram, MSD, Suresh Raina... and yet! May be when you have too many big 'uns you expect one to survive if another fails. Look at KKR - it is happening. Brendon McCullum, Chris Gayle, Brad Hodge, Saurav Ganguly and there's a few more as yet unvetted! When you know your stocks are limited, supply is handled frugally. A case at point: Rajasthan Royals in IPL - 1.

What other causes? The first 6 overs. The Power Play period. Last time around Gony, Balaji, Ntini, Amarnath and Murali were delivering. This time around, Gony is looking listless to say the least, Ntini and Amarnath are only seen being interviewed in the 7 and half minute time out or playing water-boys and Balaji has had some success. Joginder 'Iceman' Sharma is busy chewing his paan somewhere between the third man and the dug-out area. There is a limit to how much a recovering Balaji can do. So Murali is your only option. Also... that IPL truly derives from its local flavour is being proved time and again. Last IPL the Indian local recruits performed better in Indian conditions. This time around... it is the South Africans, barring Graeme Smith.

Look at what happened today to Royal Challengers Bangalore. They were struggling till last night. Suddenly, they cruised to a win, even if it is over KKR and even though the score line indicates a last ball victory. The four overseas recruits RCB played in the Eleven were all South Africans. It is indeed a strange scenario why Boucher came into the side this late. Boucher coming in because Rahul is back home is no excuse not to have played a man of the former's stature. I mean, he is the finisher for South Africa. Today RCB played Kallis, Roelf v d Merwe and Mark Boucher who are South Africans and play for South Africa. Of course, their captain is Kevin Pietersen. Now, we haven't forgotten KP is a South African by birth and almost, only almost played for S.Africa and moved to England when denied opportunity. And he is the biggest buy of RCB. So, again the local flavour doing the winning contribution theory holds water!

Eventually, here is the rub: may be CSK should keep Gony out and bring Ntini in. Rest
Albie... Yes, no point resting Badri because he is a pure batsman and his only problem is the inability to clear the ropes. Someone must tell Badri that his strength lies in playing inside the park than into the stands. When he is in flow, it is such a delight what his bat does to the cherry. The groundstrokes are breathtaking and next only to Sachin, Saurav, Rahul or VVS! Barring Mohali, no Indian ground was big enough last time. Also, his range of strokes are better than Morkel who either swings it right or left giving too much stump vision for the bowler thereby making himself vulnerable to well-bowled blockhole deliveries or disguised slower 'uns. He is more of an agrarian with the bat, Albie is!

I also do not think if Ntini, Balaji, Oram and Murali can't do it, neither can Albie win the match with the ball. So, either keep Badri and rest Albie or bring in another pure batsman. Grapevine, newspapers say, is M. Vijay may play instead of Badri, which is a bad idea. Kapugadera is no great slogger or match winner even in LOI for Sri Lanka except the odd contributions. So, why is he in the team in the first place? MSD seems to be in a fix. There is so much talent and shelf back-up, this team is spoilt for choice. MSD's golden touch is also losing out. Behind the cool exterior one can feel the sweat these days. He hasn't scored enough, hasn't middled enough and his ice-man Joginder has not delivered at death. More than Midas touch or luck what had served MSD in the past is his guts to try out lesser mortal and surprise the opponents with the unknown. People are getting used to his tactics. But to give the scenario a hard look and clinical analysis, nothing is wrong with CSK, they just need to understand they are very vulnerable if they don't shove the push hard to endemic levels up the opponent's face than minimal enema they are administering now.

There is a good match coming tomorrow against Wily Shane's Royals. If MSD passes this litmus test, CSK will march the rest of the way into semis. Remember, CSK has a 0-3 record against RR, and nothing like a victory to set this record right, in the process helping themselves to winning ways with IPL-2. All is not rotten in the state of CSK, yet!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

IPL 2 and the carnival...

Bakhtin would certainly have mused at the intellectual audacity of whoever named the IPL 2 a carnival. It certainly is not carnivalistic, leave alone carnival atmosphere. "SOME ONE PLEASE BRING ON THE REAL CROWD PLEASE" Will the Real Slim Shady please stand up!!!

As the IPL 2 bandwagon rolled out on stage yesterday, this was the thought that came to mind at the end of the first over. It still is not IPL. For one, surely missing were the fans, the provincial element and the parochiality of it all that makes up for the atmosphere, the din, the noise, the clash of cymbals, the fanfare, the cheer girls from our own climes... and that distinct clamour an average Indian fan brings on as he frantically gushes and blushes upon sudden recognition that he is being covered by the tv cameras and the thought that he is for that one instant the cynosure of the world cricket watchers' eyes! Oh, the lack of it all! Alas... what boots it incessant care, as Tennyson's Ulysses says! Sachin slams a delectable FOUR and the crowd sits smug. Taylor loses his stump first ball and Kohli does a brilliant run out and Uthappa runs amuck... the crowd is unmoved, Kumble does a 5 for 5... shit happens. No Fun this Safari, I tell you.

How do you expect a Natal Ninja to understand and empathise with the Chennai Super Kings chennaiite fan? Or perhaps the IPL people must have attached a local hyphenation to the Indian teams - CSK-Cape Town Comrades or RCB-Kwazulu Natal Combine etc etc...

If Lalit 'the commissioner' Modi thought - wisely too - that England would be a bad idea to host IPL 2 1) because the English are not noisy and IPL thrives on the hoopla around it and 2) the English would be saturated with cricket by the time IPL bandwagon bids farewell and T20 World Championship starts the very next day, he was right. If he thought the South Africans with a native culture and the Zulu beats would add bindhaas to the IPL 2, he surely went wrong. The local Indians couldn't match the Indians in India and the local South Africans 1) didn't have any empathy for the teams and 2) are still white skins and for that matter too confined by their Genteel roots. I won't be surprised if during the Knight Riders match SRK invades the pitch or shouts and whistles with fingers in his mouth some voice comes over the PA System "Quiet Please. Thank you, Ladies and Gentlemen!"

IPL-Moditva has got the moolahs right not the hooplas! And what-o-what-o-what has Mandira the Extraaaaaaaaa Bedi done to her hair. I couldn't recognise the midget (in comparison) next to Simon Doull on tv before the match yesterday. This IPL is sooooooooo phoney, I would like to call it Indian Phoney League. Bring on the real crowd please!

Friday, April 17, 2009

presents
CAMP NEUVE
A different summer performance camp that combines:

Creative Dramatics
Movement Theatre
Story Performance
Public Speaking and Debating

Dates: May 4 – May 22 (excluding weekends)
Duration: 15 days
Time: 10 a.m to 1 p.m

Age Group: 12 to 19

The workshop would attempt to serve as a platform for both the creative as well as the analytical energies of the participants. While the dramatics and theatre aspects would prepare them to learn about their own body, voice and gesture capabilities, the public speaking sessions would try and build self-confidence and self-belief.

The introductory sessions to debating would teach them to develop methodical approach to research, analysis, reasoning and assertive presentation of their ideas. We believe performance is not limited to stage and should extend to facing real-life situations.

An informed speaker is a good manager, a trained actor is a good communicator, but an informed and trained individual is a better leader. AND COMMUNITY NEEDS GOOD AND ABLE
LEADERS.

For price details, application forms and enrolment, email masquerade.madras@gmail.com

Masquerade presents...

Masquerade - the performance group

presents

Peter Shaffer's

LETTICE & LOVAGE - a comedy

in the cast: Ramya Mukund, Maheswari Nair, Aishwarya Mahesh, Hrishikesh Siddartha & Dileep Rangan
Light Mgmt.: Harsha Ganesh
Sound Mgmt.: Mathivanan. R
Stage Mgmt.: Abhinav Suresh
Design & Direction: KK

Dates: 23 & 24 May, 2009
Time: 4 pm & 7.15 p.m
Venue: The Top Storey, Alliance Francaise, Chennai

Passes: Rs. 100/-
Available from 15 May 2009
For Booking Details, watch this space.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Summer is finally here!

Yes... I am truly kicked!

Just now I finished recommending a few movies to few friends. Am on this movie spree. And I am reading what I would truly name as the first indigenous attempt at espionage and counter-espionage about Indo-AfPak (a recent coinage of Mr. Obama admin) - LASHKAR by Mukul Deva. Hmmmm... interesting. If you are an Indian, inciting... if you're on the other side of the border... infuriating. How much it is true, I know not, nor would we probably know of! But... as a read, quite good. My brother is contemplating reading it, but plans to leave shortly back to Philly and is not quite sure if he would be encouraged to read it in-flight, what with a name like this! Crazy Americans!!!

More Later!