Friday, November 30, 2001

Why our former rulers need to try harder to understand our resentment towards them, especially when it comes to cricket.

A Wisden article. Requires free registration.

Javed Miandad, a former Pakistan batsman, on the Mike Denness controversy and why he feels a breakaway faction, comprising Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka would just not work for fans and sponsors. He also sympathises with Mike Denness, and calls for firmer action from the ICC.

Mike Denness and other match refrees maybe could take this test. It will tell us whether they are racist or not. has some excellent tests which probe for our hidden biases. The site also aims to fight all forms of hate. A tall order, but a good beginning, nevertheless.

Thursday, November 29, 2001

She was raped two weeks ago. Now, she was wondering whether she had been murdered as well.

In South Africa, a country believed to have one of the highest rape rates in the world, victims face an additional tragedy: AIDS.

And there is very little they can do about it, according to this article in the New York Times. Requires Free Registration.

Bombay Manicurist Nails Denness's Lie

"This is a conspiracy to malign me," thundered Anirudh Nakunwala.
As the official manicurist of the Indian cricket team, he is predictably perturbed by Mike Denness's suspension of Sachin Tendulkar for running his nails along the seam of the ball.
"Just before, the Indian team left for South Africa, I had an extended session with each one of them,'' he says, sitting in his now empty Hard As Nails salon in Bandra. "In fact, I clearly remember clipping Sachin's nails so short that the stubs of his fingers were pink as a new-born's bottom."
He claims to have supplied each member of the cricket team with imported, specially-fitted clippers that could clip nails as short as 0.001mm. Explaining in detail why he doesn't buy the charges against Sachin, he says: "Nails grow at an average rate of 1.8 inches per month. I spoke to Sachin on the second day of the second test, and he had just clipped his nails. Some simple math would tell us that his nails would have been just 0.12 inches long when he allegedly tampered the ball. Now, tell me, could he have made any difference to the ball with those nails? I don't know what he was doing to the ball, because with those nails, he is unlikely to have even got any dirt off the seam."
He points to the empty chairs in his salon and says wistfully, "On any given day before the controversy, these chairs would be fully occupied. Now, nobody wants to have their nails clipped here." His business has dropped by over 80 per cent in the last few days.
He has been in touch with his lawyer and is contemplating legal action against Mike Denness and the ICC. "I plan to sue them for damages and loss of business," he says, biting his nails.
He believes the ICC needs to be more consistent in enforcing its laws with regards to the permissible length of nails. He feels teams in the sub-continent are hauled up more frequently for nail violations than those in the West. "I don't want to comment whether this is racism, but there is definitely a bias here, and that's not good for cricket, neither is it good for my business."
His favourite customers, he says, were the Aussies and the Pakis.
"When the Australians were in India," he claims, "only the Aussie batsmen would have a manicure. The bowlers usually opted only for a pedicure."
What about the Pakistani bowlers? "Oh, they are very prompt with their manicure. Who would need nails, when you have bottle crowns?"

According to a survey of sex habits around the world, conducted by codom-maker Durex Indians prefer TV and socialising over sex as a means of spending their time.

Which begs the question: how do you account for one billion people out there?

Wednesday, November 28, 2001

Mihir Bose on Jagmohan Dalmiya

The Real Story of Flight 93

The terrorists had years to plan their hijacking. The passengers had just minutes to respond. But a band of patriots came together to defy death and save a symbol of freedom. What happened on that flight—and inside the cockpit

Tuesday, November 27, 2001

We have all heard the phrase the law is an ass.
To get an idea of just how dumb an ass it is, check out this page of Redundant Laws from Vakil No 1.

Did you know that about two-thirds of our laws have not been used in independent India.

The one-sentence 1836 Bengal District Act empowers the Bengal government to create as many zillas as it wants.

Under the Indian Sarais Act, 1867, it is a punishable offence for ‘inn-keepers’ not to offer free drinking water to passer-by. Recently, a Delhi five-star hotel was taken to court by the municipal corporation on the grounds that the hotel was not doing so

Thanks to the Prevention of Seditious Meeting Act, 1911, an independent India can still disallow a prisoner from wearing a khadi Gandhi Cap.

Under section 14 of the Hindu Marriage Act, a couple cannot get a divorce within one year of the marriage, even if one of the parties is found to be insane or a warranted criminal.

While you are at it, also check out Dumb Laws from around the world.

The United States remains the sexual superpower of the world with Americans making love more often and with more partners than any other nationality, according to a survey by a leading condom manufacturer.

This is a frightening bit of news for parents in London. The city's police are to set up a secret database of children as young as three who they fear might grow up to become criminals.

Going by what my parents tell, I would have topped that database as a kid. And, by no stretch of imagination, would I call myself a criminal.

Orwellian? Or just sheer madness?

Monday, November 26, 2001

While on Sachin Tendulkar, answer me this:
Why was it that only Sachin Tendulkar felt the need to clean the ball? Is he more picky about cleanliness than his mates?
And, what was the most striking anamoly of the day's play?

It was Ganguly's inexplicable persistance with himself and Tendulkar after the lunch break. That, after Srinath had bowled perhaps the most fiery, inspired spell of his career early in the morning.

It might not add up to anything at all. But, then, you never know.

Sunday, November 25, 2001

I have been listening to a lot of music these past few days. I have been boogeying to African music, learning the intricacies of Western Classical, trying to get a grasp of Indipop, and sleeping to some old Hindi classics.

I have not suddenly fallen in love with music. It's just that I won a Panasonic Worldspace Satellite Radio Receiver, in a Diwali lucky draw at Planet M, in Andheri.

The little gizmo is a cornucopia of crystal-clear music.

Setting it up was a tedious process though. The dish antenna that came with it had to face 130 degrees SE, and need to have an elevation of 45 degrees. The dish antenna had to at all times have line of sight with the geo-stationary satellite that was sending those bursts of music.

When the first strains began emanating out of the set, I was grinning from ear to ear like a proud mama who's new born had just gurgled some unintelligble sounds.

Now I just can't stop listening to it.

I certainly don't envy the lot of cricket writers in this country.

In the space of two days, and 1500-odd words, I have been called more names --- fool, ostrich, anti-national being among the more printable expletives hurled at me -- than I have in my entire life.

What has got the goat of these letter-writers are two of my articles, one questioning whether Mike Denness's decisions smacked of racism and another arguing that Sachin Tendulkar had indeed breached the laws and deserved what he got.

We can argue till the cows come home about the procedural lapses in Mike Denness's decisions. Agreed, the match refree could have handled the whole situation a lot better than he did. Agreed, he went way beyond his brief. Agreed, he handed out five shockingly unfair decisions. But what I don't agree with is that Sachin Tendulkar did no wrong and that the whole episode is somehow linked to the colour of our skins. . (If indeed, as most people argue, Sachin didn't tamper the ball, what was there for the umpires to report? But by cleaning dirt of the seams, he violated the rules, and there was no way the umpires standing on the ground could have seen him do that. Only someone watching television, would have noticed it. He did, and he punished Sachin for it!)

Of course, we could take umbrage at Mike Denness's words that "Sachin Tendulkar brought the game into disrepute". It would be fair to argue, that Mike Denness is not the moral custodian of the game. But I heard no one say a word about that.

Instead, we are trying to argue on technicalities. The ball was 19 overs old. Sachin has played the game in true spirit for 12 long years (by the way, guys, the past is never yardstick for breaches of the present). If Sachin did indeed tamper the ball, why didn't the umpires find anything wrong with it? Why did Mike Denness unilaterally take the call?

But, there is a due process involved in handling these issues. And I think, this is where the BCCI, bowing to public outrage, has gone way way overboard.

The BCCI's tackling of the issue has been as inept as the ICC's and Mike Denness's.

This was a golden opportunity for it to sit with the ICC and push for a better system of refreeing. It should have canvassed support from Pakistan and Sri Lankan boards, who have, like India, in the past been at the receiving end of unfair decisions. Jagmohan Dalmiya should have seized the moment. Instead, he took the opportunity to rattle his sabre.

The stand-off reminds of me of Robin Hood's first encounter with Little John (the monicker no reflection of the man's size) on thin, creaky log bridge over a foaming, angry river. That one ended up with Robin Hood sputtering in the water, and Little John standing victoriously on the bridge. Of course, in the legendary tale, the two foes quickly kissed and made up.

This one promises to end with both parties soaking wet. And cricket itself going downstream. Unless of course, wiser counsel prevails.

Friday, November 23, 2001

A test of the old, white cricket world

This Guardian article claims that colonial resentment is at the root of the current cricket controversy.

It's not racism; plain and simple bullying!

Rediff gives me space to air my views. Let me know what you guys think.

Thursday, November 22, 2001

Among all the emotional outbursts I have read so far, this course of action, suggested by Prem Panicker in makes the most sense to me.

I hope, the Indian team has the guts to do what Prem suggests.

Watch This Space!

Wednesday, November 21, 2001

Why is it you don't hear about Indian Muslims — who are a minority in this vast Hindu-dominated land — blaming America for all their problems or wanting to fly suicide planes into the Indian Parliament?

Answer: Multi-ethnic, pluralistic, free-market democracy.

An heart-warming article from New York Times.

Is the turkey taking a peck or a peek?

India is best place to lose weight

A new gravity map of the Earth suggests that if you want to lose weight you should go to India, where the pull of gravity is slightly less than it is elsewhere on the planet.

A Berlin car recycling center has come up with a novel way to win customers and reduce the public's need for therapists: car smashing.

Navjot Sidhu was in a far more attacking mood on television than he has ever been on a cricketing field. He tore Mike Denness to absolute shreds.

Here are some nuggets I picked out of his television commentary before the Denness the Menace episode.
"Money is like manure. It's no use till you spread it."

"Experience is the comb life gives you when you are bald."

"Dissipation is stupidity in despair." (go figure!)

Tuesday, November 20, 2001

A few links on the whole Sachin Tendulkar ball-tampering controversy and Denness the Menace, as the former English opener and now Match Referee has now come to be known as.
Prem Panicker asks the Menace to put up or shut up!

Dileep Premachandran wonders whether Mike Denness had a touch too much of the African sun.
(You will need to register for this one. But for free reading on Wisden, which cricket-lover wouldn't!)

Here's a lowdown on ball-tampering

Meanwhile, I can't help but mention The Times of India's report of November 19. A certain Mr S Bose writes that Sachin Tendulkar may face sanctions for ball-tampering. How he knew a day before Mike Denness made his decision public, I really don't know because he has quoted no sources. So I assume he was merely assuming.
Two: He says video footage clearly shows Tendulkar digging his nails along the seam. Now I watched ever ball of the day's play, and nowhere did I see him do that.
Three: He says again that Sachin was caught clearly scruffing up the ball.

The man either needs a dictionary or an optician.

The article showed poor judgment, a lack of knowledge of the subject and bordered on defamation.

Monday, November 19, 2001

Infidelity kit catches cheats with pants down

Friday, November 16, 2001

Any journalist worth his salt should browse through this interactive special on 150 years of The New York Times

A summit to go potty over

Some 200 delegates from as far afield as Finland, Britain, the United States, India, Japan and Taiwan will discuss design, ventilation, sanitation, incontinence and the future of a device that is still a luxury in many parts of the developing world.

Thursday, November 15, 2001

What colour are you?

Take this Colorgenics test and get a personal profile based on the colours you choose.

Here's some great news for all those wary of or just plain lazy to step into a gym.

Just imagining that you are exercising your muscles can strengthen them a new study by Dr Vinoth Ranganathan (Indian? sounds like one) of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation has revealed.

Like much of humanity, I love getting into new clothes.
But, these days, shirts and trousers come with so much of excess baggage, that the pleasure of getting into them is soured by the time you have them on.
I counted nine pins, a lot of plastic (around the collar, especially), four different labels, and plenty of butter paper stuffed with cardboard in my Diwali shirt.
It took me 10 minutes to have the shirt open and another five to undo the buttons -- damn, had just cut my nails and the raw edges of my fingers hurt -- before I could get into them.

Wednesday, November 14, 2001

I finally got news today of Bruno: He died a month ago.

Crash Kills 2 who survived WTC fall

Two of the passengers who perished aboard American Airlines Flight 587 narrowly escaped death two months ago at the World Trade Center.

Garlic can 'fight malaria'

Tuesday, November 13, 2001

Home Sweet Home - Part 2

My house-hunting experience left me defused, my enthusiasm punctured and pride more than a little bruised.
A month into our forced separation, the facade of normality we had put up for the benefit of inquisitive relatives, sympathetic friends and well-meaning colleagues was beginning to crack. Phrases like 'None of your business' and 'What's the big deal, yaar', laced with liberal doses of irritation, had become our refrain.
So, when my editor told me that an old colleague of his had an empty flat in Malad he was willing to rent out for a while, we grabbed the offer.
The house was not in the 'Malad' you, I and a few colleagues of recent vintage know. It was in a place called Kurar Village in a godforsaken corner of the suburb. Kurar is a sprawling shanty town, and the house was in a solitary multi-storeyed structure that rose over the surrounding slums like a blot on the landscape.
The only access into the village is via a narrow road, flanked by a never-ending row of unauthorised shops. Share-a-rickshaws, piled five-high and operated by goondas to the last man, are the only means of transport into the boondocks.
But desperate people do desperate things, like clutching at straws. We took a deep breath, and moved in. After all, we reasoned, it was only for month. A cousin was moving out of his home in Dahisar and had promised to rent it to us for as long as we wished to stay in it.
The month stretched agonisingly to two and then to three.
For three months, we would wake up each morning to the sounds of donkeys braying and the sight of children squatting.
That was our baptism into holy matrimony.

# posted by Ashok @ 1:11 AM 0 comments

Sunday, November 11, 2001

The US intelligence agencies have really become desperate.
Now you have psychics helping them predict future attacks.

# posted by Ashok @ 10:17 PM 0 comments

Friday, November 09, 2001

A Cardiovascular surgeon has purchased a strip tease club in Las Vegas to bankroll bis research.

In the words of an official of the city council, which approved the licensing: "Morally, I think it's a little odd to sell flesh on one end so you can repair it on another."

Fund-raising ideas don't get more innovative than this.

# posted by Ashok @ 9:18 PM 1 comments

Thursday, November 08, 2001

Ever noticed how people behave in a lift? There is a faked indifference about them, especially in very confined ones. Almost self-conscious. It's as though we are rejecting the forced intimacy of space.

# posted by Ashok @ 11:50 AM 0 comments

Wednesday, November 07, 2001

Home Sweet Home - Part 1

Some evenings I sit at the window of our living room and watch the gold drain from the edges of the palm fronds as the sun sets over an unseen horizon. I watch as tiny specks of black gather on the bald pate of a water tank towering above the greenery. I watch till, one by one, the specks disappear, flying away to wherever it is they spend the night.
And I realise just how lucky I am to be living in my own house, commanding a view of my own little patch of greenery in a city like Bombay.
There is a saying in Kannada: Mane maadi nodu, madhuve maadi nodu. Translated literally it means, try building a house, try conducting a marriage. As a kid, I used to hear it often, but could never quite fathom any meaning beyond what it literally meant.
It's only now that I have begun to grasp the significance of those simple words. Having no experience whatsoever of conducting a marriage apart from my own (which is certainly not what the saying was about), I can only speak, with some authority, of the 'Mane maadi nodu' bit.
My house-hunting began about eight years ago, the day I decided to get married to the woman I love. That was also the time real estate prices were beginning to boom in Bombay
I started off with a kingly budget of 5.5 lakh, split unevenly between our own measly savings, personal borrowings and a HDFC loan. We gave ourselves a year to find a home before we got married. I thought we were being a bit over-cautious about the time-frame.
A month into my quest, and rounds of hard-selling brokers and hard-balling builders, I realised I was one 'peti' short of getting my dream home. The next month was spent trying to rustle up the shortfall. By the time I had managed that, the dream home we had identified was already taken, and a similar one elsewhere came with a price tag of 7.5.
And that's the way it went. I kept chasing the price spiral, always falling short by a month and a lakh. Till a fortnight before our marriage.
The house was in Borivili. I wouldn't call it an ideal home -- our dreams had already been tempered by reality -- but we were willing to settle for it. Friends, family, cousins and, of course, HDFC had given it the thumbs up. The price tag: 9.75.
There was a little problem though. HDFC wouldn't disperse the joint loan amount it had sanctioned till we produced a marriage certificate. So, we had cajoled the home owner to rent us the place for a month, before we actually bought it. He agreed.
A week before D-day, a hefty token amount in my pocket, I went to meet the owner and the broker of the house at an Irani restaurant in Bandra. And he dropped a bombshell. "I don't want to sell the house right now," he told me.
The next few days passed in a flurry of desperate activity. What I hadn't managed to achieve in a year, continued to elude me in those crucial seven days.
We got married. We went on our honeymoon. And returned to Bombay to go our own separate ways, my wife to her home, and me back to the hostel.
Those were embarrassing and difficult times.

# posted by Ashok @ 12:11 AM 0 comments

Monday, November 05, 2001

Users of Microsoft's Hotmail e-mail service who don't sign in at least once every 30 days will find their account deactivated, the company confirms.

# posted by Ashok @ 10:42 PM 0 comments
Man climbs tree to avoid paying taxi fare. May end up paying much more for the rescue operation.

# posted by Ashok @ 10:07 PM 0 comments
"We're growing up together, the human race. And we've discovered a lot of things that we didn't know. We're finding our way. Instead of thinking about doomsday all the time, think about how beautiful the world is. We're all together and together we're getting wiser."
Yoko Ono talks about John Lennon, war, and art.

# posted by Ashok @ 1:49 AM 0 comments

Friday, November 02, 2001

A former admiral makes out a case against the purchase of Gorshkov, the Russian aircraft carrier.

# posted by Ashok @ 9:57 PM 0 comments
Salman Rushdie on why this war IS about Islam

# posted by Ashok @ 9:40 PM 0 comments
British Medical Journal says Men may become extinct.

The reasons: Sperm banks, fertility treatment and human cloning, and changing attitudes towards the role of men in society.

# posted by Ashok @ 9:12 PM 0 comments
Here's a glowing tribute to Asoka from Tehelka.

# posted by Ashok @ 1:05 AM 0 comments
Yippee! I got a feedback on my Asoka review. My better half steals my thunder -- and the candy :)

Here's her take on my review and Asoka

Yeah, oh yeah, Karriena Kapoor is eye candy but then that certainly depends on your gender. I found her a total misfit, an eyesore in the movie. Is there any difference between the Karriena in Asoka and Mujhe Kuchh Kehna Hai except for the change in spelling? Did she fit into the period or even the costume - forget about the role. Her walk, talk, dance nothing conveys that she has attempted to mould herself into the role. In fact, according to me, she is the only one who sticks out like a sore thumb in the movie!
Compare her to the contribution by the rest of the characters. Shah Rukh Khan finally found a role that suits him to a T. He does the Kallaripayattu sequences with such intense concentration as would be required for such a fine and a skilled art - and so gracefully! He does more than just justice to his role.
Arya is absolutely endearing. After Simba of Lion King, his is one character that wrings your heart. Very well-acted - maybe Karriena could take lessons from him. The model-turned actor
Rahul Dev acts naturally. His entire body language, his eyes, his hair - all say what he wants to.
Hrishitaa Bhatt is not too bad either. In fact, considering that it's her first movie, she's quite good.
As for Santosh Sivan, he could have done better - yes. But has he done badly? NO. As a director, he has unfortunately tried to convey the story in all its magnitude and lost out on a more well-knit account.
As a result, nothing impacts you. Nothing peaks. Had it not been for that, Asoka could have beaten Gladiator hollow.
One cannot deny his potential and talent.

# posted by Ashok @ 12:37 AM 0 comments

Thursday, November 01, 2001

There is an exaggerated air about Asoka. I don’t mean the cinematic exaggeration that separates drama from real life. It’s more like dramatic excess. The way the characters walk as if on air; the way they imperiously toss their ‘uttariyas’ over their shoulders; the way they talk, whether its adversaries indulging in a macho war of words or co-conspirators plotting a sneaky kill; the frenzied camera pans and the quick cuts… all lend a touch of unreality to the unfolding story.
It takes time getting used to this kind of storytelling. But just as it begins to grow on you, Asoka’s mother emotionally blackmails him into forsaking royalty to lead a life of a commoner. Suddenly, like a switch being turned off, the narrative becomes predictably Hindi filmi.
As a plot, it had all the makings of an epic. A historical figure, whose symbols dominate national consciousness; Machiavellian palace intrigues and backstabbing; a searing love story that ends with the lovers facing off on a battlefield; the humbling of a conqueror by his own bloody conquests…
But in the end the film leaves you much like its protagonist: unfulfilled.
Santosh Sivan effort is best described by a cricketing term: half-cock. His attempt to temper his style of new age movie-making with box-office compulsions (especially the surfeit of songs and the overdone melodrama) leaves Asoka neither here nor there.

The Cast
Shah Rukh Khan is his usual predictable self. In rare scenes, especially tender ones, he rises above himself. When a monk tells him that destiny has greater things in store for him than being a mere Samrat, the perplexity and kid-like wonder on his face are amazingly genuine.
Karriena Kapoor is pure eye candy. And there’s not much wrapping her.
Rahul Dev as Bheema delivers a cameo that proves not all models are made of wood.
Hrishitaa Bhatt emotes well, but lacks charisma and screen presence to be star material.
Suraj Balaje is the surprise pick of the lot. He is endearing as Arya, the young prince of Kalinga.

Great Expectations
I was looking forward to the much-hyped war scenes. They are not a patch on the action scenes in Braveheart and Gladiator. In fact, the war scenes bear a closer resemblance to those in Mahabharata, minus the tacky costumes and weapons.

The Good News
For the first time in my last five movies, I got current tickets without paying a premium -- and that on the fourth day of release. That should tell you a lot more about the movie than the preceding 400 words.

# posted by Ashok @ 2:46 AM 0 comments

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