Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Of Ghazals and Sufism

Chamakte Chaand ko toota hua taara banaa daala...meri awaragi ne mujhko aawaara banaa dalaa....Sounds like a rhyming prose or poetry at the best. But you need to hear the rendition from the Ghazal maestro Ghulam Ali to be mesmerised by the lyrics. I mean the import of the words is there definitely, but they pound you with an intensity altogether different when sung in the Ghazal. Outside Cricket and Bollywood, he may be one of the handful personalities who enjoy such high patronage and liking on either side of the border. And why should he not. For that matter, the Ghazal tradition in Pakistan has flourished always. Mehdi Hassan and Abida Parveen are two more names that ring a bell of familiarity across India, both Pakistani scions. Meaningful poetry often laced with deep rooted philosophy and melody are two almost essential elements of a good Ghazal. Ofcourse sublime rendition like that by Ghulam Ali (Bade Ghulam Ali Sahab or even Chote G A) makes a Ghazal what it is. It may be of concern to the vetean patrons of the art that there seems to be little interest among the youngsters towards this sublime craft. The Ghazal evenings are far and few between in the day and age while the rockstars hog all the lime light and then more. The sensibility towards poetry seems to be declining and the romanticism ensconsed in it has few takers among the young. It is just not pacey enough. But they might well be keeping themselves bereft of a flavour of living.
    Another art form or rather more so a way of life indeed is Sufism or the rendition of Quawwalis.  Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan can be credited to internationalize this music form. Sufi music has been cultured and practised in praise of the almighty for no less than six or seven centuries. The saints of yonder and old expressed their love and devotion to god through the mystical Sufi music. And the tradition flourished. This music form enlivens and charged the ambience like no other. Often incorporating high pitch truisms, the best proponents of the art form have been widely classed as among the most capable singers. Nusrat is a very good example to boot. Quawwalis have specially taken centerstage in Bollywood over the decades. And Pakistan continues to be the land of genesis for the best talent there is in both these music forms. Here is hoping that the practitioners would always find enough patronage for these music styles to sustain and flourish in times to come.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What an Idea Sar Jee, or no-brain jee?

The famous TV commercial of our beloved Jr. Bachchan explaining the reason for more than a billion human souls in our homeland first felt like a banal comic act to just continue the "Bhat an Idea" campaign. Not until a supposedly very intelligent/or just intelligent friend of mine seriously quoted the reason in one conversation. And also his flatmate there. And then they quoted it a second time. I had to shed my lethargy and blurted "U really believe in what they are saying"? And their expression was like huh, have u even got a brain there? Dont you know India has always been a backward (always?) nation. Ok wouldnt even argue on that one. So? What about the Europeans? Did they have the trendy phones with a xG connectivity ever since the land was carved out? After a few minutes of senseless arguments, atleast the question came "Ok so what do you think would be the reason of our mammoth population? Wars, I reckon. The Europeans lost entire generations of men in the wars they have fought among each other as tribes for ages. Their tribal footing in any case started pretty late - the Frank (modern day French) and Germanic (Germany etc) tribes et al were forest dwellers as late as the 4th century into the first millenia after the christ trudged. India on the contrary has been there since much before (even if we discount the mythology, the Buddha and Mauryas wrote indelible history 500 years before the christ. What is however more important is that Indians have never really fought wars or witnesses large scale demolotion of the populace. The foreign rulers established their holds among the people since at least the last thousand years without any significant bloodshed in retaliation really. Even the movement for Independence was wrought with nonviolence. So all things equal India would anyway grow much fast. But even the other things have not been equal historically. The black death - the dreaded plague - of the 14th century wiped half of the European continent. The world wars have been the most recent among the annihilation sagas. I might have made - terribly tired that I am - an error here and then there at this time of the night, but I do not find it not to be a better explanation of India's high population. What about China you might ask. I would put forth my reasons later. Size and strength are two pointers I would just throw for now.

The family oriented species there are

This one is really interesting. Looks like we humans have made our lives much more complicated than it ought to be. Cliched? Well, take this. The national emblem for the North Americas is something of a "Bald Eagle". Big deal?
The not so big deal actually is that the members of this species form a very tight family unit. So tight that the mum and pop do not divorce at all ! Yep. They are a couple for life. How easy for the kids of the family. The irony is that the divorce rate is much higher for human Americans. So the kid Americans do not have as much a priviledged life of having the parents together as the kid-Eagles then. When curiosity got the better of me, I searched for the other species that endured the hardships of a commited life together or for long periods and there were many. The much loathed Wolves and the Jackals are family folks as well. The elder siblings in the Jackal family even help the mother in nursing the younger ones. The Albatross and the insignificant termite are two more pro-family people. The grown ups may have  their own preferences, but the kids of these species are definitely going to lead a less confused existence than in the multi-tier structured human families of the day with three set of siblings one each from mum and pop and one set from them both together!  

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Business and passion

It has been some time since Paul Buchcheit, the developer of Gmail and Google adsense and also the co-conceiver of their mantra "Don't be evil" left Google. But that is not the only reason Google seem to have shunned the motto. Perhaps its not just Google. The whole corporate/capitalist world seems to have embraced a hypocritical approach to the way they do business. Its not just Google or Apple, it is also the story of Goldman Sachs or Bank Of America as that of UBS. And a lot more. But it is not the point of this writeup to harp on the scandals and profess the impending doom. I feel that these very so called leaders are at a loss. A loss of sensibility, a loss of inspiration to keep the pace up with the elevated expectations of the world around them. A loss when they find themselves in the midst of the bad bad world of business. Let us talk about Google. I saw/read some time back (a few yrs maybe) an interview with Page or Brin I dont remember who of the cofounders about the culture at Google - work and general. They spoke among other things, a culture around work and simplicity. They said how they did not encourage a show-pony culture and discouraged employees flaunting their top of the draw cars and things like that. I mean he did not need to say that and the fact that he did say it, I thought they actually were pretty keen on instilling a clean work ethic like focussing on the work and coming out with great ideas and stuff and thus dint want any distractions. Also the motto professing "Dont be evil" was afterall seeped into the psyche of the emploee then. Brin and Page look like sensible guys and afterall their empire was built from a hard written algorithm and not any kind of plagiarism. But still today we read stories about how Google has usurped Microsoft from the throne of the "" as they call it. The only contention from some circles is that its actually Apple which is the true - another larger than life success story. And I have much less confidence in Apple personally, I like Google better. But the point is that there is always professed an.
They said so about Microsoft in the ninties and early noughties what with all those antitrust laws and big lawsuits. And perhaps they were true. Perhaps MS was doing everything in its capacity to monopolise the market. They made sure Netscape went out and since 1997 IE has held the crown of the most preferred browser in the world, a position which has only recently been threatened seriously by Chrome. The antitrust lawsuits were filed and MS did loose those disputes. Movies were made and MS was rubbished the world over. But there looked nobody would be able to dethrone them from the position of undisputed kings of the technology world, whatever that means. Keeping up with the natural law of change however, Internet arrived on the scene like nothing earlier had. And suddenly MS was beaten not by any competition but seemingly by the vicissitudes of nature and natural law. Around time companies like Google blossomed. They were perfectly positioned to reap the benefits of the internet revolution. There were other internet success stories like Yahoo, Amazon, ebay, craigslist (now little out of favor, but the credit is due to Mr Craig for being his own man) and a few more internet behemoths. The scene sprawled with tech startups as there was little investment needed to build a success story. A brilliant and viral idea would suffice. It felt like the advent of a truly efficient marketplace had begun and there was hope for the masses. So over the span of the last decade and more we have a more balanced market cap. scenario as far as the tech. giants (not hardware) are concerned - MS, Google, FB, Amazon, also Yahoo and ofcourse Apple.
So the numero uno position was snatched from MS. And a lot of water has flown since then even under the Old Delhi rickety British-raj railway bridge despite the drying volumes of the Yamuna river. And meanwhile Mr Gates has completely changed his ways of living. He now travels the worldover and tries to solve the more human problems in the world he inhabits. Well, atleast it looks like that. But scandal still looms large on the tech. space or to be fair for that matter any industry vertical. The spate of Patent suits unleashed at Motorola by Apple and now even by MS (Funny in a way if you think how Apple themselves have enriched the "i" experience by taking cues from few Android features), the privacy issues circling the internet space which have now really gained momentum, the Apple Foxconn saga, the spying stories between these big corporations, not to forget the delusional marketing and branding of Apple (a personal subjective take agreed), the closed ecosystem and locking tactics of Apple and many more such stories doing the rounds everyday do not feel like the act of these sensible brainiacs, although I always felt S Jobs was a bit too arrogant and egomaniacal for my taste and MZ'berg felt like he was guilty of his success. It looks more of a a case that to be at the top you got to bend a few rules and find your ways through the maze to deliver the best results to your shareholders. So the shareholders and the bankers come into the fray. The starry eyed tech geek actually metamorphosises(m sure its a spello) into the shrewd businessman. And to survive in the dog eat dog world of frontline business, changes his ways. More so if he happens to represent the top notch firm with the highest market cap or active users. There is pressure from the investor community, shareholders and there is a reputation at stake and the egos have blown up a little bit as well. And worse still, if you dont do it, the competition would implement it and then wipe you off the slate, such volatilily pervades this sector. For every FB, there were a couple Myspaces and Friendsters and there is no guarantee the same fate would not befall that particular company with such a fickle and volatile userbase. So how do you survive. Where do you bring the dollar to spend on the research and development, essential spendings in this technology intensive space.
And how do you create the hype if you plan to go public (IPO) in near future. Else how do you stop the paper wealth of your stock from plummeting if you are already listed. And what if there is widespread lobbying - political and business - to grab the next big opportunity. I have a feeling the average tech geek turned businessman does not understand why he landed in such a place. I mean Page and Brin would have certainly known that their idea was big and useful and would earn them the big moolah and they would lead comfortable lives when the Google algorithm would have started to find widespread acceptance and usage initially. But would they have thought it would turn into the juggernaught it is today or of the zillion ramifications of their every strategy or move they make today. I doubt even they make those strategic calls today. They would like to think that they have the opportunity to change the world for the better and they certainly have, but still they are not born businessmen. I cant bring myself to believe that they enjoy making the shrewd business calls or playing the mean businessman.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Football Frenzy

I am not a football junkie (thts. the rite word right?). Not even a follower, not by a fair margin. But during the WC and the Euro championships, I wonder why not. Especially when the game progresses to the last-8 stages or when Germany is playing. It is a strange phenomenon really. I may not even register a high profile club clash on a giant screen in a hotel lobby, but I am all glued at the sight of Klose or Ozil or sometime Ballack making their deft and efficient moves. Or even a intense encounter (towards the later stages) like the one from yesterday between the neighbours Spain and Portugal. I have started to understand why that is lately. A game like cricket which I adore like nothing else is very technical in detail and is highly cognitive. There are countless facets and nuances and not-so-nuances to hold your attention or even consume your mind. Football (whts. soccer btw, another glamor quotient in the game of adrenalin?) on the other hand, is played with emotion and passion. Not that there is no technicality around soccer or for tht matter Cricketers are robots plying their calculations on the pitch. But those in my humble and simple opinion are the defining characteristics of the two games. So now consider this game of soccer being played today between Italy and Geramny. I am no football historian but definitely know the ageless names of soccer superstars. Also, the epic clashes maybe - alleast the ones I have watched. So if you scroll the internet, half a dozen encounters from yesteryears would prop up between the two giants. I myself remember the sour taste towards the last minutes of the 2006 clash when I had fallesn in love for the German national football team, not the least coz they hosted the tournament with such elan or the much awesome Michael Ballack (whts. with these Michales from Hussey, Schumacher to the fictional Schofield). Not just that. A typical search might also land you on a history page detailing the ties between any two such countries - diplomatic ties or maybe their war history. The group stage clash between the co-host Poland and Russia was dubbed as a mini-war in the media reminiscent of the war fought between the two at the banks of the Vistula river in Poland in I think the first world war. Italy and Germany themselves share the common Fascist might I say history with their two controvercial leaders Hitler and Mussolini at one time acting as comrades in an imperialist cause. And the Europeans have fought for more than two centuries now (up untill the last world war that is) right from the days of the Roman empire, the Greek city states to the Frank tribes (modern day French), the Germanic tribes (Germany and others), the Slavs(Russia, Poland?), Vikingsthe Scandinavia?), Goths, Vandals et al. Cannot football then be looked as an avenue to channelise that same vigor away from the battlefield to a more civilized expression of nationalism though I really doubt if it was that in those wars) or jingoism rather. Wishful thinking that. In any case, the history is there and who would better understand it than the Europeans who now are a truly cosmopolitan crowd with diluted ethnicities. The drama and intensity start right from the start with the teams and fans singing their respective national anthems. All through the game, there is a chorus in the background. There are high fives, yellow cards, red cards, players sliding/heaping/somersaulting, heightened emotion, coaches with tempers and what not.....its a surreal feeling really. But then you wonder how could this feeling sustain if it was a club encounter!!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Tribute - Dravid, the inimitable being!

There is a saying which essentially means that everyone wanted to be the chef of the winters and the gardner among the rains. When the spirit is so elated by the circumstance, it is little wonder that the outcome may have that little extra flavor and brilliance. But then who is the one who wants to take care of the petals in the scorching sun of a summer day. Really, who is the one who wants to do the hard work, sacrificing in the process, the pleasures of extravagance and flair in his outcomes. Rahul Dravid for one, thrives in this business or art if you may please to call it that way. He announced retirement from first class cricket earlier in the day today and again embraced the hard task of walking into the sunset before any of the other stalwarts. That lure was overpowering for us mortals to get the one final chance to watch him don the Test flannels and then being carried around on the shoulders of the players. Ofcourse Rahul was not unnecessarily concerned and his detached, calculated and consistent decision soon imparted more wisdom on us like it has been the case for so many years now. He would not be human if he would not have been tempted to have grandstanded a farewell but the key point is that he actually overcame it like always.That is why he is a role model. No psuedo smartness which really is a selfishness of leaving at a high and no dragging-through for no reason. Is not this the way he has conducted himself always. Honest and equal to the task and circumstance. As he rightly pointed out, there is absolutely no merit in waiting 6 months to just appear in a Test or a farewell series for the sake of it. Sounds Australian right. Well, our dear friend as well played his cricket for and in exactly the right spirit and reason. I get a feeling he relished just being part of a group and contributing to remain that part towards the end of his career. He understood that individual success was good but also brought a duality with it which, if the individual focussed too much on the individual success, might take the sheen out of the achievement eventually. But if he dissolved his craft and consciousness in the whole and contributed, there could be just the positive aspects to be relished. Or something similar, he seemed to point.
He grew as a batsman, cricketer and a human in the ensuing period since his much celebrated debut. A chronological reading of his views and statements would corroborate that. After the 2008 Mohali century that some believe saved his career, he said he had grown older and wiser. I suspect he consciously aimed at that after a point in time. He has invariably sounded more mature than his years all through and that is not any kind of exhibitionism. It just comes so natural to him. His being a avid reader does not hurt either. And he has constantly reinvented himself. That is sheer determination, pure hardwork and a childlike love for the game on display for you. All this entails the cognitive aspect of his game that is the most celebrated aspect of his story. This is where he begins to carve his own landscape in the cricketing wilderness. Of all the modern great batsmen, only Ponting seems to be nearly as much involved in his craft mentally, well not as much involved still. Ofcourse this can be an incorrect perception, but that is how it appears to me. And for all the goodness and gentlemanly attributes he carries, there is a bloody mindedness which engulfs his persona while he is in the middle. No image of his flashes in my mind with a bat in his hand in a Test match and him sharing a light hearted smiling moment with anyone. Not that the kind of relaxing is in any way undesirable, but it speaks volumes of how much seriousness goes into the business of being Rahul Dravid the batsman. And it is in my opinion the single most important and startling achievement of his Test career, this consistently high degree of intensity he has conjured in every single session of his Test match days. And beyond. One just needs too much energy and mind-space or mind-matter to be able to do that. And I suspect he has had to sacrifice a lot to achieve that. And this in itself a hallmark of greatness across the board. The intensity he generated in those moments was infectious really for anyone who would care.
Then there were the more tangible cricketing aspects such as the impeccable technique, the incredible fitness, the fulfilling bat-arcs, the calculated shotmaking and the intuitive catching. Add to it the inimitable style and vibrancy. The one common trait among all these is their being methodical and product of a immaculate work ethic. He could have chosen to be a lesser cricketing Genius than three of his contemporary international superstars - he relinquished anything associated with a Genius - if he did not work as hard to bring such rewarding method to everything about his cricket. And consequently he became an absolute cricketing crisis man whose act was based on the value it created and much more purposeful. And it feels more fulfilling than even a Genius. Thus, when everyone else failed among alien conditions which did not respect their extravagant and jolly brand of Cricket much, his method coupled with innate talent became the saviour at every call of duty.
His achievements in the limited formats of the game have been excellent and he would not mind at all to be an also ran in that department, not that 10000 plus runs are scored in every alternate career. But he would be the first one to put his hand up to count ten better contemporary batsmen in those formats. And I suspect there would not be many more than that. It is ironical in some respect that the final batsmanship we will witness from Rahul would be in the T20 drama. It is a good way for the celebrated senior cricketers to walk into the cricketing sunset, this brand of cricket. And we should be grateful to it for that. But he is also now a leader in that contest and would try to pass on his cricketing legacy one final time inside of the hallowed oval. And if Cricket is a team game, there can not be a better practitioner and so his team should look forward to extract those values from him. We do not know the future. Times have changed and media and commercial interests have much changed the dynamics of Cricket. He is sure to take some time off from the game for various obvious reasons. He has the experience and ideas but there is a different set of challenges in the Cricketing world outside the dressing room, a fact he would be well aware of. I would like to leave the thinking part to him and wait for what conclusions he draws and path he charts for himself to follow and us to understand. But I suspect the following cliche is going to hold true. You can take him out of active Cricket but not the Cricket out of him. So maybe we need not be too sad afterall, maybe he would still be seen around Cricket very soon. But the huge fan imbued with a heavy dosage still gets apprehensive.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The {uro crisis, and realities

It has been a long time since we have been hearing of Greece and all. Just when people start to think it is gonna be the end of the day for the Eurozone, suddenly the warcries die and one presumes that a solution has been achieved. This is the kind of sentiment that arose - specially in faraway countries like India- after the big congress of the Eurozone leaders happened a couple of months back. We all heard that David Cameron and Mr. Sarkozy did not shake hands once when they crossed each other and eventually Dave left the meeting without signing the MOUs (well, the treaty is yet to be signed). This sparked speculations about the future of Britain inspite of the Eurozone and the Financial Services industry that thrived in Britain and all. But on the other hand, there was muffled praise at having saved the Eurozone and all and if memory serves right, the markets gained a couple pennies. Then there was the lull and now since the last fortnight, the Greek demons raised their heads yet again. I for one got interested to know the real facts and numbers. So it turned out that there was a principal payment due coming March on the Greek debt and the Eurozone leaders along with the Euro Central Bank(ECB), uncle Sam's IMF and all were fighting yet again to resolve and voila looks like they have again pulled the strings or so they clim. There are proposals of another bail-out fund from the nexus and if the parliaments of the zone ratify it, Greece would get the funds before they need to shelve out the money to its creditors albeit in some Escrow accounts. And on the other side, is the minor issue of the harsh austerity measures that lady Merkel and her team would impose on the Greek sheep (read people really).
But is it such a bad thing this austerity. Thats the whole point of this writeup, I dont know. How am I supposed to know when the greatest of the Economists and political leaders with tonnes of experience and age backing them are everyday mincing words and have not been able to speak coherently. Ofcourse some of them say austerity means less spending and brings down the growth rate and doesnt help in any way. Makes sense. But then hey, my inexperienced mind's common sense says who is stopping you from increasing the GDP. Just produce goods and export them. Oh well, I dont understand how exports work but this doesnt look like too complex. But hey, then one Economist educates that this is the real problem with Greece. They are part of the Eurozone and have a common currency. So the exports happen in Euros and it might be the difficulty they would have. A highly values currency discourages exports we have heard. Anyway this is a base argument and outside the main reasoning. The Economist tells that the real reason for the Greek crisis is something called a balance of payments. He shows how the much professed welfare state is not the reason for the problems by demostrating how Germany, Austria, Belgium and France, closely run by Finland have a higher % of GDP in their public spending by governments. Then he shows how even budget deficit does not account for the issue by depicting how Portugal, Spain and Ireland lag far behind in such deficits to the above mentioned states. Then he goes on toshow how a surplus money and consequent inflation, some kind of an overvaluation of the southern states (this is again noteworthy, all the affected states are generally southern) in the early noughties led to a decreased competitiveness of the now troubled states. But still the policies that are being built are built around the budget deficit and welfare state concerns. So whats the point here really. The simple point is that the more you read into the arguments and facts, the more you are baffled as some of the generally professed and accepted bytes of wisdom when dug deeper, do not comply with good old plain common sense and then you can find some source corroborating your understanding. Consider this.
The latest plan to save Greece is really an exercise in anticipation. The debt sustainability assessment which is drawn for a long term as much as till 2030 is clearly pretty ambitious. If everything goes well which includes a very generous private sector involvement, great political stability within states and among Eurozone, and a multitude of such factors, then by 2030 the Debt-GDP ratio would come down to something like 110%. That assumes a average 50%-70% haircut in principal balance on the bonds to private investors. That it is a highly leveraged curve is a truth and a slight discord in balancing factors may cause it to tumble is a real possibility.
Still, some tabloids may paint the picture as much more rosy and inspire a greater confidence in the situation and its ultimate solvability. Make no mistake, the situation may still be solvable and I hope forthe best. But I also worry for the fact that are elections looming large over the Euro landscape. And my fear is that the current measures of pushing the real scene under the carpet to just buy some time may well be to find the way to the power corridors first. And it makes perfect sense as well. How are you anyway going to solve a problem if you loose your own crown. But I am afraid that the problem may still not be solved even after the current breed of leaders make it to the power chambers again. And then, they would have no incentive in hiding the real grim political-economic situation and all of us, being so accustomed to the sugar coated headlines might find it harshly indigestible to confront those news bytes. But then, it might just be a figment of imagination and we may well and truly reach a solution later in the day. Heres hoping for it.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Buddhism in mainstream Indian household

The middle path was introduced in the land of the Hindus by the enlightened one around the 5th century BC. It was a welcome respite from the mindless ritual that had become the part of Hindu life. The faith and its practice had been reduced to just mechanically conducting those rituals and effectively controlled in a large part by the priest class which there is no evidence to suggest that was not corrupt and pushed its own agenda in the name of worship. Buddha was a refreshing change, the zephyr from the eastern floodlands of India. His ideas were potent and his cult was that of compassion. He was himself a burning light to the seeker much impressive in thought, ideas and practice. And by virtue of this force, his doctrine spread through the vastness of India with much regard. Ofcourse it had political overtones which have always been present to adulterate any spiritual movement throughout the recorded annals of human history. The patronage of kings like Ashoka led to its propagation in foreign lands as well. There is an allegation - like there is always an allegation in everything - on Ashoka that his conversion to Buddhism and eventual adoption was non-violence was not sincere and a political gimmick. Ofcourse he had no more conquests to be made and would have liked to have a stable and thriving empire. Peace and non-violence were necessary to maintain a stable empire.
But eventuall Buddhism eloped from India. Today it thrives as a faith in the mainland ofChina, Jpan, South Korea, Sri Lanka and Burma. But it has long gone from the mainstream of the Indian society at least outside the expanse of the sister states of the north east. It is a curious case for me. I mean even if it was just a case of a marked decrease in the number of followers, it would have been understandable. But it is completely wiped off and it calls for an analysis. Especially in the light of the fact that the Hindus have never been aggressive in history to have effected the downfall of the Buddhism by force. There just seems to be a natural cycle in action in the curious case which we have at hand in this exercise. There are suggestions that there were some uprisings from the Hindu fold during even the times of Ashoka, but they were not prominent.
The ideals of Buddha were noble and high grounded. He was an enlightened one and with a compassionate heart urged his fellow men to apply themselves to break from the fetters of their mental captivity and realise their true nature - glimpses of the original Hindu or for that matter any other spiritual faith. But Buddhism was still largely cult following. He had propagated his faith by sheer force of his personality. Once he was gone, the natural cycle resumed. Buddhism would have inevitably been corrupted by its own powerful people and their politics. Then the Hindu revival happened during the periodof the Guptas and followed into the later centuries when various discrete events augmented the rise of the original Hindu thought and practice - the Bhakti movement, Sankaracharya, Vaishnavites, later in the day Sri Chaitanya mahaprabhu. They all were learned scholars and practitioners and passionate about reviving the old school. So we can see that the original thought reemerged. But the main point here is, notwithstanding the natural cycle, why did the faith got completely wiped off from the face of India even as there is a history of peaceful coexistence among faiths and spiritual movements in this land. Jains, Sikhs, Muslims, Christians have always been a part of the fabric once they were assimilated into the mainstream society. Buddhism seems to be an aberration in this trend.
The ideals of Buddhism are noble and filled with compassion, are very powerful to lead a society forward. They ofcourse do not believe in a universal godhead which is again an exception from all other mainstream faith. Mind is all that is to Buddhists - the individual and the universal. There were once large congresses organised in India for the gathering of the Buddhist scholars to contemplate on the thoughts of the Tathagata and further the ideas of the Tripitika. The kings patronised them then. There were followersof the Buddha in the average Indian household. And then for some mysterious reason, it all vanished!

On Hritik Roshan in Agneepath

I watched the new age Agneepath starring Hritik and Priyanka Chopra. It was definitely not a waste of time. The cinematography was good as one of my colleagues had pointed out earlier, like the grey and sombre backdrop abound whenever Kaancha was on screen. The poem was rendered with just enough tempo and passion to sound stimulating than loud. And there were a few songs thrown in as well including the guest appearance by Katrina. But then let us talk about performances. Hritik as we all know suits the role of the quintessential suave professional or a metro man effortlessly. But here he had to deliver in a different avatar. His makeover was just fine and the body aesthetics and muscle in the climax scene was just ok. But the point is that when I returned, the first question I was asked was, "Hritik ne overacting kari hogi na". And my answer was "well, no". I thought he did overact in a few flicks like Mein Prem Ki and stuff but I did not feel that way in Agneepath. He is no Amitabh Bachchan in dialogue delivery agreed but he did not sound bad either. I have always thought the one thing that fails him is his dialogue delivery in various portrayals apart from the suave ones like in ZNMD. But he looked well in Agneepath. His expression and eye intensity was fine and he delivered in a measured tone. There were moments when I thought Ajay would have done a better job but then comparisons are hindsight science and are not holistic anyway. When he delivered the poem in the climax scene, he did not sound over the top at all and I thought he had improved. Priyanka did a character which she should be at ease portraying, bubly and all..Sanjay Dutt was fine and looked like a villain but I thought Danny's dialogue punches were better. Rest all the crew fared good. All in all, it was just fine.

Attributes for Batsmen!

The other day I heard someone say that Sachin's batting was all class. I beg to differ. He is definitely in a class of his own, but class is not the defining element of his batsmanship or the cricketer he is. The word I like to use for him is Genius. That is the attribute his entire being is impregnated with. What with the paddle sweeps, upper-cuts, compact strokeplay, all the engineered repertoire of shots or even spin bowling turning miles together for that matter. He can do things with a cricket bat that few others could dare venture into. He can play 5 shots in a space of 15 minutes that will leave you gasping in awe and just make facial expressions without saying much. But he is a Genius in my book. The word Class fits easier on some other batsman.
Now if you are really interested you may ask what is the adjective i'd use for say KP. He is no class (remember I dont mean to say he is not classy, just that he is not described bythis word) and not even a genius. His switch hit does not quite fall under that category. People use the word unorthodox for him but what would you then se for say a Gilchrist. KP is more than just unorthodox. He is a maverick. He just wants to do it his way. Thats about it. Now what would you call Jacques Kallis. I would give him the sobriquet "The Stylish Workman". Workman, huh? Blasphemy. The guy with the best aggregate all round numbers in the game (runs/wickets/catches) is called a workman and thats not even considering his awesomely elegant stand-and-deliver cover drive. But did you quite miss the word stylish there. He does not look ungainly - not my a mile. But he is an honorable workman. He will keep on stealing those singles and suddenly look like 45 n.o. I hear a few murmurs that Rahul Dravid is slow too. The thing is, I did not say Kallis was slow. I said he liked to accumulate. Dravid would rather leave it alone while Kallis might nudge it though the off side field forthe single. While they have scored almost equal number of runs, Dravid has hit 1654 boundaries(4) to Kallis' 1359. Thats about it. Dravid has hit about 300 more boundaries (4s) than Kallis in Tests. He is expected to leave a few on the trot and suddenly unleash a flurry of boundaries quickly. Kallis on the other hand would give you a feel for every boundary. If he hits 3 boundaries in 2 overs, I would get a feeling of much more drama. He looks good at the crease definitely. Then there is his teammate ABD. All flair and exuberance. The bend of the knees in his cover drive and lofted strikes with the handkerchief(spello?) tucked in his trousers, makes you feel just that. The same is with his catching. But then what would I say for Ricky Ponting. He definitely has flair and exuberance but so do ABD and also did Lara (well Lara had a lot much more than just that agreed and is the greatest). But Ponting is in my book an electric champion. He is electric quick in whatever he does - talk, walk, run, catch, field, initial bat speed, swift pulls, cover drives and he scores at a quick clip as well. But what I mean by electric here is that he that fraction quicker than the rest which matters all. He is likely to effect a quick run out or take that out-of-nowhere game changing catch or play a quick long innings to demoralise the opposition like in the 2003 WC finals. Then he is very tough mentally and does not give an inch on the field but is quick to praise the opposition if they deserve. He plays it hard and fair and is a leader of men. And he wins matches too. All the attributes of a champion. But the post had started on the note of Genius vs Class and I remarked then that there is a batsman on whom the word Class finds its meaning like it was ever brought into language for just that. And that cricketer in my opinion is Rahul Dravid. I can write an essay on his class, but its some other day's job.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Cricket Endures

Mock at me, take the cheap jibe, question my capability to cultivate fine interests or call me a Cricket tragic or whatever, but I will write more on Cricket now and will write still more in days and years to come. Ever heard of the stock ball you mean hearted Cricket basher? How would you? I will still forgive you and explain to you what it is. A bowler can have thousand variations in his repertoire with which he can baffle the best of the batsmen. And batsmen will abhorr the idea of facing him. He would bowl those for the best part of his career and days of the year. But, but and but, that will not make him an all time great. He has to have the stock ball. The best of the practitioners in bowling will have off days or rather they will have more average days than brilliant days. But there is something which sets them apart from the rest. Among others, it is the stock ball. Wake them in the middle of the night and they can bowl that stock ball then, half-asleep. It is that guarantee they bring with their name in the sheet. And that is the difference. In their off days, they will make comebacks. They will stop bowling any variations, bide their time and bowl their stock ball. The ball which they have natural control on and which keeps them in stead in those difficult days. They will survive by virtue of the stock ball and almost inspite of the variations. That is there is to them. Longevity and survival, a change of gears and something which comes too natural to them. Crciket is like the stock ball to us diehard fans. I might be too bored to write, too lazy to write, too dull to wrte, too out of ideas to write and too busy to write. But for other disciplines and subjects and issues. If I love my piece of writing, I will write on things Cricket. That will keep the proverbial ink flowing. The other variations will fill in sporadically. But Cricket will endure.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

On the spirit of Cricket

Nawroz Mangal and Taj Malik make a happy unit along with other members of the Afghanistan cricket squad in a youtube video featuring their upbeat mood as they traverse through various echelons of international associate cricket. The coach proclaims that amidst the war and vitriol in the world, cricket holds a promise to resurrect peace and impart normalcy/hope to the mad rush which is so much the harrowing reality of their everyday life.
That certainly looked the case thus far the spirit in which the all important semi-final was played between India and Pakistan. While disappointing the fan expecting to witness some drama-laden skirmishes to enliven the humour, the rather congenial conduct among the members of the two outfits presented a fresh perspective. And the captain of the Pak outfit certainly won a heart or two in his generous display of cricketing chivalry - did he not pat Sachin in a friendly manner each time his catch was dropped and was in fulsome praise of the opposite team in the press conference. The doubters/cynics may sniff manufactured gamesmanship befitting the occasion and the diplomatic overtones in the atmosphere at the PCA stadium. But is not even this possible worst case scenario a first step towards a more real appreciation for each other's capabilities and empathy. If the odd heat would have entertained, the lack of it did surprise affirmatively. Indians would not mind playing hosts to the Pak team for a few more days now that Mumbai has been obliterated from their itinerary. Every one in India is anyway busy picturing in their mind's eye, the hero's 100th ton while lifting the cup in his home turf. And despite the obvious disappointment in losing to the arch rivals and keeping it aside, many a Pakistani would feel a sense of vindication in the way the WC campaign progressed for a most unheralded (at start of tournament) Pakistan WC outfit ever. There is expectation, jubilation and euphoria in the air in the country hosting the final. For the moment, they live in a much realistic hope of winning the coveted prize. On the other side of the fence, the fan while rueing on what might have been, may just fleetingly hearten on what the future may hold, that which looked a far cry just a month ago. Sport after all they say like life, always presents that one more shot at redemption.

( Written earlier, only published now)

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

of nature and things natural

Well, this time round, I am commited to not write about Cricket. There is too much of it already - I mean not in life - but in this virtual space. What else could it be? Hollywood? I simply havent seen enough movies as someof the peopleI know and do not follow the fraternity off the silverscreen at all. Bollywood? Guess I was a leading Bollywood viewer till mid-late 90s. The sporadic viewing bursts happen but they are mostly on TV. And admittedly, the latest output from the India tinsel town fails to capture my imagination. Tennis or F1 is still sport although I am almost tempted to write an essay on Sebi. Some other day maybe. Cars? May have commented better than few ten years back but I now find myself at mostly the hearing end whenever there is a discussion around those. Any electronic gadgetry and the same thing applies. Politics and culture are catching up but I am still learning from others there. Without much deliberation thus (as if it aint enough already), I would take my pick in Geography and Geology with a little bit of wildlife thrown in. So one may be forgiven to not count this one really as a blog entry, but more of an essay.
Geography is an interesting discipline, well really. How can it not be. It is totally and entirely about the vast and wild world we live in. And it is so in the most sublime manner. Its about things natural and things collective. The meandering rivers that inundate the face of the earth and script the rise of civilizations and now modern cities, the gargantuan mountain ranges that at once seem to mock the relatively tiny human existence and also challenge the human spirit to surmount them, the vastness and mystery of the unforgiving desert, the beauty of the snow capped altitudes and the quietly scenic fjords, the majestic volcanoes which spell the ruin of the nearby life and land with their own, the majestic seas concealing life and treasures in its unexplored bosom and the dark, deep rainforests full of life and vibrance, all
actually exhibit as shared wealth of the community both in the pragmatic and artistic or sentimental sense while still being entirely pristine in their purpose and existence without the least of impurity and perversion of intent in their genesis and existence.
The foremost case can be made of beauty. We really need and eye for a genuine and heartfelt appreciation of the beauty that is concealed and revealed in the mega structures and formations of our world. When the humor may grip us, they have a potential to numb our outwardly senses and engross us in feeling the complete range of emotions that elevate the spirit. It can be so liberating that it is only fleeting. But mostly reproducible. The beauty spoken of here is not just the physical formation but a deeper sense of harmony with the cosmic existence, the serenity it brings and a purpose which is more than anything else just being in a state of existence baring entirely one's natural condition, here that of the terrain or the landmass. Without further deliberation on the intangible, we can just catch hold of such a sight and try to understand if we get a connect of any kind with it.
Then there is the case of significance and practicality. The geography of a place one may argue is the single most important deciding factor in shaping its lifestyle and popular culture. The discipline of human geography is dedicated to such a study. It is not the purpose of this deliberation do delve deeper into the actual accounts of such a correlation - some are common knowledge in any case but some more subtle ones are the ones that mesmerise you. On deeper observation, cannot we decipher that the mild disposition and approach of a person from a place of scenic beauty like a hill can actually be attributed to the wholesomeness it brings to his life. What is more than the harsh realities of everyday survival in the tough and sharp mannerisms of a desert people. True to my fault, I bring in Cricket again. Even the pitches - which gain there nature from the soil they are composed of - of Asia are much milder than those of the rough lands of South Africa and Australia.
Geology begins just where physical Geography ends. It is that much more technical in nature and is more of a experimental science. Since this piece is written keeping in mind the everyday value these disciplines may bring for a person, let us see what Geology holds for us. Geology can tell us the categorization of a rock into sedimentary or igneous and thus the origin of that rock. This is more of an interest to an academic or a construction worker than a layman. But the layman can definitely learn into the basics of this discipline. The various rock faces that are cut into multiple layers across ages in a large Gorge like the "Great Canyon" depict and teach you the various timelines in their life. The volcanic ash, the sparse desert flora with peculiar characteristics, the ice deserts of Antarctica, the vast Limestone deposits, the huge ice sheets and glaciers, the dense rainforest flora and associated wildlife, the Gold or the Diamond mine, the faultlines that run through the seabeds and continents,the Geyers and the Volcanic remnant land or crater lake and the magma flowing out in the sea-bed have all their own unique story to tell. contd..