Uttarakhand Tragedy and the “Asafal Yatra”!!!

“Had gone for the Kedarnath yatra, returned home safely today” texted a cousin of mine few days back as the Uttarakhand disaster was unfolding.  My cousin and her group members were lucky but many were not.  She would tell me later that their group heeded to the announcements made in the PA system to turn back as the shrine would be closed due to flash floods. However many didn’t. They didn’t want their ‘Chardham Yatra’ to turn into an “Asafal Yatra” (Unsuccessful trip) and decided to either stay put or proceed ahead.  Having come thus far they didn’t want to take a U-turn without completing the yatra. It is not very difficult to guess if they had a successful trip or not. Should we call this as the indomitable spirit of Indians or Indians’ submission to Faith sometimes irrationally? I don’t know.

As more details of the disaster started emerging, as in the case of any backlash of Nature heated debates started on the environmental neglect, administrations’ apathy, mindless growth pursuit…,… The same continues to this date.  Let’s look at the responses, reactions from different quarters of the society as the tragedy panned out:

Political Class:

  • Blame game by politicians – Opposition party BJP pointing finger on the ruling Congress on the construction,… and ruling Congress giving it back saying these were started during erstwhile BJP rule
  • One-upmanship by different Chief Ministers in carrying out rescue and relief efforts for their own state people without bothering about a coördinated effort and ofcourse the mad rush to take credit!!!
  • Top politicians including our PM, Sonia Gandhi carrying out neatly televised “Aerial Surveys” of the flood hit areas!!! Aerial surveys???
  • Politicians of different hue using the choppers which were the only mode of transport available for relief work for their own “Aerial Surveys”
  • Narendra Modi doing what is now known to be called as the “Rambo act” in rescuing 15000 Gujarati pilgrims with a fleet of vehicles and Boeings!!!
  • TDP and Congress politicians coming to blows at the airport on who will take the credit for rescue of their state people!!!
  • Congress doing a “Flagging off” of the relief trucks in Delhi again in a PR coördinated event!!! When did relief measures become a F1 event???
  • The Chief Minister of the State – getting into belligerent arguments with the media instead of showing that he is in charge and allowing all and sundry to take over relief operations in his state
  • National Disaster Management Authority which has a politician as its Vice chairperson (Why, why, why???) not meeting even once between 2008 and 2011 and met once post 2011!!! What kind of disaster management do we expect???
  • The Prime Minister of the country in the midst of all this – continuing his stoic silence!!!

Media:

  • It’s not just the politicians playing the one-upmanship game. The media were not far behind. How many times were we told that “The 1st channel to reach Kedarnath shrine” or “1st channel to show live pictures from,..,..”??? Do we need a race here?
  • News Express TV showing visuals of a shameless reporter sitting on the shoulder of a young man as he wades through waist deep water and reporting “live”!!! Do we need such crass “Live” reporting??
  • In the competition for exclusive dispatches, media crew hopping on to the choppers – which meant that so many needy common people, would have been left behind!!!
  • Many times reporters screaming over shoulders of people and jostling in the limited space available
  • In all this, Times Of India’s news report of Narendra Modi’s Rambo act takes the cream. Can’t believe how the country’s oldest and leading newspaper can carry a planted news item without verifying the facts! The same newspaper carries an editorial few days later questioning the veracity of its own news item!!!

Industry/India Inc.:

  • Considering the fact that choppers were the only means of transport available – did we see any of our industrialists who fly around in their own choppers, sparing theirs for relief work?
  • Did we see the new economy companies and their promoters who are normally very articulate in pushing their interests in policy matters coming forward with their support?
  • Or for that matter the so called august members of the “Bombay Club”?  Except for Mahindras I didn’t see any contribution announcement!
  • Isn’t it just plain business expediency if a chopper company starts charging few lacs per person for transporting people to safety?
  • While on Industry, where were Bollywood and its famed stars??? If rag pickers in Delhi and inmates of Tihar can come together and contribute for the flood relief, why not the Kapoors, Kapurs, Kumars and the Khans???
  • On winning the Champions Trophy, BCCI was quick off the block to announce Rs.1 crore as prize money to each team member. Great. Did you hear any such largesse for Uttarakhand relief?
  • What about the players themselves? I saw ofcourse Harbhajan (he was rescued by the army) announcing his contribution.
  • How it would have been if our great captain Dhoni had refrained from the usual champagne popping after the win and instead expressed solidarity with the victims of Uttrakhand?  I’m sure the respect we have for our cricketers would have gone up few notches.

We the People:

  • We live by double standards. We expect high idealism from politicians, administrators but show little of that in our own conduct
  • Littering places with plastic leftovers is our National common pastime. The choking of drainages in flood situations like this never deters us from doing the same next time!
  • Had people heeded to warnings may be the human lives lost would have been much lower
  • In the midst of all this, I am told water was sold for Rs. 100, wafer packs were being hawked for Rs. 400,…
  • In social media some were lamenting about the possible wash out of the Champions Trophy final last Sunday when few towns and villages have been washed away from the maps in Uttarakhand!
  • On the flip side, I was touched seeing a story of a group of Sikh volunteers who reached Uttarakhand with a sole purpose of performing last rites in mass funerals. Amidst the cacophony this story Continue reading
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Monsoon’s Diary

“Rain and High tide pour misery on Mumbaikars” – screams today’s Mumbai edition of Times of India. I find this inimical response so ironical and take this with a pinch of salt.  Till the end of May when my cousin Surya (Sun) was scorching the length and breadth of India – a great country in this planet, one thing in everybody’s lips was – “When will “I” arrive this year”?  But when I arrive and decidedly with a bang, I notice that the tunes of the thankless human beings have changed just in a week.   It’s been a week since I decided to make my  annual presence felt in India starting from the West coast, Kerala, Mangalore and then finally hitting the commercial capital – Mumbai and then will move on to other parts of the country except certain pockets.  I normally take a break in September and then visit again via the eastern coast – Orissa, Tamil Nadu,.. in Oct/ November in another avatar.  The ride to this country is one which I enjoy every year and for many reasons.

monsoon

The fact that my arrival on time and presence in many parts of the country decide the economic fortunes of the country gives me a high. Economists start forecasting a bullish GDP growth and government authorities rush to announce the good news when I behave properly. After all good rains ensure a good crop and they say that the farmer community happily spends the surplus disposable income on consumer durables, clothes, better lifestyle for their children and what have you, thereby pushing growth.

While on GDP forecasts I like to be on the right side, the other forecasts where I have fun in proving wrong is of the Met department and those “MRF” guys.  So invariably I make sure that they get it wrong:) Do you like it if somebody starts predicting your behavior in advance on your face???  Or do they ask me before they do their predictions? I see that today the department has warned the Mumbaikars to brace for heavy rains in the next two days.  Well, now you know what is going to happen and let me let the cat out of the bag. You can coolly walk without even an umbrella in the next 2 days!  When the MRF guys start advertising that the MRF Rain day is 2 days away – I ensure that they get it wrong. But does it matter?  Irrespective of whether they get it right or not, they have been doing this branding for decades now. And there is the “betting economy” around me – reason enough for me to behave arbitrarily. Ofcourse once in a while I do toe the line of the Met department – that is purely out of sympathy with the guys there so that they don’t lose their jobs!

But one set of guys who I wish, do lose their jobs year after year are the ones in the Municipal Corporation in Mumbai (BMC). They do a shoddy job of the road maintenance and I have to hear from you guys day in day out as you suffer in traffic jams for hours together during my season.  BMC-Contractor nexus and the ensuing corruption ensure that instead of a permanent solution of having “Monsoon proof” roads you have last minute patch of the pot holes. When I visit Mumbai for 3 months and see the city from the top, I feel that it should be re-named as “Moonbai” as the surface resembles craters of the Moon!!!  In between potholes you find bits of pieces of road. I find it extremely ironical that the people of Mumbai don’t realize that they are being taken for a literal roller coaster ride and keep voting for the same party term after term. They should visit the southern state of Kerala where also I play around quite a bit, but the authorities there have cracked the road issue and I don’t find such pathetic roads as in Mumbai. Guess in Mumbai the authorities just eat your funds.

Talking of eating, hot tea with samosas, pakoras, bajiyas and all those panoply of oil smacked snacks find their place in the Sun or rather Monsoon during these months when I visit.  I keep hearing that there is a lot of romanticism around just sitting, watching me – drinking copious cups of tea and polishing snack plates without doing any work. I feel that in this “I” am only an excuse. Like they say, “Men just don’t need any reason to drink”, I guess people don’t need any reason to just laze around.

Surprisingly the lawmakers in India – the MPs don’t laze around when I’m around. Parliament session is called around this time and the whole session is named after me as the “Monsoon session”! It’s another matter that no legislative business happens these days in the Parliament with walk outs becoming the norm. Ordinary citizen calls for “Bandhs” to protest while the privileged ones (MPs) call for “Walk outs” to protest.  All work and no walk outs make the Indian ruling Jacks dull boys you see!!!

Without me realizing I do feel that I come down heavily on children.  They can’t play out in the open and that indeed makes them dull and if they do venture out – they can’t escape feeling under the weather!!! Doctors have a field day. My season is Diwali season for pharma companies!!!  And there is this whole range of business around Me. Umbrellas, Rain wear, Rain shoes,…,… Is the ubiquitous black umbrella part of folklore now? What I see is the more coloured variants resembling costumes from Rohit Shetty’s movies. I’ve no complaints though.

But you guys have many complaints when I don’t arrive on time or miss a season or be more generous in my presence in a year.  There are reasons for all of that. I’m not going to venture into listing up those here as they are well-known and documented. What I find interesting is people don’t follow the “Do’s” and “Don’ts” and then crib about me doing the damage. Also start trying to please me. For example people try to delight me with music. Mythology has it that I am associated with Raga – “Amirthavarshini” (Indian Carnatic) and RaagMegh Malhar” (Hindustani Classical). Yes these are indeed my favourites.  If they are not in your favorite lists yet, please do listen to “Sudhamayi” (Amirthavarshini) and Megh Malhar by Pandit Jasraj and add them.  I am also overwhelmed by the reference to me in many Indian movies – Hindi or regional. My picks from that is Ganan Ganan from Lagaan (That boy Rahman is a genius I say) and Classical and Play back singer Unnikrishnan’s Tamil film song “Mazhai, Mazhai”. Do click on the links to listen if you like.

I sincerely hope a day soon will come when people don’t accuse me of pouring misery in their lives for, my karma in life is to bring cheers to earth and humanity.  So to wind up, here’s  joke on me to cheer you up.

It was a year when there was no rain in Kerala. Obviously concerned, mallus all got together and did pujas, havans,.. to please the Rain God Varuna.

Varuna was pleased.

The next day it rained. And that too heavily.

Not in Kerala but in Dubai.

Mallus went and complained to Varuna

And Varuna said – “Seeing so many of you guys there I mistook Gulf coast for Kerala coast” !!! 😦

Joke courtesy: Sudarshan

IPL is over, the Games continue !!!

Who would have imagined that almost a week after IPL is over, news channels would continuously keep breaking news ON IPL, this time on the games people play off the field!!!  Well, that’s what has been happening today – a staid Sunday afternoon when normally breaking news take a break not to mention of the celebrity anchors. However today, since morning channels have been covering non-stop the BCCI meeting saga and by the end of the day we will come to know if “Srini was” or still “is” the BCCI president!!!

It all started with the police picking up a few players of Rajasthan Royals on charges of betting and spot fixing during the last stage of IPL-6.  From then on the action shifted from “on the field” to “off the field” not that IPL is generally quiet off the field.  These certainly took the sheen off the much awaited IPL win of the Mumbai Indians.  For the channels here was a great opportunity to hit back at the IPL which was running away with all the TRPs when the matches were on. The spot fixing allegations on players, the busting of betting rackets in different cities, involvement of Bollywood side-kicks (Vindu Dara Singh is hardly a star) and finally the prize catch of a team owner and that too, the BCCI President’s son in law with his hands soaked in the betting saga all meant that the T-20 tournament became a T-24*7 daily soap with its intrinsic twists and turns. That Cricket was a “Game of Glorious uncertainties” (to borrow a very boring commentators’ cliché) was proved beyond doubt, only that the main uncertainty was who were all involved!!! It was time for the naysayers and the cynics to dub IPL as the next “gate” involving players, stars, politicians, cricket administrators and Ex-cricketers,…  From then on there have been loud calls to ban the IPL which now came with a suffix called “Tamasha”!!!

The question is do we need such a knee jerk reaction?  The fact is IPL has been a great product. From the time it was conceived it was meant to be Cricket laced with entertainment. So branding of teams, roping in glamorous stars and not so glamorous but wealthy industrialists, auctioning of players and live telecast of the same, Jazzy and glitzy opening /closing ceremonies, cheer girls on the field, cheer girls in the studio, pretty women as anchors, not so pretty but legends as commentators, the IPL parties, Slapping drama,..,…were all part of this package and part of the script.  I myself witnessed an IPL match along with my colleagues in season 4 – Mumbai Vs. Delhi (when they were really “Dare Devils”) and could sense that irrespective of the way the match was going we were having ball of a time. So did thousands of other spectators, I realized. That day I got convinced on the “Cricketainment” model espoused by IPL!!!  The going was good for the IPL till few weeks back irrespective of whether Lalit Modi was helming it or not. But somewhere down the line the script went awry.  Twists emerged in the form of Betting and Fixing and,…

The prima facie charge on the cricketers who got caught is “Betting” which is illegal in India. The question is why this hypocrisy? Like their counterparts in other parts of the world Indians also like betting. As we speak, there must be huge bets riding on if N. Srinivasan will resign today or not. ‘Shart lagata hai? (Want to bet?)  is part of day today lingo. Betting happens round the clock on issues of National importance  like “Whether Modi will be announced as the PM candidate next week by the BJP” or “Will PM speak today” or “Whether monsoon will hit Mumbai on the 3rd”,..,… or other mundane issues like “Will Arnab Goswami smile on Newshour tonight” and so on.  So in a country where as per me Cricket is the foremost unifying factor, to assume that there won’t be betting on Cricket matches is being naïve.  The solution is to legalise betting and bleach the colour of the black betting economy.

However the issue where one feels cheated is when players involve in “Fixing” matches. Cricketers are what they are today because people like us watch them play either live or on TV.  As more and more numbers watch, their valuation keeps going up. While we watch, we also support, cheer and applaud them when they do well. In the bargain we expect them to play sincerely and put up a good fight. So when they throw their wickets to lose a match (match fixing) or give away a certain number of runs in an over (spot fixing), it leaves a bitter taste in our mouths.  Also imagine what would have gone through the minds of Rahul Dravid, the Rajasthan Royals captain and other honest players when they heard about their co-players’ involvement in spot fixing.  So if there is no law today to prevent “fixing”, we need one certainly.

But frankly legalizing betting and enacting a new Anti-fixing law would not still prevent what is happening today. For a full clean up, cricket or for that matter any sports administration must be relieved of vested interests, politicians and other non-state actors.  The concept of “honorary posts” in sports administration is utter gibberish which is leading to vested interests as it exists today. BCCI must be turned into a body run by professionals who are paid salaries and are accountable to a Board of Directors and a constitution which will protect National interests.  Till such time the Games will continue!!!

IPL-Funny-Cartoon-Images-Ek-Se-Bure-Do

P.S: I think one person who must be blamed for all this betting in Cricket is that Ashotosh Gowarikar 🙂 who in his movie ‘Lagaan’ showed that betting in Cricket happened even during the British Raj and romanticized the same. Remember that classic scene from that film where General Russel taunts Bhuvan and walks him into a wager??? (Check this clip from the 3rd min. – Hum Shart Aur badathe hain!!!)

With all this happening around IPL the original acronym is already forgotten. Today does IPL stand for

Indian Party League ?

Indian Parivaar League ?

Indian Political League ?

Indian Punters League ?

Indian Pub League ?

Choose your pick!!!

Also read my earlier post on IPL before the recent rumblings: April and the IPL Typhoid